Nokia (NYSE: NOK) may be on the ropes — having just today lost its CTO as he took an indefinite leave of absence — but CEO Stephen Elop is…

Stephen Elop, Nokia

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) may be on the ropes — having just today lost its CTO as he took an indefinite leave of absence — but CEO Stephen Elop is still slugging away in the handset maker’s comeback strategy. Today, he laid out some of Nokia’s biggest challenges and opportunities, making the case for how Nokia would become the strong third player in the market by focusing on courting developers, being the first OEM to give Windows Phone pride of place, and being the operators’ best friend.

In a keynote at the Open Mobile Summit in London today, Elop also repeated what he has been saying for weeks now: “All those rumors are baseless. Nokia is not for sale.” The response comes amid persistent rumors that both Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Samsung are interested in buying the company.

Credit where it’s due. Elop kicked off his speech with a backhanded hat-tip to Apple: “Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in 2007 introduced a high water mark in terms of saying, ‘This is what users expect…But Apple did this in a very Apple way. It was closed.” But that led to something much worse, he says:

“Apple created Android, or at least it created the conditions necessary to create Android. People decided they could not play in the Apple way, and they had to do something else. Then Google (NSDQ: GOOG) stepped in there and created Android… and others jumped on the Android train.”

As is the way with Elop — the man who crafted the now-iconic, very evocative burning platform memo — he also sketched out a cunning picture of the differences and similarities between Apple and Google by illustrating their ecosystems as boxes:

Apple’s box is closed, of course. But look at Google’s: “Google’s open box still has flaps, and we don’t know what those flaps will do.” Later, he spelled it out a bit more: “If you counted the number of lines in Android code you might get a different perspective on how open it really is.” It has more proprietary code than one would assume, he argues.

He says he views Apple and Android — not Samsung and HTC — as its chief competitors. He says he even welcomes these other OEMs into the Windows Phone ecosystem.

By the numbers: Elop says that today there are 1.3 billion people using Nokia’s devices. It’s adding 140,000 new registered users every day who download 6 million items from our store every day.

The problems with Symbian and Meego: Symbian is the world’s most widely distributed operating platform, he says. “It has served us well for many years but we recognised that was challenged.” Meanwhile, “The challenge we face with Meego is that…we have to cover a lot of price points from developed to emergeing markets and we did not think Meego could get there fast enough.”

The rock and hard place of differentiation and commoditization: He claims Android devices all look and act the same, and “If it’s too hard to differentiate on a platform, commoditization steps in. But then
differentiation starts to creep back in through fragmentation.” He recalled when he worked at Macromedia with (now Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) CTO) Kevin Lynch, who spoke before him: “When Kevin and were out flogging Flash and talking to docomo, J2ME had already fractured into 70 different variations.”

Why Windows Phone 7 has not done very well so far. Windows Phone scores better than Android and iPhone with consumers, but OEMs are doing their best work for Android. For Nokia our best work will be for Windows Phone. You will see waves of families of devices that deliver on the promise of Windows Phone 7.”

On the priority ahead for courting mobile operators and developers: “Apple has a [eyebrows raised] certain relationship with operators. Google is feared by operators because of the revenue opportunity. Our strategy is to be as friendly to the operators as possible.” Later, he says part of that will include helping operators create local, customized apps to take advantage of local services on offer. And he said that many want to take advantage of wireline infrastrucutre, in their data schemes using technology like RCSe. “We are very focused on working.” Obviously, the issue of carrier billing for apps will also be key. He claimed that developers that implement carrier billing get 60 percent better revenues from their apps than those who don’t.

What else is ahead: [Pointing to a woman holding up her iPad to record him:] “I can’t even see her face. It’s clear that there is some innovation left to do. The ecosystem is very much starting around mobile devices but you will see that broaden.”

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  1. Rashid Saeed Thursday, June 9, 2011

    “He says he even welcomes these other OEMs into the Windows Phone ecosystem.”

    Such words should be coming from someone at Microsoft. Is this guy the Nokia CEO or a Microsoft exec? If other OEMs join the WP ecosystem, who wins? Nokia or Microsoft? At one point he says the other companies (HTC, Samsung) are doing their best work for Android and that’s the reason WP is not succeeding. Really Mr. Stephen “Flop”?

    1. I suspect that he would be delighted if Samsung and HTC released great handsets for WP7. The idea is that it would help growing the market and building momentum for WP7.  This would in turn give Nokia the opportunity to compete in a much bigger market. At the moment WP7 sounds a bit like a niche market.

    2. First of all, you should stop this childish name calling. This is a public forum.

      Second, if other OEMs join the Windows Phone ecosystem, both Microsoft and Nokia wins. It is the strength and scale of the platform that makes the pie bigger. Bigger pie, bigger opportunities.

