The Real 'Windows Phone Challenge': Can a $99 Lumia 900 Generate Momentum for the Platform?

No more "early days" excuses will be possible if the Nokia (Windows Phone) Lumia 900 fails to deliver. The flagship Windows Phone will go on sale on April 8 from AT&T in the US for an aggressively discounted $99 (with a two-year contract). It will be the least expensive high-end smartphone on the market.

The price will help but it could still flop.

AT&T promises to support the launch with considerable marketing muscle. It's far from clear, however, that consumers will bite. Some no doubt will buy because of the $99 price. Aggressive pricing is key to Nokia's US market strategy.

The Lumia 710 has apparently done relatively well at T-Mobile (at either $49 or free). However, developer interest in Windows Phones remains muted. And without sufficient apps, Windows Phones simply won't be competitive. 

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Earlier this year I had predicted that Nokia-Windows Phone handsets would see modest but not spectacular uptake in the US market. If this launch is fumbled and fails to generate real momentum for Windows Phones it could be a serious blow to the outlook for the platform -- at least in the US market. 

As a promotion Microsoft has mounted a Pepsi-Challenge like contest, inviting iPhone and Android users to take the $1,000 Windows Phone challenge and supposedly discover that Windows Phones are faster. But the PR value of the effort has already been compromised by a blogger named Sahas Katta.

Katta used his Galaxy Nexus and beat the challenge in a Microsoft store but was denied the $1,000 prize by store officials. He blogged about it and that post has now seen widespread attention.