In a very interesting live Q&A on the former Conversations by Nokia blog today, Microsoft's new executive VP of Devices Stephen Elop offered up a number of interesting comments about the future of Nokia's devices and services businesses within the software giant.
You can find the full transcript of his chat in the post Conversations LIVE: Ask me anything with Stephen Elop. But here are the highlights, along with my own comments.
Microsoft has not yet settled on smart phone branding
Yes, Microsoft now owns the Lumia, Asha and Nokia phone lines. Yes, Microsoft can use the Nokia name on its hardware products for 10 years. But that Microsoft Mobile name that became public during the sale of Nokia's devices and services businesses is just a legal entity, and not the name, or brand, Microsoft will use for these products going forward.
Microsoft Mobile Oy is a legal construct that was created to facilitate the merger. It is not a brand that will be seen by consumers. The Nokia brand is available to Microsoft to use for its mobile phones products for a period of time, but Nokia as a brand will not be used for long going forward for smartphones. Work is underway to select the go forward smartphone brand.
So when will we see the first Microsoft-branded smart phone?
The future is cloudy.
Now that we are One company, the marketing and product folks will lay in the plans for the shift to a consistent brand. While we are not ready to share precise details, I can assure you that it will not be the "Nokia Lumia 1020 with Windows Phone on the AT&T LTE Network" ... too many words! That somehow doesn't roll off the tongue...
No one ever called the 1020 by such a name. I find it odd every time someone from Microsoft or Nokia suggests otherwise.
Speed of product releases
One of my big concerns is that Microsoft will slow down the amazing product release pace that Nokia has set over the past year.
By combining with MSFT, we will each be able to innovate together in ways that we could not as separate companies. Lots of good things ahead.
He also cites the slowness of the Lumia 1020 camera sensor as an example: Because Nokia had no control over OS capabilities, it couldn't build in a dedicated image processor chip as it had in the Nokia 808 PureView device.
We could have gone further [with the Lumia 1020] if the engineering teams between MSFT and Nokia were not in separate companies. As we come together, innovation will be able to move faster.
He was also asked about a 1020 successor this year.
I can't comment on specific product plans, [but] it is safe to say that imaging will continue to be an important differentiator for us in the future.
I think the Android- (really AOSP-) based Nokia X is a huge mistake, one that waters down the value proposition of Microsoft's smart phone efforts. But it's not going anywhere, he says.
Microsoft acquired the mobile phones business, inclusive of Nokia X, to help connect the next billion people to Microsoft's services. Nokia X uses the MSFT cloud, not Google's. This is a great opportunity to connect new customers to Skype, Outlook.com and Onedrive for the first time. We've already seen tens of thousands of new subscribers on MSFT services.
We are using AOSP to attack a specific market opportunity, but we are being thoughtful to do it in a way that accrues benefit to Microsoft and to Lumia.
What about Nokia's amazing apps for Windows Phone? (Mix Radio, Nokia TV, Nokia Camera, etc.)
This is one of my own questions for the future. He doesn't really answer this one.
We have been building a lot of apps that have been specific to Lumia, but now those people and efforts will transfer to Microsoft. We believe that these types of capabilities are critical to differentiation, so you will see these themes continue.
Themes are not apps. I guess it makes sense for Mix Radio capabilities to be merged into Xbox Music and for Nokia Camera capabilities to be merged with the default Camera app in Windows Phone. I guess we'll see.
USA vs. international
This is a theme I see all the time, whether it's people outside the United States criticizing Microsoft for releasing first (or only) in this country, or my own coverage which is by necessity US-centric. More specifically, someone asked about the Swype-like keyboard in Windows Phone 8.1 being made available in more languages.
I can't announce specific timing for languages, but you will see this and other capabilities like Cortana pushed out widely.