      And he is spot on that Windows Phone is a better platform than Android, but OEMs are currently only focused on Android. Android only succeeded because there was nobody else. OEMs simply had no other OS to put on their smartphones. They have a better alternative now in WP, but it is going to take a big fight to win the OEMs.

    3. He knows the ecosystem to go… he’s banking that his hardware will be better than there’s.

    4. I agree 100%
      Look at HD7 omnia 7 or what its called, they are just as powerfull as the android parts, and they have the same HW, good camera’s, good screens and so on.
      but the phones feel empty and there isnt anything htc and samsung can do about it! so ofc they go for android when they can make it a samsung, or a htc, seperate themself, and still be apart of the common platform.
      I must say android is just getting faster and faster, and better and better, old devices from 2.1-2.2-2.3 my iphone just got useless after a while, opposite is happening on android for me.

  2. I struggle to understand Elop. He should have played a 2 Os strategy Android + Win. They are/were big enough . Why only make one bet ? If that fails Nokia fails .No second chance. Should have created a chinese wall and made two division , one android and Win. And say. Slug it out.    MS will due the usual and walk away with all Nokias IP after 2 years and the ability to make their own devices. Ref most MS partners. What happened to Nortel (and countless other partners).


  4. he is a Trojan Horse and will be the key to the slaughter of the wealth of  Nokia shareholders

  5. Elop gets it wrong when he says, “People decided they could not play in the Apple way, and they had to do something else.”

    There was no “Apple way” … Apple simply built a phone, os, and ecosystem around this and went to work. Apple did not invite others to play the game they changed. Others were playing the game already but in a different manner.

    To say any company could have done this is certainly simplistic, but true.

    1. He’s talking about OEMs… not people.

    2. “People decided they could not play in the Apple way, and they had to do something else.”

      “Verizon decided they could not access the iPhone, and they had to do something else.”

      AT&T’s exclusive on iPhone was the catalyst for the emergence of Android as a market success. Carriers hate Google in so many ways, that adopting Android phones was a bitter pill for them to swallow, but they needed a decent market response if they could not sell iPhones. They tried Symbian. They tried Blackberry. Didn’t work. Then, they held their noses and tried Android.

      1. RIGHT @openid-52571:disqus you get it…

        Any vendor could have done something, but they were content doing nothing. Mostly though they were locked into doing nothing thanks to the carriers as you say.

        However, Nokia, RIM, and a few others could have done something. They chose to do nothing.

  6. Stop all the loud talk Elop, you can talk all you want but for as long as you have not a single handset against Apple and Android, all your talk will simply help you breathe when you and your Nokia shit go under water. Go back to your job fixing your organization, stop giving speeches and writing memos!

  7. Bizarre. Symbian competes with Apple and Google and Nokia is more or less in charge of that, not WP7. Unless he has some backdoor relationship spelled out with Microsoft on becoming their design reference handset. In which case they might as well have bought Nokia. 

    Unless he said anything else that didn’t make it into this brief summary, it’s otherwise oddly irrelevant. 

    1. “Symbian competes with Apple and Google”

      …in the same way that me and my fat cousin compete with Usain Bolt.

      But you’re right that if Nokia succeeds with Windows OS, it’s unclear how they capture the fruits of that success vs. delivering it to Redmond.

  8. Be as friendly to the operators also means be hostile to consumers, good luck with that strategy

    1. That would be counter productive on Microsoft’s part.  So why would they do that.  Microsoft has not got it’s foot settled in the modern mobile industry.  But they are make tremendous strides on the back-end of their ecosystem that will make it the most friendly to operator, OEM, developer which will only produce great things for the consumer.  Money is one of them, and by that time Microsoft will be able to make sure their prices stay competitive.  They will know when people can’t afford phone.  One of Microsoft’s biggest disadvantage is that they’re so big, but it’s also one of their biggest advantage because they can put a lot of people in a lot of places.

  9. Idon’t Know Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Anyone paying attention should know that the idea of Android being open is a joke.  But good luck with that malware!

    1. It is by far the most open mobile OS and significantly more open than iOS.  As for the malware, that’s a result of it being open, and negligible at best.  I know of no one that even considers it anything more than a media talking point. Interestingly enough, your statement nearly contradicts itself.  Its like saying, the notion that you left the front door of your house open is a joke, its closed and locked, but good luck with people walking right in.  Is it closed, or is it open to Malware?  My guess is that we’re hearing from an iOS user that has never picked up an android phone, enjoyed the customizable nature of the phone, and actually considered that maybe… just maybe someone is doing something better than their beloved apple.  They must be doing something right if iOS is working to look more and more like Android. 
      I wish Nokia luck, but it seems they’re putting all their eggs in the most fragile basket and hoping it holds.

  10. The last guy who talked baseless crap about Android was the head of Symbian.
    For christs sake if you talk about the competition at least take the time to understand what you are talking about.Or in other words… Nokia will go down all the way… at least now i’m sure. 

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