There’s plenty of speculation about where the Nokia/Microsoft relationship will take Windows Phones but Stephen Elop went on the record with Forbes (and some other press) to discuss where the relationship is headed. Some new details have emerged but he definitely appreciates the problem with fragmentation and wants to avoid it as well and that’s very reassuring. Also of interest, Microsoft and Nokia have had engineers meet in Reykavik (midway between Redmond and Espoo) for some time already. And he confirmed that Nokia will not be skinning the UI heavily. There’s also a clear sense of urgency and they’re mindful of the time it takes to get to the market. Here’s the complete interview and it’s definitely worth a read:
On the ways in which Nokia and Microsoft are already working together:
One of the most important things that needed to happen [for the Nokia/Microsoft deal] was the belief that our engineers could work together and believe in each other. We brought in a small number of engineers, including some senior Symbian leaders, and put them in a room [with Microsoft engineers] without supervision. You can’t build products unless you have a group of people that can sit in a room and love each other. …It doesn’t matter how I feel…I’m not the one building products day-to-day.
How the two companies will collaborate on Windows Phone:
What we’re doing with Microsoft…is unique. There are joint assets we are contributing to Windows Phone…we are building ecosystems. This mutual dependency creates a balance that will result in a hugely positive user experience. It’s different from Microsoft having a version of software that just shows up, which we drop on devices. We will be involved in every step of the Windows Phone development process, contributing to it. It’s quite different from the typical [equipment manufacturer] model…we’re doing things on a unique basis.
Whether Nokia will customize Windows Phone with software “skins”:
We want to be thoughtful about not creating an arbitrary forking of the Windows Phone user experience. If we skin Windows Phone and an app won’t work on it, that’s a problem.
We will be very thoughtful about this. You see skins going on with Android, but my sense is that Google will tighten the degree to which people can do that.
There are things Nokia could do with photography or the phone’s camera that could show an experience far richer and more complete than what anyone else has [on Windows Phone today]. Maybe if you take a picture of an ad, you get a discount. …But it has to be within the framework of Windows Phone.
How modifying Windows Phone could affect release times:
Nokia historically…did very precise hardware [modifications] like making its chips just a bit different from the competition’s. Some of that [modification] is still advantageous, but a lot of it slows you down. We could do a skin user interface but that could also delay the release of a phone. The pressure is on in terms of time to market and building this ecosystem. If we’re going to make changes that are special to Nokia, they will be the right things to do. …We will talk very carefully about [the modifications] to make sure they’re worth the price.
Whether other Windows Phone manufacturers will have access to the software/ modifications Nokia creates:
Nokia will have some exclusive differentiated capabilities. Maybe something related to maps. [That said] we believe our most important competitor is not Samsung, Dell or HTC. It is Android and Google. Nokia will do what we can do to complete and strengthen the Windows Phone ecosystem.
We’re assuming that success in the Windows Phone ecosystem will attract more competition. If we’re really successful, we will end up being more concerned about competition within Windows Phone, but we’re not [concerned about that] yet.
How Windows Phone could be more profitable than Android:
Even if a company today is making money with Android…they well-understand that the risk of commoditization is high. As that commoditization sets in, margins will come under increasing pressure. We’re joining the Windows Phone ecosystem because we can deliver a differentiated experience [with Windows Phone]. And the margins…can be higher.
How Nokia will help consumers transition from Symbian to Windows Phone:
We will make a path forward [from Symbian] to Windows Phone. [Elop went on to describe a scenario that involved allowing users to transfer data from Symbian phones to Windows Phone handsets, once they’re ready.]