Microsoft's head for Windows phone imaging leaves for Nokia to work on VR

Microsoft is certainly in a long and weary transition state with Windows 10 Mobile, and now one of their chief imaging gurus is going back to Nokia.

Juha Alakarhu, who has been featured many times on Windows Central, was responsible for image oversampling, image stabilization techniques on the Lumia 920, iris scanning on the Lumia 950, and was in charge of the proprietary algorithms behind the PureView camera experience on Lumia cameras.

Alakarhu had been at Nokia since 2004 and became head of Imaging Technologies at the company in 2011. Likely his best work with the Lumias culminated in the super impressive Lumia 1020 with its 41MP camera, improved optical image stabilization, and image oversampling, all of which were firsts at a retail level for a smartphone.

Alakarhu transitioned to Microsoft during the Nokia Mobile acquisition phase and even moved to Redmond in 2015 to work on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. His last duties at Microsoft was under the title Director, Lead Program Manager, Phones Imaging (opens in new tab):

Program managing the Phones imaging end-to-end solution, including software and hardware. Responsibilities include driving the complete imaging solution as well as detailed hardware technology, image quality, and algorithm decisions.

Alakarhu announced on Twitter this morning that today was his first day at Nokia. However, he won't be working on mobile, but instead is Head of Imaging on the Ozo team. The Nokia Ozo (opens in new tab) is a "professional virtual reality camera" and costs around $60,000. No doubt there is a lot of exciting and crazy technology in that device and Alakarhu is sure to continue its commercial development.

There is also no doubt that Alakarhu's departure from Microsoft is a big blow to the prospects of Microsoft imaging. It remains to be seen if the Surface will release a phone of their own in 2017 and what camera technologies it will have on board.

