While reactions to Nokia’s first Windows Phones have been cautiously positive, the company is keen to emphasise that today’s announcements don’t represent the peak of its achievements. In fact, they say, Nokia is only just getting started.
It’s fair to say that, while many people were impressed today by the stylish Lumia 800 (although perhaps a little unexcited by the slightly frumpier Lumia 710), most observers were expecting more from today’s announcement – such as the elusive third device (the ‘Ace’), or some deeper and more substantial customisations of the Windows Phone OS.
But while allowing ourselves to acknowledge perhaps just a smudge of disappointment, we can draw comfort from the words of Niklas Savander, one of Nokia’s executive vice-presidents, who spoke with TechRadar to shine a bit more light on how the company plans to improve its Windows Phones further.
Fragmentation: Nokia feels it has a key role to play in preventing the fragmentation of the Windows Phone platform, and for now at least, this seems to be influencing (perhaps even limiting) the way it designs its hardware. Savander stated: “We have a contractual agreement with Microsoft for a certain amount of engineering we can use for differentiation. However, we have to be very careful on how we use that one, because we cannot fragment the developer ecosystem. If that starts forking, that’s not useful at all.”
So, it looks like Nokia has the freedom to push its hardware a bit further than other OEMs such as HTC, Samsung and LG – but it’s holding back on exercising that right, for now at least.
Differentiating: Despite not furnishing its devices with superlative hardware specs, Nokia believes it can still make its devices stand out in other areas. Savander noted: “The areas we can drive are design, navigation, imaging, and there are many things we can do around how the product reaches the consumer.” He also acknowledged that “two phones is absolutely not enough in the market… there are new markets we need to conquer”, suggesting that Nokia will also seek to differentiate by targeting devices for specific demographics and markets.
What comes next: In a remarkable contrast to all that we’ve heard previously about Nokia’s extraordinary freedom to manipulate and influence Windows Phone, Savander openly acknowledges that Nokia’s impact on the OS itself has been limited, a reality of the timing of the announcement and the race to get the products to market in 2011: “We made the decision to go to Windows Phone when Mango was pretty much done, so we were able to impact some elements of it…” – the implication clearly being that, had there been more time, Nokia would done a good deal more.
But the juiciest information comes in what Savander says next: “But you’ll really see the fruits of what we can do with Microsoft when the Apollo version of Windows Phone comes out.” 'Apollo' is the internal development codename for Windows Phone 8 (which is also expected to have more than a few things in common with the desktop Windows 8 OS).
With Nokia being closely involved with development of the OS from a much earlier stage than they were with Mango, the company’s influence on Windows Phone development will undoubtedly be much greater. This will clearly allow them much greater control over differentiating their offering without fragmenting the entire ecosystem… and that’s a very exciting prospect.
Nokia’s announcement today may not have blown everybody away – but it was never going to win the battle for smartphone supremacy with its first big reveal. Nokia and Windows Phone are clearly in this for the long-haul, and what was revealed today was just the beginning.
The best, it seems, is yet to come.