Interview: A chat with Nokia about why Lumia is best for business

David Mason, head of Product Marketing for Business Mobility at Nokia, took some time out of his busy schedule at Microsoft’s TechEd 2012 event in Orlando this week, to speak with Neowin about the company’s approach to the business market, and why Nokia believes its Lumia Windows Phones are perfectly suited for business.

He told me that Nokia sees the business market as a huge opportunity – not least because the field is still wide open, with no clear market leader. Nokia, he says, has a strong enough offering to suit the full spectrum of business users – from the lone entrepreneur running a one-man business, all the way to vast multinational organisations with thousands of users.

He told me that there’s a “sweet spot” in small and medium-sized organisations, which account for 44% of smartphone devices sold to businesses, with large enterprises representing a much smaller 24% of the market. For all of these users, including the 17% of business users in the smallest businesses, he says, Nokia’s range of Lumia Windows Phones offer a no-compromise solution for their needs.

I asked him a few questions to find out more about the company’s business offering, and its plans to encourage broader adoption of its Lumia devices in business.

We’ve seen a lot of marketing to boost awareness of the Lumia range among users, but it seems that the majority of that effort has been focused on highlighting the appeal to consumers. Why has Nokia chosen now to start promoting Lumia for business?

I think we’ve always talked about business and engaged with the business segment. Our original Lumia 800 campaign included Office for instance. We’ve always talked about our productivity offering, but we clearly focused on consumers when we started making noise [about Lumia] because what really matters is that people want to hold this device. Whether you’re a business user, a CIO, whatever, it is an aspirational personal device. You need to meet that need first, and you need to engage with people individually, on an emotional level – but at the same time you need to meet that rational need for business.

But we already have some clear ‘success cases’ in business scenarios. This week, for example, we revealed that Seton Hall University (in New Jersey, US) is giving Lumia 900s to all of their incoming freshmen – and that’s not just a case of giving them a device. They built a hub for the university within the device itself, and when the freshmen come to the university for orientation, they give them the device, and the freshmen can start to build a relationship with other students; it’s a social experience within the university. They can look for dorm shares, and start to build that relationship with other students before they even get there.

I’m sure you have many more specific examples of Lumia deployment in organisations – but in more general terms, how is Lumia’s penetration into business?

We’ve seen a mix from entrepreneurs through to large enterprise. Another example is that of Bridgestone who have rolled out Lumia 800s in Australia. There’s also a Scandinavian construction company who have rolled out Lumia 800s and Lumia 710s; they were quite early in their adoption [of Lumia devices]. They had a need for devices that would work across a whole breadth of skills and knowledge bases – from people managing crews to architects and builders. Their infrastructure was Microsoft-based and secure; they benchmarked against Android, and one of the underlying reasons that they chose Lumia was the security that could be achieved on a Lumia device.

You mentioned the ‘fit’ of Lumia handsets with an existing Microsoft infrastructure, but many businesses have already begun adopting other platforms, such as Android and iOS. What challenges does Nokia face in presenting Lumia as a good fit within organisations that have already made the jump to other platforms?

The first thing I would say is that there is no clear leader in the business space. You mentioned Android and Apple, but in the business game, there’s no-one with a clear dominant position; it has no leader. There has been in the past; we were one of them, along with RIM. Now, we’re in a position of transition.

But I think that many companies haven’t actually made that leap yet. Businesses are looking now at what their options are. There’s very much an open playing field in the business market. Why should they choose us? I think, yes, it’s the plug-and-play integration with the Microsoft infrastructure, but also IBM are now supporting Windows Phone as well; they announced that back in January, and there’s a public beta available now for Lotus Email. So really, you can choose Windows Phone, whether you’re with Microsoft or not.

But is there a compelling reason to buy Nokia? I think yes. You continue to get that hardware quality that you get from these devices; they are robust, and we’re bringing quality engineering and design to the devices. Along with that, we’ve got business ecosystem support. Many businesses are building line-of-business applications today for Windows. It’s the same development environment for Windows Phone. As we move to Windows 8, you can build across Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and that experience will become common for employees as well – whether it’s PC, desktop, tablet or phone.

You mentioned case studies before – but what about the ‘big’ case study, shall we say, of Nokia itself? What’s the adoption of Windows Phone and Lumia like within the company?

Obviously, we’re a bit of a special case – in Nokia, you either work within the smartphone business or our mobile phone business. Most employees now carry a Nokia Lumia device…

As their primary device?

As their primary device – but if you work in the mobile phone business, you can also choose to use a Nokia Asha device. One of the things we announced back at Mobile World Congress – now available as a public beta – is Exchange support on Nokia Asha. We can bring that feature to devices at a price point that’s never been matched previously – particularly in emerging markets like India; the ability to bring email to people, business email, not just webmail but actually business email, business calendar, contacts etc.

Many businesses in emerging markets haven’t yet seen the need to invest in smartphones. Obviously we’re making that easier by bringing out lower-priced devices like the Nokia Lumia 610, but at the same time, at a lower price point [with Asha], they can still get business email as well.

I’m glad you mentioned both the Lumia 610 and emerging markets. As we’ve recently heard, the 610 has some limitations in terms of the apps that it can run due to its 256MB of RAM. Is it fair to say that the Lumia 610 is really suitable for business if it has those kinds of limitations around it?

Some of the limitations that we’ve seen have been based around higher-end games, for instance. The native applications that come embedded in the phone, like Office, run as smoothly on a 610 as on a 900. If you’re building an application for a 610 as a business, there aren't very many requirements to use accelerated graphics and things like that.

Apart from bringing down hardware price points, what work is Nokia doing to help push the case for Lumia in business in emerging markets?