The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are both now receiving new firmware, which includes improved image and video quality and improved Auto-focus performance.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • As someone who got to speak with Juha at every Lumia launch, I'll greatly miss his enthusiasm for imaging. He and his team did a lot of great work, and with his departure (as well as others over the last few months), is significant. Nonetheless, I wish him nothing but the best! We all have to follow our own paths.
  • Daniel, what does this mean with respect to Microsoft's mobile plans? I suppose there are a lot of apps that make sense only on mobile or at the most tablets but not pPCs. With most of the mobiles stuck on 8/8.1 and MS laying off staff and important people like him leaving, where do you see MS going with mobiles in the future. Or shall we hope that Surface team has someone better in house?
  • The other side of the story, which is hard to get details on, is the team under Panos has been hiring their own people for mobile. As you can imagine, Juha (and some others) are a big loss, however, there is a team of people, not just one person who makes all the magic happen.
  • Yes and that is what i am pinning my hopes on. Hopefully MS will come with some killer and innovative hardware and add some cool new features to the OS w.r.t mobiles. Thanks for your revert.
  • Often bringing in new talent brings new ideas but clearly Microsoft has a great design team in-house doing other hardware already.  Technically I'm sure they'll be fine, but I'm hoping they don't diminish the importance of the camera.  Being able to capture the best photos whereever you is important in a consumer market but less important in business. Users like me appreciate a phone covering both things and I bet quite a few Lumia users are here because of the trend setting cameras.
  • Exactly! That is my main concern... Terrific camera tech has been a well know part of Lumia... I hope this focus doesn't diminish.
  • Imaging is equally as important in the business segment as well.  I have clients in housing as well as the medical field who bought in to Microsoft (Lumia 950 and 950 XL) for the great imaging experience.
  • Please, show me one Windows Phone with "great design" since Lumia 830&730. This x50 series is boring. It's available only in white and black. Boring shape that isn't inovative. It looks like smartphone from china. Nebula design was "Great design". It was colorful. It was simple, but unique. It was something completely different. If Microsoft will continue with this boring white/black & aluminium nightmare, Lumia will slowly die. "Not like anybody else." -Nokia 2014
  • I think Ms made them plain because it assumed people would want to have more customization options and this is why they partnered with mozo from the start.
  • i wonder if many would buy a phone because of its colour!, as for the shape, it depends one's taste. the shape of lumias are fine for me.
  • I had read,I believe even here at WC that Microsoft had partnered with Canon. Is that still in play or was that just hearsay?
  • True and that partnership was formed several years ago.
  • And will this give any effects on Microsoft's mobile platform? I'm eager to know.
  • Partnered? I don't think so. If I remember correctly, it was only a licensing deal covering the use of patents.
  • Yes, it was a cross-licensing patent deal.
  • ❓❓❓ Where did you hear this?
  • WCentral reported it.
  • let's be honest, what this means is that Lumia is no longer the king of mobile photography, actually they havent been since the Lumia 1020. What this means is that no 1020 successor, or any Lumia/W10M device that focuses on new innovative imaging tech. We'll see what this new W10M team will bring to the table regarding imaging, but don't have your hopes up. this is sad  
  • Um... Lumia isn't the king of anything. The brand is dead. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Actually, he is probably right. No new devices in a year?... And, we have no indication that MS will use the name for it's next devices?... No reason to down vote him.. He could be right.
  • actually the cameras in the 950's are still top notch and the other flagships around still have a hard time with beating that camera.
  • I find the 950 Camera to be absolute rubbish, both mine and my wife's take too long to load, take forever to focus, IF they focus at all, and most of the times they focus on the wrong thing anyway, dispite the focus circle being on the object i want in the picture. and taking the picture is so slow, low light conditions? forget about it? I had a 930 and my wife had the 1020, they both blew this camera out of water, hell even our 920s were far better than this piece of junk
  • The problem is they stopped with the software. I used to have so much pride knowing my Lumia 920 and 1020 had functionality that iPhones and Galaxy phones didn't:superior manual controls. Now I own the LG V10 and the camera UI surpasses Lumia/Microsoft camera UI in every area but the awesome Rich Capture tech. I mean I can shoot 30 second exposures and manually change the white balance and the changes made to ISO and shutter speed show in real time on the screen. Windows Camera is stuck having users basically shoot "blind" since when you change the shutter speed to 4 seconds in broad daylight unless you already know better, you won't know that the shot will be a white image until after the fact. They really are playing catch up now in an area they once lead. Just implementing panorama? Microsoft has work to do. The hardware is still probably number one or two but Microsoft has severely limited what's capable by not continuing to push the boundaries. One picture at a time -- LG V10
  • The V10s camera is impressive can't wait for the V20 Posted via the Windows Central App for Android (LG V10 or Nexus 5x)
  • The V10s camera is impressive can't wait for the V20. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android (LG V10 or Nexus 5x)
  • It really is. Not the best but in the top echelon especially in manual and for video controls it doesn't get any better. The V20 will probably be my next phone if LG continues their trend with the series. One picture at a time -- LG V10
  • The V10 set out to be a top notch contender in photography. But then when you don't have an app issue you can concentrate on hardware tech. With Microsoft targeting the business sector, I highly doubt a best in class camera is a top concern anymore.
  • I totally agree with you. Juha Alakarhu was like the Steve Jobs for Nokia Lumia's imaging tech. Let's say Microsoft has a team for the mobile department. But without geniuses like Juha, it will be difficult to create something that will blow our minds away in terms of smartphone photography, like what Pureview did to the previous Lumias. Admit it guys. Even the iPhones transitioned from being a model for mobile phones to being a follower after Steve Job's era was gone. The Lumia line and its Pureview tech will be dead. The next Surface/Microsoft phone will be just like what the current Surface products are - a premium model for other companies to follow, innovate, etc whatever they want to do with it.
