Microsoft hasn’t quite been able to make inroads against Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. But the company is holding out hope that its partnership with Nokia, and more specifically the reported April 9th release of the Lumia 900, will help get it back in the game.

Of course, a lot of things need to happen for Microsoft to boost its smartphone marketshare in the U.S. above 4.4 percent. And one of those things, as expressed succinctly by a GeekWire reader yesterday, is knowledge and understanding of the people who are selling the devices at retail.

“Biggest problem: I walked into AT&T on Monday and asked about the Lumia and only 1 of the people working their knew what I was talking about,” wrote the reader.

Well, as it turns out, Nokia, Microsoft and AT&T may have a plan to rectify that situation. According to WPCentral, Nokia is paying some $25 million to make the Lumia 900 a “company use” phone for AT&T employees — which means that sales reps will be encouraged to carry the Windows Phone devices, possibly over the iPhone or Android devices.

WPCentral reports on what is dubbed the “company use” or CU program:

Nokia is expecting more than 80% of employees to be using their flagship Windows Phone for participation in the CU program (employees can opt to use any phone they want at a discount, but CU phones are provided for free), which should go a long way in convincing those employees the merits of the OS, resulting in positive word of mouth and high sales.

So, what will they be carrying exactly? Here’s a new ad for the Lumia 900:

Previously on GeekWire: Windows Phone Marketplace surpasses 70,000 apps… CES: Nokia Lumia 900, two early hands-on observations

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  • Kevin Foreman

    As the developer of the #1 traffic avoidance mobile app on all platforms, including WP7, we are really looking forward to the Lumia 900 release on the 9th. 

    Consumers win with strong competition and the smartphone value bar will be raised yet again with the Lumia 900.  

    As a whole, in 2012, there is no reason why drivers should blindly drive into traffic jams.


    Kevin Foreman, VP, Consumer Applications, INRIX, Inc.

    • Guest

      This advertising message brought to you by…

  • Steve Murch

    Good tactic for Nokia.  I’ve definitely experienced the lack-of-WinPhone-product-knowledge at AT&T stores, and actually making it the employee phone will help in-store awareness considerably.

  • Christopher Budd

    I have a question from this article. How common is it for a phone maker to underwrite the cost like Nokia is doing here?

    That context would be helpful because right now it sounds like Nokia is being forced into an extraordinary (and extraordinarily expensive) move by giving their phones away free to the AT&T sales force.

    I also have to wonder if getting this phone free might not have the opposite effect than is intended. It’s been shown that people often don’t value things they’re given for free. I’d worry that the AT&T sales rep who takes the phone takes it not because they like it or want it but because it’s free and doesn’t care much about it one way or the other.
    The other point is there’s a real risk here. If the Nokia phone is the only one that those folks get for free and they still choose other phones, Nokia’s being set up for a story about how they can’t even give the phones away.This is why context about how common this is would help.Thanks!

    • Guest

      Blackberry used to give away phones to anyone and everyone who might influence a sale. We used to call them crackberries because the first hit was free.

    • Waltah

      The reps don’t have the option to carry another phone on their work line if they’re issued a Lumia. They aren’t being issued to every rep, but about half. They have to carry it until told otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    This was an obvious and smart thing to do. Even a demo Windows Phone doesn’t compared to a “live” version that is tied into real social network accounts, live tile “short-cuts” Mango-style, and the best apps on the Marketplace.

    There are too many misconception about what Windows Phone isn’t by people who have used one as a consumer would.

    • Guest

      So is shipping all retail demo units with a fully like version of WP including pre-populated sample data to make the social stuff come alive. But it wasn’t done initially and I’m not sure it still isn’t MIA.

      • Waltah

        The demo Lumia unit are preloaded with texts, social, apps and call history along with live tiles. 

  • Guest

    Nokia is paying or they’re using co-op marketing money provided by MS? My guess is they’re not footing the bill alone.

    This seems like a rather desperate effort that’s unlikely to move the needle much. Retail reps aren’t going to promote a niche product. Period. They’re going to go with the flow: iOS and Android. It’s takes less time to make the sale and it’s easier.

    Somehow Nokia and MS need to make themselves the counter-culture choice, like Under Armor did for example against Nike.  But they lack the clear advantage required to make that happen. In simplest terms you either compete on features or price. MS/Nokia don’t have an obvious advantage on either. And in this case, due to both company’s many mistakes and delays, they’re way behind. So that advantage has to be that much greater for them to have any chance at all. They really need to do two things: a) deliver something much more innovative than either has shown so far and b) think outside the box on distribution. Small steps and pursuing standard retail isn’t getting it done and isn’t going to.

  • Guest

    From the mouth of Nokia Dev Relations at IgnitionWest this past week (paraphrasing): “Nokia has more boots on the ground than any other device maker….we are going in and training carrier sales people now.”

    That kind of personalized one-to-one effort often succeeds where others fail.  So, time will tell.  That said, I was in an AT&T store in PDX recently and two of the senior sales guys were rabid Nokia/Windows evangelists.   But, at the end of the day, the device also has to really sell itself.  A salesperson can’t do much more than put it in their hands to test out.

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