BARCELONA, Spain – It’s now just over a year since Nokia and Microsoft announced their intention to form a strategic partnership to create a new breed of smartphones. It’s just ten months since that deal was formally ratified.
It was the theme of Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s address to the press at Mobile World Congress yesterday. “We have changed the clock speed of Nokia,” he said, listing the achievements of the company over the past 12 months. “The Nokia Lumia 710 and 800 are now in 31 markets. And, before announcing new products, he added: “We will accelerate our mobile reach with new devices and services.” Later he added: “It’s one year since the start of our new journey. It’s been a very challenging and amazing and interesting year.”
We spoke to Nokia’s Waldemar Sakalus, VP Microsoft Alliance, to get an understanding of the journey that the company has been on over the last year.
It’s been a busy year for Waldemar. For one thing, it’s meant packing up and moving out to Bellevue in Washington State, “So I could be closer to Redmond.”
Adversity and opportunity
Geography offers some interesting challenges. “Most of Microsoft’s R&D takes place in Redmond. However, Nokia’s R&D for Lumia is split across four international sites: San Diego in the States, Beijing in China, and Salo, Tampere and the Helsinki area back in Finland.” Finding the right time to schedule a conference call can be a Herculean task.
However, what looks on the surface to be a really difficult starting point also proved to be an opportunity. It made the team faster.
“One reason we were able to deliver Lumia ahead of schedule was the fact that we’re working across three very different time zones.
“When one team finishes for the day, another team is just getting into work. If the first team had hit a problem, the second could look at it with a fresh set of eyes. Nokia was able to work a 24-hour schedule and deliver quicker because it has people spread across the world.”
New Lumias at MWC
But what of the two new Nokia Lumia smartphones announced at Mobile World Congress? What is their overall importance?
“Both of these new devices occupy a key strategic position. The Nokia Lumia 610 is all about accessibility and delivering across the world.
“We’re opening up the Lumia experience to millions of people that couldn’t have considered it previously. At the other end, the Lumia 900 is our flagship phone and we need to be able to offer that across the world. Our best device needs to be available to every potential customer.”
The reception of the Lumia 900 has been one of the most gratifying things that has happened to Waldemar in the last twelve months.
“I was absolutely delighted with the reaction to the Lumia 900, especially to the recognition that we are a contender.”
Culture and change
The new Lumia range of Windows Phone smartphones are the most outwardly visible sign of change at Nokia, but Stephen Elop’s plan also required a lot of internal cultural change.
“Now, we have a new hunger. We know we’re in a fight, and we can win it. But we also know it’s not going to be easy.”
So with four Nokia Lumia phones delivered, across a wide range of price points, is the job done?
“Far from it. Going forward, our hardware will evolve to include more new components especially created for our devices. And we’ll have more time to spend on collaborating with Microsoft on the software. That’s started, especially with our new location and maps services, but we want to begin helping to shape the future of the platform itself.”