Elop says his firm is "studying" Microsoft's Surface design

At a press event in Sydney, Australia, Stephen Elop, chief executive of now-profitable Finnish smartphone maker Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V), said his company was studying the tablet market carefully.  

He commented, "It is the case that in the months and years ahead, you will see us broaden out the portfolio, which means pushing to lower and lower price points, in some cases smaller form factors and so forth.  We haven’t announced tablets at this point, but it is something we are clearly looking at very closely. We are studying very closely the market right now as Microsoft has introduced the Surface tablet, so we are trying to learn from that and understand what the right way to participate would be and at what point in time."

And in a comment that may surprise some, he says that while his company is married to Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) for smartphones, it may look to rival platforms for tablets.  He comments, "We would consider any option [Android or Windows] … It is important to note that the opportunity for companionship is something that any user is looking for. So, when you think about the Lumia 920, running on Windows phone, having a Windows tablet or PC or Xbox is something that will give us the opportunity to have a pretty integrated experience. Our first focus on what we look at is clearly in the Microsoft side.   But we have made no decision or announced nothing."

In his comment, Mr. Elop said both smaller 7-inch form factors, and larger 10/10+ inch form-factors had merits.

The tablet question enraptured the audience of reporters who had come to an otherwise hum-drum event at which Nokia was announcing a $329 USD off-contract budget smartphone based on Windows Phone 8 -- the Lumia 620.

Lumia 620Lumia 620
The Nokia Lumia 620

Also entertaining, Mr. Elop took a swipe at rival BlackBerry, Ltd. (TSE:BB) whose BlackBerry 10 platform is contending with Windows Phone 8 for third place.  He comments:

I wouldn’t want to comment on how it [BlackBerry] looks. But when a business person or consumer is purchasing a smartphone today, what they are actually buying is much more than what you see in your hand.

They are certainly buying the hardware and operating system, but they are also buying the full range of applications that may be available for the device. They are buying the cloud based services that are required to make this a complete experience, like mapping, navigation and music.

Windows Phone 8 currently has around 125,000 apps, nearly double the 70K apps that are expected for BlackBerry 10 at launch.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop

Mr. Elop says he's glad Nokia paired with Microsoft instead of Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android, noting that he feared being marginalized like [Google subsidiary] Motorola Mobility and HTC Corp. (TPE:2498).  He comments:

On the Android side, we were very worried that we would be entering Android late relative to everyone else in the industry, that perhaps one vendor was already well on the road to being the dominant Android vendor at the expense of everyone else.

If we look back two years to when we made the decisions,then Samsung was big, HTC was pretty big and Motorola was pretty big. Of course what has happened in the two years is that Samsung has captured the lion’s share of it and the others have been squeezed down to much smaller market share. We were worried about exactly that pattern forming.

Nokia, too has been squeezed to much smaller market share, moving a mere 6.6 million smartphones in the last quarter, about a third of its volume from a year ago.  However, for better or worse Nokia has arguably positioned itself as the premium Windows Phone maker, a position that could pay dividends if the platform becomes more popular.

In Mr. Elop's eyes, Nokia's camera technology is one thing that differentiates its offerings from those of popular Android smartphone makers like Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930).  He remarks, "Photography is one case where we can make a big difference. You can put our device next to everyone else, including some of the ones just announced in the last day or so and say 'boom this is so much better.'"

Source: Financial Review

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