Q&A with Stephen Elop from Nokia’s #moreLumia Event

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watermark_2014-04-05-10-01-34_jpgThis is from the Q&A session with Stephen Elop that took place at Nokia’s #moreLumia event in San Francisco last week. I did the best I could to get every word down, though some things were hard to hear or understand, so I apologize for some words that are seemingly missing (there are only a few).

Q: “Interesting that the Nokia 1020 has the protrusion on the back with the lens and also has the higher megapixel camera count than your new flagship 930. Could you explain, is that because you’re now able to achieve similar optics without those two things or could we look forward to a new camera-focused, photographer-focused phone in the future?”

Elop: “Very good question. It is the case that if you take even…” [fumbles around pocket and pulls out a Lumia 1520.] “… I have to be careful because there’s thing we haven’t announced yet!” [Audience laughsI freak out a little internally]. “But if you take for example, the Lumia 1520, that we released a few months ago with the 20 megapixel camera, or now even a step further, the Lumia 930, what you’re seeing is what we can accomplish with a 20 megapixel camera- optically stabilized- along with the algorithms that are advancing as we go along, are getting closer to the 41 megapixel than would have been the case even 6 months ago. This is an area where the research- the raw computing science- is really advancing. Though it’s not the case that 20 megapixels is half as good as 41 megapixels; it’s really quite good. Now, what we’ll be able to do with 41 megapixels and even new technologies in the future, will also continue to advance. We believe that, with the broad category of capture-and-relive is really important, and we do believe that we should be setting a bar for absolutely the highest quality imaging experience. That doesn’t mean necessarily all the gimmicky stuff- there’s some things that are interesting but that aren’t really gonna make a difference- but truly high-quality imaging, we think, is important. So you can see us continue to emphasize that in our products going forward.”

Q: “You mentioned the rollout of the Lumia 630, 635 everywhere else but Latin America. When can the Latin American’s expect this affordable phone?”

Elop: “That may be a miss on our slide because those products certainly are coming to Latin America.”

Q: “Do you have a time?”

Elop: “In June. So the 630 and 635 they’re going to be moving rapidly, in volume, around the world.”

Q: “I wanna ask you about what happened to Flipboard, because we haven’t heard much about apps and Flipboard. You promised the half-year rollout…”

Elop: “I don’t have the answer on Flipboard right now. If we don’t have that here we can quickly figure out what the status on that is, so we’ll follow up with you on that.”

Q: “I want to ask more about SensorCore SDK in terms of new applications and new facilities with this?”

Elop: “So the application that we’ve been focused on first with this product is health and fitness applications, so part of the pattern you’ll see form us, particularly when we become part of Microsoft is we’ll do a first-party application that begins to show that off, but very deliberately we broaden its applicability with the SDK. So the developers are seeing that literally for the first time today, so that was part of our announcements, and our developer relations mean with work with certain of those developers to feel for the next generation of applications. It’s the same with the imaging technology, it’s great when we do something with imaging, but what we love is when we see other companies building applications that we didn’t even imagine.”

Q: “Quick question on apps, can you speak both to the total number of apps that you have and secondly to the extent that you’ve been able to.. you know, what percentage, for example, of the Fortune 500 companies in the US have apps for your platform, for things like banks, retailers, and airlines? What kind of inroads have you made?”

Elop: “Yeah, let me talk about apps in general, because it’s a really good question in building an ecosystem. And you need the basic capabilities, and great products and design, but the application challenge is arguably our biggest challenge. So, complete disclosure, that’s the thing that we really have to continue to focus on. And I don’t have the percent of Fortune 500, but let me comment on it this way: When you look at some overarching statistics like the number of useful applications, not just all applications, but useful applications, our number’s around 400,000 I think. They’re growing by 500 new applications, not updates, but brand new applications every single day, which is something I thanked the developer audience for earlier today. But when you look at the nature of our challenge, it’s evolving. It used to be “we just have to get, you know, the top 100 applications” whether it’s in a particular country, or the Fortune 500 or whatever. Generally when you look at those numbers, like the top hundred most popular apps on Android or iOS, we’re doing really well. There’s a couple of exceptions- I mean, Instagram was the big exception for a while, then we got that and you know, on we go. But what we have to do now, you know in a number of countries around the world, we have to get more of the local apps. Less of an issue in the most developed markets, when you get into some of the other countries around the world and say “are the top 5 banks represented?”, maybe only 3 of them are, so we gotta get the next ones, we gotta get to that next tier. We also– and this is the case-, there are certain long-tail, I’ll call them “communities of interest” where we need to really concentrate and get certain applications moves to our platform [Grindr, anyone?]. And there may be applications that may be blockers for communities of users, although it’s not necessarily in large volumes. So the example I’ll use is that I’m a pilot, and there are few pilot applications that are really important and certain of those applications are only on iOS- they’re not even on Android!- and so how do you think about that? And so the nature of our challenge has shifted, but we’re clearly really going at that very aggressively. What we really like is today’s announcements about the unified environment, where the attraction for the developers is, “hold on, we’re coming over to the Windows Phone family!” With one set of effort you can cover a lot of different types of platforms and experiences. Which is why one of the loudest applause moments was the unified Windows strategy for even XBox as well; people can see the broader opportunity. So we have work to do, but it’s a steady investment. Our challenges today are different from what they were a year ago, because we’re making real progress with them.”

Q: “India’s been making a lot of news lately, for better or for worse, and workers went on a 1-day strike just a couple days ago. What is the status, what is the new pain-point, how much more money is India gonna ask for at this point, and what is Microsoft and/or Nokia willing to pay, or is it just gonna be in affect where Microsoft will just write a smaller check and Nokia/Finland keeps those assets in India at this point ?”

Elop: “I can’t say too much about the specifics obviously, because it’s in front of courts and things like that, what I can say is that we are very focused on coming to a great outcome there. We’re working with the employees, the employee representatives, obviously with the government and we’re working in the courts to try and get the best possible outcome. It’s very hard to predict this because as you’ve seen in the press, different things change almost everyday so, what’s going on in the country and what kind of tax demands are being made. So the most important thing to note is that from a Nokia perspective, we are absolutely certain that we have represented ourselves correctly, that we’ve managed the taxation situation very carefully within the laws of India, and within the Finnish-Indian tax treaty that exist, so we’ve done that deliberately very correctly all the way along, and so we’re gonna have to just keep working this the best we can.

Q: “I know that the deal hasn’t closed yet between Microsoft and Nokia, but this morning Microsoft made a pretty significant announcement that devices that are less that 9 inches will basically have Windows be free for those OEMs, so how do you think that is going to entice other Windows Phone partners to embrace the ecosystem, and how do you think it’s going to look down the road to the Windows Phone family?”

Elop: “I think anything like that produces friction in the conversation for an OEM. I think it was also good news that you see this continuing pattern of OEMs being announced who are engaging with Windows Phone for example, ’cause that for us is a good thing- volume drives application demand, and so fourth, which is great for developers. So we look at that as a very positive thing. It’s hard to predict precisely how that economic change will affect something in the short term, I think it’s really a statement that says “we’re serious about driving scale with Windows Phone, and lower-price-point Windows devices, and we’re really willing to play hard to make sure that happens.”

Q: “Can you clarify the situation with the 930. Obviously the Icon seems very similar with its launch here in the US with Verizon, and it’s exclusive. Are we getting a chance at all to see the 930 on US carriers once that exclusivity ends?”

Elop: “I think the important point- you certainly lead this in your question- is that the Lumia Icon and the Lumia 930 are very similar- I’m not trying to shirt that perception- they are very similar. Now the difference I would note is that the radio requirements for the Verizon network are quite unique in the world, so if you crack open the device you’ll see some very significant differences to satisfy the use of the Verizon network. What we have announced so far , and this is all we’ve announced is that in the US we’re gonna focus with the Lumia Icon with Verizon. We have not made any comments other than that at this point.”

[The next question was someone hard to hear/understand]

Q: “What is your elevator pitch for a CIO to… (inaudible)… on Nokia devices and (inaudible)…”

Elop: “Thank you! That is an great question! It’s gonna be a long elevator ride. [laughs] But if it was up one floor in the building, if we’re moving just one floor in the building, the elevator pitch is very clearly that a Windows Phone device is absolutely the best device for integration with the requirements of a CIO in an enterprise setting. And it is unambiguously true. We saw that today- there was the gentleman that gave a short demonstration of some of the enterprise features like… (inaudible)… I don’t know if that’s a good feature or not, but nonetheless it’s the fact that device management is there, the encryption is there, the digital signatures are there.. the whole enterprise experience there is really really powerful and what you’ll see is in the months and years ahead, particularly now that we have Windows Phone 8.1 with those enterprise features included, the opportunity to go to the enterprises where there’s such a strength of Windows Server, of Exchange, of all of these other enterprise capabilities from Microsoft, where they have such a strong position- clearly you’ll see us tying those things together and making the case that this is a great opportunity. We get a lot of support from operators on this front as well, many operators around the world have a strong Business-to-Business selling force, particularly for mid and small-sized businesses, where with one-stop-shopping they’re buying phones, they’re buying internet access, they’re buying various operator based services, Office 365, and in the future the Nokia Lumia devices work with that beautifully, so it’s a really nice opportunity for us.”

Q: “There’s a bunch of phone makers out there but no one seems to be focusing on the front-facing camera, and also you guys- I love your cameras- I was wondering if you would consider taking the 5 megapixel camera of that device and put it on the front, and you could call it a ‘Selfie Phone’.”

Elop: “A ‘Selfie Phone’? Could we use that? We’re experimenting with different formats, different capabilities on the front-facing camera capability, because certainly just the word ‘selfie’, you know 18 months ago most of us didn’t use that. But the dynamics- and even I realize this now, this weekend I was distracted in the car this weekend, I was driving my daughter to a volleyball tournament- I have the ticket to prove it- where she was messing around taking selfies with her device of me and her in the car going to this volleyball tournament- and just the whole dynamics there are changing, and so yes we are definitely looking at opportunities to do some interesting things. Not committing to anything you suggested, but nonetheless there’s a lot of innovation yet to be done.”

So just in conclusion, I won’t take you through all the announcements again, but we have been very excited about what’s happened here today. There is a great opportunity for you all to experience what’s going on, I’d like to offer you to take the Fast Fingers challenge with the typing that you saw Joe Belfiore do and a number of other things. Enjoy the Lumia imaging capability. What we’re going to do is give you the opportunity to experience a little bit more.”

It was pretty exciting knowing that Elop may have had some unannounced devices right inside his pocket!

What do you think about the answers that Elop gave? Did any of it leave you excited for the future of Nokia and/or Windows Phone?

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