The Nokia chief executive, Stephen Elop was with a small group of journalists when he asked, “You were all in the audience. Did you see things that surprised you?”
The journalists stared as the recent Lumia smartphone release was not a surprise with a 41 megapixel camera that record as much detail as a professional SLR trice than the best smartphone rivals. It will let to zoom in on detail once the picture has been shot and capture perfect still images in near-darkness.
The 41 MP cameras which ran on Symbian operating system, is now running in Window’s Phone. But all the phone’s specifications had been leaked and written up online. For some the only surprise is that Nokia itself, former darling of the mobile industry, is still alive.
Elop said, “It’s very challenging, because [with Windows Phone] we are starting as a challenger.”
The rivals are Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android software, which together control over 90% of the global smartphone market; Apple and Samsung alone rake in 95% of mobile handset profits. Nokia is still the world’s second-largest handset maker, producing nearly 80m every quarter.
Elop is aiming to beat BlackBerry for becoming the “third ecosystem” for smartphone apps, behind Apple and Google.
Elop is quick to point to a Snapchat-compatible app called Swapchat; and as for Instagram, he says, the specialist photo app Hipstamatic now comes in a Windows Phone version that can upload pictures to Instagram.
He says, “But you’re right, on applications, we have to do a lot of work, and keep pushing. But critical mass is building, and you’re seeing more and more unique work being done on our platform. It’s hard, it’s a challenge. But there’s no doubt we’re making progress.”
IDC’s Francisco Jeronimo says, “Despite the quality of the device, I have some serious doubts about whether it will change Nokia’s fortunes, and it risks becoming a niche product. Alone, it won’t ship enough units to turn around Nokia’s fortunes, because it’s premium-priced. But its significance will be greater than unit shipments. Nokia’s goal is to put the name Nokia into people’s minds.”
Elop said, “What we were worried about was the very high risk that one hardware manufacturer could come to dominate Android. We had a suspicion of who it might be, because of the resources available, the vertical integration. Samsung already had in-house screen and memory-chip makers for its touch screen phones. We were respectful of the fact that we were quite late in making [a] decision – many others were in that space already. Fast forward to today and examine the Android ecosystem, and there’s a lot of good devices from many different companies, but one company now has essentially become the dominant player.”
He argues, “The first step in the conversation is the recognition that we’re not Apple, we’re not Samsung/Android. We’re a third alternative. And when an operator wants to keep pressure on [handset makers] and have a lot of options. So, strategically, we have an opening because we’ve taken that path as the third ecosystem.”
“The device business is a business where we’re making some hefty investments,” Elop says calmly.
Nokia is still not out of the woods. Its debt rating was cut to trash a year ago and rumors have swirled that Microsoft might want to buy it. NSN, the world’s third-biggest infrastructure provider for mobile networks, generates safe if unexciting profits.