SAN FRANCISCO-Worries about layoffs of thousands of employees at Nokia and billions of dollars in cost-cutting didn’t deter the handset maker and Microsoft from looking toward the future of their partnership and the upcoming release of the newest mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8.
At the Windows Phone Summit June 20 in San Francisco, executives of both companies told an audience of software application developers about new tools and other enhancements to the platform in Windows Phone 8, whose release is expected to coincide with the release of Windows 8 for desktop and tablet computers, including the Microsoft Surface, its own tablet computer, unveiled at another West Coast media event June 18 in Los Angeles.
The summit also comes just five days after Nokia announced 10,000 more layoffs and $2 billion in further spending cuts to offset a drop in business due to tougher smartphone competition from Apple and Samsung. Nokia is essential to the success of Microsoft’s Windows Phone strategy because Nokia abandoned its Symbian OS to use Windows Phone as its operating system. Nokia’s Lumia phones are the first Windows Phone devices to hit the market and so far have sold well.
At the summit, Kevin Shields, senior vice president of the Lumia product and program management team at Nokia, of course, didn’t discuss the cutbacks in his presentation and wasn’t available for an interview afterwards. A spokesman would only say that Nokia’s focus at the summit was on developers and that Nokia is continuing to execute its corporate strategy regarding Windows Phone.
But some developers at the summit who heard about new innovations in Windows Phone 8 from Microsoft and Nokia expressed continued confidence in Nokia’s ability to grow sales of Windows Phone devices.
“I do [have confidence] and I think some of these advancements and the collaboration with Microsoft is I think what is going to carry them,” said Gregory Gibbons, vice president of business development at The Mobile Lab, a software developer that creates apps for Windows Phone.
“I’m a convert to Windows Phone,” said Gibbons, who replaced his personal Apple iPhone with one. “I think [Windows Phone 8] will make a difference and Nokia, I know, is putting a lot of money into assisting their showcase partners into developing these applications.”
And Nokia does continue to innovate in spite of its current downturn.
One of the applications that Shields highlighted in his address was a navigation app. My Commute, as the app is called, recognizes the different routes a user takes to get to a frequent destination, like to work from home. The app can suggest the fastest route or the scenic route depending on the estimated time of arrival at the destination.
“We’re challenging the notion that navigation is only for when you don’t know where you’re going,” Shields said.
The Nokia navigation app is based on technology from Inrix, which collects anonymous information from 100 million vehicles globally, including from delivery trucks from FedEx or UPS and GPS systems in certain makes of cars, such as Ford and Audi, said Kevin Foreman, vice president of mobile applications for Inrix.
The Nokia app using Inrix digests all that vehicle information and can tell if traffic is unusually slow, indicating a possible accident, or that a San Francisco Giants game just ended and traffic is crowded near AT&T Park. In such situations, the app can suggest alternate routes and even text the person the driver is going to see that they’re running late.
“All the mapping providers and all the operating system [providers] have done a good job of making mapping pervasive and free and allows developers like us to do real-time traffic,” Foreman said.
Microsoft touted promising news about Windows Phone at the summit, citing a survey of Amazon.com shoppers of the highest-rated smartphones on the market. The top three phones identified were all Windows Phone devices, said Terry Myerson, corporate vice president for the Windows Phone Division of Microsoft. And of the top nine, seven were Windows Phone handsets. Myerson didn’t identify whether the phones were Nokia’s or those of Microsoft’s other handset partners, HTC and Samsung.