Chris Weber isn't afraid to talk a bit of smack about Android and Apple who he calls "outdated". Despite not selling a single WP7 handset he claims to be "way ahead" of them.  (Source: Nokia)

Nokia is making the difficult transition from selling full price unlocked phones to selling carrier-subsidized (discounted) locked models. That's the primary reason why Nokia's full-scale WP7 launch has been delayed until 2012.  (Source: HAND Cell Phone)
Nokia struggles to differentiate itself from other WP7 manufacturers, but hopes for strong 2012

"We're way ahead of them [Apple and Google]," said Nokia Oyj. (HEL:NOK1V) President and head of North American operations Chris Weber in an interview with VentureBeat.  He's referring to his company's planned cloud offerings with new corporate BFF, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT).

I. Full American Launch Pushed to 2012 as Nokia Works to Build Carrier Relationships

If you listen to Mr. Weber talk, you start to notice similarities with Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer.  Like Mr. Ballmer, Mr. Weber is blunt and bullish.  And from his rhetoric you might not realize that his company's platform of choice -- Windows Phone 7 -- is in distant fourth place behind Google Inc. (GOOG), Apple, Inc. (AAPL), and Research In Motion Ltd. (TSE:RIM).

Nokia recently pledged to go "all in" with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, stating that all handsets sold in America would carry the new operating system.

But for all the bravado, Mr. Weber's talk reveals troubling as well as promising signs.  It's hard to fault him for his enthusiasm, but his revelation that his company's Windows Phone 7 lineup won't hit most of America until 2012.  He says that while shipments "in volume" remain a year away, the platform will launch "somewhere" in the U.S. this year, leaving open the possibility of a launch in one market, or a handful of markets.

The message seems ominous -- no back-to-school WP7 sales for Nokia; no holiday WP7 sales for Nokia; virtually no 2011 WP7 sales for Nokia.  So why the potentially disastrous delay?

Mr. Weber is fresh blood at Nokia.  Like new CEO Stephen Elop, he comes from an executive history at Microsoft, where he served as head of enterprise sales.  And like Mr. Elop, some critics might call him a "trojan horse".  And he's been busy.

Of the 14 executives reporting directly to him, Mr. Weber reports replacing approximately "10 to 11" of them.  That's a roughly 80 percent turnover rate.

But Mr. Weber insists the change has been for the best.  One major shift he's working to accomplish is to switch Nokia from the mindset of selling stand-alone unlocked devices to selling carrier-subsidized phones -- something most of his competitors have long done.

Nokia's unusual sales model has been part of what has turned off U.S. buyers in the past, so it seems pretty logical to change it.  But it's also part of what is delaying Nokia's Windows Phone 7 launch till next year.  Relationships with carriers don't sprout up overnight.

II. Nokia Loves Microsoft, But Does Microsoft Love Nokia?

Speaking of relationships, Nokia's loyalty and close partnership with Microsoft is appearing increasingly curious, in that it's mostly a one-way street.  Microsoft is showing little interest in giving Nokia "exclusive perks", which one might expect.

It's unclear exactly how Nokia is going to differentiate itself from competitive Windows Phone 7.1 "Mango" designs from other partners like Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO:005930), HTC Corp. (SEO:066570), and LG Electronics (SEO:066570).  Nokia claims it will do so via battery life and imaging quality (which may include superior photo-shooting tech or perhaps some high-res display magic).

That's plausible, but it doesn't give Nokia much of an edge.  Most of Mr. Weber's enthusiasm covers base elements of Mango, not his company's phones.  For example he blasts Android and Apple's iOS, saying that they are "outdated" in basing their phone on the app grid, rather than interactive widgets like Microsoft's phone.

Microsoft does have perhaps the most innovative interface on the market.  And Mango will bring improved call quality and host of other fascinating features.  Mr. Weber demoed one during his interview -- touch free voice commands.  When the phone receives some sort of input, the user can interact with it (say respond to a text message), all without ever touching the phone.  This is similar to Android's voice-to-text features, but takes things even a step farther by removing the touch requirement from the equation.

Mr. Weber also plugged Microsoft's SkyDrive, which offers WP7 users 25 GB of cloud storage space.  He also cited the WP7 version of Microsoft Office 365 -- as another strong potential selling point of Mango.

Ultimately what's good for the goose may be good for the gander.  If Microsoft can finally break through in sales, Nokia may be dragged along, even if it's not necessarily outselling its WP7 peers.  HTC demonstrated this approach with Android, using it to rise from relative obscurity to a spot as one of the world's top phone makers.

So for all the smack talk and for all troublesome delays, Nokia does prepare to have some good stuff in store and be making some necessary changes.  With any luck 2012 could prove a much better year for the company than its abysmal 2011.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki