Samsung first to market with Windows Phone 8 device

Smartphone titan steals march on Nokia with Microsoft announcement.

Samsung Electronics has become the first smartphone maker to release a device featuring Microsoft's latest mobile software, beating Nokia to the crunch by a matter of days.

The brief announcement on Wednesday at a Berlin electronics show comes amid expectations that smartphone makers may turn increasingly to Windows devices after a US jury decided many of Samsung's Google Android-based phones infringed Apple patents.

"It looks like a good phone, and seems like a pre-emptive announcement ahead of Nokia," said Sid Parakh, an analyst at investment firm McAdams Wright Ragen, of the Samsung phone.

"Microsoft or Windows never got their best teams, never got their best designs, just because Android was doing so well. With the change in the legal environment, there's a case to be made that Samsung will likely shift some of those resources to broaden out or diversify their own exposure."

Nokia, once the world's leading producer of phones, is due to unveil its new Lumia line of smartphones using Windows Phone 8 in New York on 5 September.

Samsung's new phone, the ATIV S, may elevate expectations for the Lumia.

The device sports a high-end 4.8-inch display, Corning "Gorilla" glass, and an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, Microsoft posted on its official blog on Wednesday.

It looks like a good phone, and seems like a pre-emptive announcement ahead of Nokia.

"Expectations for a 40 megapixel or possibly 20 megapixel camera model are running high. If Nokia does not unveil a monster camera handset next week, many will be disappointed," said Tero Kuittinen, analyst at mobile analytics firm Alekstra.

But "this leaves Nokia plenty of room to draw a clear contrast with its upcoming announcement."

Samsung's Windows-based smartphone marks the first in a "big lineup of new hardware" from the South Korean company based on Microsoft's software, Microsoft executive Ben Rudolph said in a blog posting.

Analysts say the introduction of Samsung's Windows phone may be designed to assuage concerns that Microsoft will favor Nokia, whose chief executive Stephen Elop has staked its future on the Windows platform.

"The fact Samsung was allowed to be the first to announce is Microsoft's backhanded way of letting other vendors know that Nokia is not getting special treatment," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said.

But Jack Gold, an independent mobile consultant who runs J. Gold Associates, argued Samsung had signaled its commitment to Windows for a while, but Nokia will remain the primary driver of the new breed of Microsoft-powered devices.

"Samsung has crossed the start line first and set the bar for Nokia's launch," said Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.

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