Just exactly how — and when — will Nokia (NYSE: NOK) enter the tablet market? A few choice words from Stephen Elop, the company’s CEO, indicate that the company is definitely cooking something up, but it seems to still be far from announcing when the first product might appear.
In an interview with the Finnish broadcaster YLE, Elop gives nothing away in terms of what route Nokia might take when it comes to tablets — and in fact the way Elop speaks could either mean that the company is still weighing up its options, or has already decided on something and is simply keeping quiet on what that is:
“We can build a Windows-oriented tablet, or we could do things with the other software assets we have,” he said simply. The other software assets most notably include MeeGo, the operating system Nokia jointly developed with Intel (NSDQ: INTC) but has partly abandoned in light of its more recent adoption of Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Windows Phone.
Elop also drew attention to what he thinks is “most important” issue at the moment: making something that stands out from the rest of the pack.
“There are now over 200 different tablets on the marketplace, and only one of them [the iPad] is doing really well. My challenge to the team is that I don’t want [Nokia's] to be the 201st tablet on the market that you can’t tell from all of the others. We have to take a uniquely Nokia perspective. So the team is taking working hard on something that would be differentiated from the others on the market…We are in a hurry, but it’s a hurry to do the right thing.”
In the interview, Elop also talked about Nokia’s big news from last week: thousands of layoffs and a deal to outsource all Symbian activities to Accenture. He played down the affects the outsourcing will have on those working on Symbian. “The prospects are very good,” said Elop. “They will first help with Symbian and then get training to work on Windows Phone 7 [and other projects around the world],” he said.
He also maintained that Nokia will remain competitive on the innovation front, “We will be doing software development for Windows Phone,” and about investing in future disruptions, that is largely software development. He dismissed the worry about “brain drain” at Nokia: the changes are the kinds of things that “excite” engineers that want to be part of the opportunity at Nokia, he claimed.
“*Time* is critical but it’s a race to make sure we’re delivering the best products and devices, we have to move quickly we are creating an environment to move faster.”
First Nokiasoft phones. “2012 is when we will see products in volume,” said, admitting that “there is pressure to deliver [the first device] this year.”
When asked whether the company might be able to rise to that pressure and produce the first device in the fourth quarter of this year, Elop replied yes, “It is possible to see that.” No more on that for now, though: he notes that in general Nokia has tried to change how it previews products, shortening the lead time to make it closer to when the product actually comes out, since a long lead time has “not worked out so well in the past.” (RIM: take note!).
Also Elop provided some concise insight into why it is that he views Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Android, and not Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), as Nokia’s biggest competitor: The latter has focussed on premium devices, whereas Android has spawned a whole range of devices at different price points, and that hits Nokia not just at the high end, but also the medium and lower ends of the market where it has managed to maintain leadership — up to now, at least.
A video of the interview has been posted on YLE’s online catch-up service Areena and you can see it here, via the blog WMPowerUser).