Nokia CEO Stephen Elop recently expressed hope on a Finnish television program that the first Nokia smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform would arrive in 2011, though not wanting to disappoint, the company has promised nothing until 2012. However, Jo Harlow, Nokia’s executive vice president of smart devices, has indicated that Elop may get his wish.
During a recent trip to New York, Harlow said that the first Nokia Windows phone will hit the market “later this year,” with additional devices launching at a “rapid three-month pace,” according to a May 26 report from PC Mag. “We’re going to keep coming with new devices in order to have something to talk about,” she explained. Harlow additionally told Forbes, “Our target is absolutely still this year … and the target looks good.”Elop announced Feb. 11 that Nokia, effective immediately, was making a major shift, and that Windows, not Symbian, would be the company’s primary focus. Both Nokia and Microsoft have had trouble winning consumers away from the Apple iPhone and Android-running smartphones.During a recent visit to China-one of several since he took the post six months ago-Elop told Anna Shipley, communications director of Nokia Greater China, that the company was shifting its mindset “to a challenger mindset.””We have significant competition, we have to fight hard, we have to show intellectual curiosity-make sure we understand the competition-and of course everyone’s got to be accountable, at the same time, for the results,” Elop said.Because of the competition, he added, “we have to go faster and harder and more aggressively now than we’ve ever gone before.”Part of the Nokia strategy, and part of what brought him to China, Elop explained, is a focus on locally relevant applications.”There will always be those global applications that everybody likes to use all over the world, but we have focused for many years on providing locally relevant material, whether it’s educational materials, whether it’s things that help people in their business … things unique to that culture… those are the things that I think really make a difference,” he said.With China’s growing smartphone market, Nokia could hardly ask for a larger local base. (Morgan Stanley has reported that by 2012 China will account for 41 percent of tablet shipments-while the United States will be responsible for just 11 percent of the market.)Toward the goal of launching successful applications, Elop said Nokia is also working “to create a great environment for the developers of applications.” Part of this is the decision to collect together all the applications for Windows Phone, Series 40 and Symbian to offer maximum exposure.Despite Symbian’s second-fiddle role, Elop said investment in the OS “absolutely continues.” And indeed, on May 25 the company launched a new Symbian phone, albeit for a very specialized market. The Nokia Oro features 18-carat gold plating, a sapphire crystal and hand-wrapped leather from “one of Scotland’s finest Caledonian herds,” Nokia shared on its Conversations blog. Selling for about $1,140, Nokia expects to find buyers in the Middle East and Russia.While Nokia announced Feb. 11 that it plans to sell about 150 million Symbian devices “in the years to come,” the Oro isn’t likely to make much of a dent.Alessandro Lamanna, Nokia’s vice president of marketing, said in a video on the blog that it will be available in “very low volume, on purpose, and available only in some shops, in some regions.” When it comes to a premium product, he added, “it’s not a matter about shouting but a matter about whispering.”