NOK) has a plan for a comeback, and it starts with the release of the new Lumia 900 smartphone.
The Lumia 900, which went on sale in the United States yesterday (Sunday), is the fruition of last year's deal with Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) to put the Windows Phone operating system on Nokia smartphones.
While not the first Windows-powered Nokia phone (that was the lower-cost Lumia 710 in January), the Lumia 900 is the first to be favorably compared to Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone and the better phones running Google Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android.
"This launch will set the tone for Nokia's recovery," Alex Spektor, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, told Bloomberg News. "The U.S., since the rise of the iPhone, has become the most important market for mobile devices so success here is important for any vendor who wants to succeed on a global scale."
And Nokia badly needs the Lumia to succeed.
After last year's existential crisis, when Nokia CEO Stephen Elop sounded the alarm with his "burning platform" memo, many investors thought the Finland-based company was headed over the cliff.
Granted, the situation has been grim.
According to research firm IDC, Nokia's global market share of handsets slumped to 26.6% in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 40% in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Revenue and earnings have followed the downward trajectory. Nokia's earnings in the December quarter fell 76% year over year.
Investors have responded to the negative news by dropping NOK from a high of about $40 in late 2007 to the $5 range.
But if the Lumia 900 can revive Nokia's fortunes - and there's good reason to think it will - the beaten-down stock could be a great investing opportunity.