Interview: Nokia's Matt Rothschild on Windows Phone 7.8, Nokia Army and an Easy-Bake Oven

Neowin had a chance to head down to Sunnyvale, California to take a tour of Nokia's offices and dive deep in to their current retail strategy and talk about general Nokia procedures for the road ahead. The interview, which lasted a bit over an hour, was conducted with Matt Rothschild who is on the NA leadership team and is responsible for working with operators to get Nokia's devices promoted in stores.

The chat kicked off with a conversation around the corporate side of coin and I indicated that a current trend in the market is, to no surprise, move away from Blackberry and that corporations are in search of their next platform. To this, Matt noted that " we see those RIM users as people coming to us and our stores with our partners and asking us what their options are". Of course, Nokia is one of those options and the most enticing feature for this group is that "Office performance on the Lumia products is incredible, PC-like". Matt also commented that the soft keyboard on the Nokia devices/Windows Phone is so good that "Blackberry users who are struggling to consider weaning off of a physical QWERTY keyboard are saying its a sexy device and are beginning to make the jump" to Nokia devices.

Matt was highly encouraged about Chris Weber's promotion as he feels Chris has the energy and vision to help propel he company's vision. One area that Nokia is focusing on is to make "operators, together with consumers" the company's key focus. If you are asking yourself what area is left, the corporate enterprise is what is outside the focus area. Now, this does not mean that Nokia is ignoring this market segment, not the least, but as a core target, they believe in the BYOD model and are seeing that consumers will bring their own devices in to the corporate environment. 

The sales channel is certainly a key area for Nokia and it is targeted for engagement. If you remember back to when Nokia announced the Lumia 900, it was providing sales associates with devices so that they could become familiar with the product to create a positive buying experience. We asked Matt to talk about what the company is doing to make the buying experience more fluid and pleasurable for the consumer. Matt stated that they want to make sure that the retail associates are well trained and knowledgeable about their products. "We recognized in our own mystery shopping tours, we realized how much we [Nokia] need to help bring in this freshness of this Windows/Nokia partnership to the stores", Matt said during our interview. He went on to say that " a lot of it came down to unfamiliarity and the opportunity to try it [Windows Phone]", when talking about retail reps and their knowledge of Windows Phone prior to Nokia educating the sales reps.

Matt indicated that globally, and the US market has reinforced, that consumers will do a lot of research before buying a device but "what the [sales] representative is telling the [consumer] still weighs heavily on the final decision." So much so, that Nokia sees that 55-60% of the decision is influenced by the recommendation of the sales representative.

When it comes to the Lumia 900, Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.8, there is a lot of conversation about the device hitting a dead-end. We asked this to Matt and he responded that "there is a lot of life left in these devices" and that they "are continuing to invest in this product" and the "platform has a long way to go". Matt was not holding back on the Lumia 900 and stated that there is "absolutely great innovation coming to this product" and "you will continue to see new news about" the Lumia 900 which could be new software updates, apps, or something else; Matt did not specify what the new items would be but that there is more coming down the pipe.

Matt provided an interesting perspective about all the new items coming to the Lumia devices, he actually claims that its not the lack of news about the devices, it's that there is so much news that they do not want to "overwhelm [the reps] with new information". 

Nokia has also assembled what it calls the "Nokia Army". This is an internal group who volunteer to go to retail stores to promote the Nokia products; currently there are over 1000 members in the Nokia Army. Matt calls the "Nokia Army" a movement as everyone in the company wants to help rebuild Nokia in North America. Once an employee volunteers for the group, they receive training and then are assigned a store and then these individuals go to a store and "upgrade the day". How the employee does this is up to them; it has previously included taking in energy drinks, breakfast and one individual took an Easy-Bake oven in to a store and cooked cookies for anyone who purchased a Lumia that day. 

The purpose of the Nokia Army, as Matt drilled home about, is that the team is behind the company's agenda, they are volunteering time to help promote the company's products and are doing so with non-traditional advertisements. This team also does field work when visiting stores to see how retail representatives are interacting and recommending phones to customers and of course, providing assistance with any Nokia device if required. 

Matt stated that this ground up approach is how he wants to drive decision making. He would "rather go from the ground up, to tell the CEO what he needs to be successful than have the CEO tell the field how to do their job". Nokia takes very seriously what store representatives tell them about trends and how to improve products. Nokia executives are not shy about hitting the ground floor either and even Chris Weber will go in to retail stores to have honest discussion with sales reps. Also, don't think they only visit stores around corporate offices, Matt stated that he drove from Dallas to Atlanta and he visited every AT&T store along the way, a journey of 1200 miles.

With new products, the newly launched Pink Lumia 900, was driven by market feedback, according to Matt. In fact, there were actually shortages of the Lumia 900 Cyan at launch and customers were willing to wait for that model to become available.

Nokia, as you would imagine, is quite bullish on the Lumia 900 and wants to make sure that the best days of the Lumia are still to come; the product is as vibrant as ever. 

Want even more Nokia news? Read our interview with Richard Kerris here

Neowin would like to thank Nokia and Matt for taking time to speak with us!

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As far as i can see , current devices will lack IE10 and Win8 kernel stuff , which i guess is no problem as these devices are not powerful enough to you know play DirectX based games and stuff , so the only drawback i see is IE10 and it's rich HTML5 features , and probably syncing , which should be backported IMO , others nokia would definitely do something about it

bogas04 said,
As far as i can see , current devices will lack IE10 and Win8 kernel stuff

You forgot Windows Phone 8 apps too. The truth is we don't yet know the full extent of the feature set loss, but the big things are likely WP8 Apps and real multitasking, the latter of which is sorely needed on WP 7.x

simplezz said,

You forgot Windows Phone 8 apps too. The truth is we don't yet know the full extent of the feature set loss, but the big things are likely WP8 Apps and real multitasking, the latter of which is sorely needed on WP 7.x

What i said was that these apps would require a lot of power too , probably dual core phone , however the other "normal" apps can be created the way wp7 apps were , and can still function well in wp8. Yes real multitasking is something important , but what can we expect from 2 year old hardware?

I was at first gutted when I first found out that the current range of all Windows Phone devices, not just Nokia, wouldn't get WP8. However, there is more than enough life left in the 7.x platform to justify at 18 month deal for a Lumia 800/900. Both are just lovely devices and the design will probably stick from this range to the next. At least I hope anyway.
Plus WP8 is another few months away and I wouldn't want to jump onto the first generation of handsets like I did with WP7. Might be better to sit it out until the 2nd generation of handsets are pushed out.

yeoo_andy_ni said,
IHowever, there is more than enough life left in the 7.x platform to justify at 18 month deal for a Lumia 800/900.

It's easy saying that now, but wait till WP8 gets released, then watch as the dissatisfaction grows for those who have just signed up for a two year contract on an obsolete phone.

I think its cus Nokia has apps and stuff also there sat nav and maps is good considering its free. There'll be enough updates to go round till ppls contracts end and get a WP 8 device I reckon in 2014.

gregalto said,
Nokia really likes to say the lumia 900 is not dead, maybe there is a 7.9 update?

A company isn't going to say "The PS3 is dead since we've got a PS4 coming out soon, so don't buy it!"

That would be the dumbest move ever. Of course a company is going to promote their current products that they make money on.

gregalto said,
Nokia really likes to say the lumia 900 is not dead, maybe there is a 7.9 update?
well the 7.8 is probably going to be more inclusive than most people think!