If you look at markets like China and India, businesses are buying smartphones just as in Western markets because they need that productivity, and the ability to give their employees the freedom to work where they need, rather than just working at a desk. But a lot of it is about getting to a price point that is affordable – hence the 610.

Our brand in these markets is incredibly strong, and we continue to have a very strong market position in India and China.

And what about in more ‘mature’ markets? What work is Nokia doing with organisations to flesh out the offering that Lumia has for business?

That’s part of the role that we play within the Windows Phone ecosystem. We can work with other vendors than Microsoft as an independent partner, to help bring on a wider offering for businesses. Businesses may choose Microsoft or they may choose IBM, or they may choose to use a third-party device management solution… we’re working with all vendors, and we’ve been bringing them on board to the platform over the last twelve months.

Then when we work with Microsoft, we can say ‘these are the requirements of the ecosystem’ without actually having to give away the secrets of why a particular member of the ecosystem might want to do this particular thing.

We’re now getting closer to 100,000 apps in the Windows Phone ecosystem, and we’re seeing apps like LinkedIn and Good coming to the platform as well. What’s Nokia doing to boost the development of business-focused apps within the ecosystem?

You mentioned a couple of good examples there. We work on two levels: we work with brands, such as publishers, but also with key strategic partners like IBM, Good etc. that support the ecosystem. But where our major investments are… it’s looking at a local level, looking at business apps in China, business apps in the US. We’re investing in technical support, outreach programmes, basically enabling developers to build applications that they can get to market through Nokia, through our devices, through the Marketplace. We do that for business, and we do it for consumer apps as well.

Many commentators believe that a more vertically integrated ecosystem, like iOS, is best placed to react to market needs and bring in features desired by consumers and businesses. Nokia is obviously dependent on Microsoft through the Windows Phone OS – does that mean that Nokia isn’t entirely in control of how it’s able to react to the needs of business customers?

You talk about vertical integration but actually, I would say, it’s about ecosystems. It’s not about two partners, or even one company, shaping the experience that companies and users want, but really what matters is the value of the overall ecosystem. Part of that is that you have great devices and great core experiences.

In some ways, we have ‘multiple ears’. We have a different perspective on the landscape of the market because we work with operators and businesses, and at the same time Microsoft do as well. They have many business customers buying Office 365, and relationships with resellers and hardware vendors and through that partnership, we have more ears so we have a better understanding of the market. So it’s a question of how we shape and drive the product [using that knowledge].

In many ways, it is vertically integrated, but it’s done through having partnerships with Qualcomm and Microsoft and others, and Nokia leveraging the multitude of that strength. The other thing I’d mention is that you talk about iOS, but the ecosystem we’re part of is beyond two device formats, and that widens the scope of our ability to meet the customers’ needs as well.

Regarding your partnership with Microsoft – perhaps we’ll call it a ‘special relationship’ – we’ve heard about Nokia having certain privileges that other Windows Phone OEMs don’t necessarily have. Are we going to see any further specialisation on Nokia’s side for business, to distinguish the Lumia offering from other Windows Phone vendors?

I think we’ve clearly set out what our product strategy in terms of differentiation is. We’ve talked about hardware, and what we can bring in design terms; we’ve talked about location-based services, and you see Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps, and having APIs open for business is incredibly important. For example, getting your delivery driver from A to B and building that into your business application, versus having that as a separate application… those kinds of things are core to the ecosystem for business.

We work closely with Microsoft to deliver a consistent experience on Windows Phone for business, but are we going to have OS differentiation? I’m not going to comment at this moment, because we’ll make product announcements as we go forward, but what I will say is that we’ve had a lot of experience of working with businesses through Symbian. We know there are some areas, gaps in the products, that we’re working with Microsoft to fill, but many of those are in niche areas.

Are there any gaps that you’re going to be filling with new software? We’ve seen examples that you’ve mentioned having been developed, perhaps, more for consumer interest – along with the likes of Nokia TV which aren’t necessarily a big draw for business. But will we see those gaps for business be filled with new Nokia apps, or even new features baked into the OS to enhance the case for Lumia in business?

In terms of the operating system and the platform, we’ll make product announcements later. But actually, this game is no longer about creating ‘an experience’ and then marketing that one experience; it’s about enabling the experience that businesses require. Different verticals, different sizes of business have different needs, and therefore, it’s actually about fuelling that ecosystem – giving the ecosystem a route to market so they can make money, and giving them the tools to meet the needs of their customers as well.

I read an article on the Nokia Conversations website this morning, entitled ’10 Great Reasons To Bring Your Nokia Lumia To Work’. Eight of the ten reasons listed were specific to the Windows Phone OS; only Nokia Drive, and the hardware itself, were mentioned as factors unique to Nokia. What do you believe is the most compelling differentiator for Nokia in business, compared with Windows Phone products from other manufacturers?

This isn’t a competition against other Windows Phone vendors. We’re in this game to make Windows Phone successful. We want and expect to be the best provider of Windows Phones, and you can see that with the great devices that we have today. But as an offering, we’re positioned against Android and iOS.

There needs to be choice within an ecosystem, and there needs to be innovation, and we want that to happen here as well. We will differentiate our devices, but the key thing here really is that we provide an offering that’s compelling versus Android and iOS, because that’s where the competition is today.

Windows Phone 8 is obviously on the horizon…

Is it…?

Apparently so! But what right now is the next step for Nokia to entrench itself in the business market? Is it about creating and developing more features, or is it simply about getting the word out and marketing it properly to businesses?

We’ll continue to improve the experience going forward, working closely with operators and business channels to get the word out.

 

Many thanks to David Mason and Karen Lachtanski for their time today.

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