Nokia's Stephen Elop: The future is the ecoystem

One of Mobile World Congress's keynote speeches just wrapped up and this one featured three different speakers: Dennis Crowley, founder and CEO of Foursquare, CEO of HTC Peter Chou and CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop. The topic was simple: Mobile OS & Applications, specifically what challenges each CEO is facing and how the mobile OS can transform technology.

Each CEO gave their take on what they do and what they are doing for the future. Crowley is concerned with data aggregation on Foursquare and how to "give that back" to the customer in a useful manner. Chou was interested in the infinite possibilities of smartphones but more importantly how to smartly managed that e.g. HTC Sense. Finally Nokia's Elop focused on three areas:

  1. Ecosystems including big apps versus local apps, with the latter being Nokia's concern. This can be seen in things like App Highlights on their phones.
  2. Location-based services e.g. filling in the "Where? equation" on smartphones. We see this demonstrated with their Drive, Maps and Transport apps
  3. How to monetize this ecosystem for the smaller developers in emerging markets

Elop's discussion was frankly much more interesting as he was laying out, in no uncertain terms, what Nokia's plans were. They see growth in the untapped emerging markets, where 60% of cell phone users do not have a smartphone yet. He reiterated once again how he thought Nokia could be a "disruptive force" in the industry with Windows Phone (versus iOS or Android) and that Nokia had a great symmetry with Microsoft in regards to software/hardware design.

The focus by Nokia on local apps is clearly present in pushing into newer markets including Indonesia where they had 800 developers code for one day to create new locally-focused apps for that region. Likewise, their ability to offer carrier billing for the Marketplace in many areas (with more to come) is a bold attempt to allow those with out traditional forms of credit to participate in the app purchasing process. This is no little thing to be dismissed as the potential here for Nokia is massive and they seem to be having success with it. Likewise, they've adopted micro-payment systems allowing them to further expand with their current 150 operators in more than 40 countries.

Another interesting aspect of his talk was the focus on "social app discovery" or what he also called "viral app exchanges" for Marketplace growth. In essence this involves the idea of sharing apps one-on-one or one-to-many (e.g. blogs, presumably) and how this will help create a "sustainable app economy"  built around smaller developers.

Though no framework for such "viral app exchanges" was proposed it seemed obvious to us that when Nokia finally puts NFC into its phones, this will be one of the key uses. Such a system would presumably work by simply placing your phone up against a friend's phone, automatically installing the app on their device.

This is all frankly great news as Nokia clearly has a very focused approach to gaining market share. They are not here to just build phones but to build the ecosystem around it, spreading it into new areas and not just taking on the iPhone or Android directly (though he did call Android their #1 priority in competition).

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • We want right - left lang support
  • Already announced as coming. Next...
  • Any time line or date for that ?
  • Have a strange feeling Windows Phone will end up dominating the emerging markets, yet remain... not inconsequential... but not really a dominant player in Microsoft's home country. Things are going to get interesting if AT&T gets their way next year with their plans to charge developers for their apps' data usage, especially if other carriers follow suit.
  • I think what MS and Nokia are doing now is the right strategy. Keep pushing in the established markets but at the same time do a big push in the emerging markets so they'll have a market base to work from. Once a strong presence is acquired in emerging markets, go back to the established markets and intensify the effort for a long and drawn out fight for acceptance. This is the price to pay for coming late to the market. But they have a good weapon in their hands in WP because it IS a good product.
  • There is one market why Microsoft MUST push hard in the established regions: company acceptance.
    As an example, right now the fight is on in corporate America over what platform(s) are to be supported internally. Closer to home, right now iOS is clearly winning that fight in the very large company where I work. Yes, there are at least as many Android users, and yes the number of Windows Phone users is very slowly creeping up. Sure there is corporate support for email. But guess which platform has teams of mobile app developers. Clue 1: it ain't Android. Clue 2: it ain't Windows Phone. It's all iPhone, and now also iPad.
    Yes, developer employees who own Android and Windows Phone devices are pushing to get the chance the first iOS developers had. We have lists of reasons a mile long why our platforms should have internal apps too. It's all wait and see. Meanwhile, the library of internal iOS apps grows.
    I really hope Windows 8 tablets make a huge splash. Unfortunately, everyday I see more and more "business" iPads being carried through the halls.
    Microsoft might have been the sleeping giant that became the leader in gaming with Xbox. But this is the mobile Windows Phone/8 platform we're talking about, and the game is different. Time is ticking...
  • Its too bad he is taking so much criticism from the instant gratification crowd. When you listen to him all I can ever say to myself is "your the man!"
  • The smaller markets are where the money is, and Nokia has been doing it for a long time,this approached by Nokia is a very smart thing to do,having local apps in each country is very very clever.. Windows phone will capture Americas heart, remember when rim was no. 1??