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Nokia launches Windows Phone 7 handsets, but US and China miss out

The long-awaited Nokia Windows Phone 7 handsets are out, but the Finnish giant is sitting out the lucrative American and Chinese markets this Christmas.

The Nokia Lumia 800

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop used the Nokia World conference in London to introduce the company's first smartphones to use Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system, the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710.

Elop knocked competing Microsoft licensees HTC and Samsung by calling the Lumia 800 'the first real Windows Phone'.

The Lumia 800 will be available imminently, while the cheaper Lumia 710 has yet to receive a confirmed UK release date. It is due to be released in Russia and certain Asian countries before the end of the year.

This doesn't include the massive mainland Chinese market though, which isn't due to get the Lumia range until sometime next year. The US, where Nokia had traditionally been weak, will also have to wait until 2012 for a 'portfolio of products' as Elop put it, suggesting an America-specific range of Windows Phones. Unsurprisingly, Elop confirmed that LTE 4G models are in the works, but didn't go into specifics.

Nokia isn't ignoring price-sensitive emerging markets such as Mexico and India, which the company is targeting with its new range of Asha phones which use the ageing Symbian Series 40 operating system. These phones, some of which will have physical QWERTY keyboards, will be able to run apps such as Nokia's answer to BBM, WhatsApp Messenger, and a browser that uses the cloud to speed up rendering times, similar to Opera and the Amazon Kindle Fire's browser. The Asha phones will become available later this year with prices ranging from 85-115.

The new Lumia series Windows Phones are central to Nokia's plan to regain market share and influence in the lucrative smartphone market, currently dominated by the iPhone and Google Android phones. Elop stated that while Nokia had a 'reliable, durable and trustworthy' image, that was no longer enough since people now 'expect something special' from their phones. The Lumia phones are evidence that Nokia is 'investing in key differentiators and changing the way we operate'.

Judging from our initial first look, both Lumia Windows Phones look promising.

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