Nokia Stumbles Anew With AT&T Snub

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Nokia ( NOK) kicks the year off with another bleak start.

The No. 1 phone maker got snubbed by AT&T ( T) again, and has had to withdraw its latest smartphone from a planned U.S. launch, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The rejection of the X7, like the N8 and the N97 Nokia smartphones before that has become, as MKM Partners analyst Tero Kuittinen says, "an annual ritual like the Rose Bowl," with "the shock value of another Snookie embarrassment."
Nokia's new chief Steve Elop

The news comes as Nokia shares took a 4% dive this week on fears that its fourth-quarter performance may be weaker than expected when released next week. Nokia has been crushed in the smartphone market as Apple ( AAPL), Google ( GOOG) Android phones and Research In Motion ( RIMM) BlackBerries expand beyond the U.S. market into Nokia's home turf in Europe.

Adding to the misery, Nokia has started to lose market share in areas where it has been strong, like its lower-price phone markets in developing countries.

"Nokia is getting attacked on two fronts, on top with smartphones and from below at the low end," says Roger Entner of Recon Analytics, a Boston-based wireless research and strategy shop.

For example, says Entner, Nokia's market share in India has recently dropped to the 50% range down from a very dominant 70% position.

After three years of ineffectiveness, Nokia's board restructured the company's top management last year hiring former Microsoft ( MSFT) business software chief Steve Elop to run the show.

And though few expected immediate results from the shakeout, it had been hoped that Elop could slow further deterioration of Nokia's profits and market share.

"Elop has a lot of work ahead of him," says Entner "and we are still waiting for him to put his stamp on the company."

On the bright side, says Kuittinen, there is some hope that Sony Ericsson's weak smartphone sales posted Wednesday may have suffered in part from a strong Nokia performance in Europe.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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