  • It is the lame excuse for consolation
  • One thing for sure... If there is a Surface Phone, and it is "far" into development, ole boy probably had a ton of influence on It's imaging abilities.. Basically, any new high end device to be released before summer 2017 would have a great camera lead by his expertise. So, the Surface Phone 1 should be safe......
    Not, not sure how that would affect a "Surface Phone 2"
  • I wouldn't count on that. If you observed from past releases of all the leading camera phones, image processing algorithms are typically among the last things to be finalized prior to the phone being launched, and there would be major updates even after launch. I think the 950 is truly the last in the line of great camera phones from Microsoft...
  • A good IPA is useless if you don't have a great sensor.
  • There is always someone just as smart/eager to fill a hole. Everyone is replaceable and more time than not it is a good thing.
  • To be honest microsoft didn't use his team wisely. Camera in 8.1 was way way better than now what we have in windows 10. I have some old snaps from my lumia 640. They are gem.
  • Lumia 950 XL HDR mode in Windows 10 is great. It takes better picture than my iPhone 6S+
  • Dear Daniel, this news section is incomplete. This came as the result of announcement of job cuts that belong to the mobile department and most of them belong to the finland region. Microsoft has just sold out the lumia mobile dump of finland to foxconn (approx $250 million not sure) which prompted him to go and others.
  • Folks caliber of Juha choose where they work. But surely he has been out for some time already considering embargos and such. Btw when is Belfiore coming back, cruise soon over? :)
  • Lol I haven't seen that guy for a while. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Indeed, a big loss for MS and a great re-gain for Nokia! "It remains to be seen if the Surface will release a phone of their own in 2017 and what camera technologies it will have on board." Hmm. Do I detect less confidence than before on the Surface coming out in 2017? ;) [Yes, just trying to see if you have any new info]
  • I would guess that this pre-surface hp phone decides whether MS calls it quits regarding any new hardware and continuation of W10M development.
  • if that is the case, might as well say "adios WP/W10M, it was fun while it lasted!". I honestly doubt the HP phone will have any significant sales anytime soon/quick.
  • Agree.
  • If you watched the promotional video, HP made that phone to meet interest from enterprise. Nonetheless, Windows fans who buy HP PCs, will buy the phone as well if they like it
  • Ues, I know they say that and that they designed some if the features based on that feedback. This is good and increases the chances of the device a little bit. However, interest and desires/feature requests =/ actual sales. Further, we have no indication as to how many companies this feedback was from. Finally, virtually every single company in the world that has a mobile infrastructure in place has already invested in it, and in huge majority of the cases it is either Android or iOS based. So it will take a lot of convincing for them to switch to W10M, even when taking into account their PCs most likely run on Windows. All in all I still fear.the device will not sell in very high numbers. The most important thing would be for it to sell enough for HP to want to make follow up devices. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Do you think that Microsoft can still be the king in camera as they were with the 950? I sure hope so. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yeah I wish him all the best :)
    GooD Bye our Super Camera Man
  • Daniel: Do you have any update specifically on the imaging aspects of upcoming 'suface phone'? Which team is leading it, and is this one area where Microsoft aims to really improve upon? OR it being more of an 'enterprise' phone, it may have a similar (or incrementally better) camera capability than the Lumia 950 and 950XL?
  • Another step away from the Nokia Legacy :/
  • Anyway nice to see good news for Nokia post Windows
  • Next should be Nadella
  • Hey kid ! you don't know what you are saying.
  • Yes, Nadella should be dumped! He knows nothing about quality!
  • lol. What are you talking about? He's gonna make windows great again
  • there's no great windows without great devices (sarcasm)
  • With great devices comes good market share
  • This is not a football team where you sack managers at will. This is serious business.
  • and serious businesses need to keep its best employees
  • How do you know Microsoft didn't try and keep him? Maybe the project Nokia offered him was his dream project? You can't force employees to stay. They come and go, it's just part of life. Can't blame Microsoft for something they don't really have a say in Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yeah,  instead of givinig this guy a nice paycheck to keep him and make awesome devices that sell,  the dump 26 billion to a **** website with no income potential at all.  GREAT BUSINESS PLAN NUTELLA!  One CEO to RUIN THEM ALL!....
  • I'd bet my paycheck this guy made boatloads at MS. Money only goes so far. You have no idea what his reasons are for leaving, and no idea what MS did to try and keep him. Don't go faulting MS when it's impossible for us to know all the details
  • Have you seen the BILLIONS that football moves? Yeah, football by now is as serious a business as this. Actually, it's worse for a manager to get sacked as they normally earn 10 times more than tech workers (because "reasons") and so the loss of the job has a greater impact (specially on those managers who don't know how to manage finances, which is like 90% of them).
  • 3 managers in 3 season is fun for the owners, nothing serious about it.
  • 3 managers in 3 season is fun for the owners, nothing serious about it.
  • and in big business, leaders and "sacked" all the time. sports and business are the same. the team is the product. if the product isn't bringing in revenue or drawing interest, then heads will roll. The coach, the team President, the QB...someone pays. ALL pro sports are businesses, that bring in millions, to billions of dollars. they aren't that far off other than the product they offer
  • Oh shut up! I've had interaction with a few microsoft employees and they all agree to the fact that under Satya, everything improved drastically. There's a world beyond Lumia
  • Nope Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yup
  • Only phones have declined while all of other divisions of MS brought huge profits... so Nadella should leave??????? I think you personally hate Nadella!!!!
  • That's the way to retrench!!!! /s
  • Make VR games ..
  • Well, nothing goes forever. Definitely wish him luck at saving the OZONes;-). Ein bisschen Spaß darf sein wa?
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