Elop: Microsoft knew about Nokia's tablet in advance (Q&A)

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop talks with CNET about a lack of Windows apps and possible concerns the Nokia's new tablet could cannibalize sales of Microsoft's Surface tablets.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop at Nokia World in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI, UAE -- Nokia has taken the wraps off new Lumia and Asha devices, including the first tablet from the Finnish company.

With Android phones dominating the mobile world and with Nokia soon to become part of Microsoft, CNET spoke Tuesday with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop here at Nokia World to discuss the launches and Nokia's role with Microsoft. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

Q: What do you think is core to Nokia that you would want to bring to Microsoft?
Elop: So, a couple of things; the art and science of building a great product and understanding how to do that -- for great design, for a variety of things and how to do that at scale. The Asha products, for example: we sell millions and millions of these types of devices. And being able to manufacture and distribute at scale is something that I think is very important.

I think we know a lot about managing product life cycles -- how much do you build to begin with, when do you ramp up? How to manage that. But we also bring a great deal of technical expertise. Take material science and what you can do on a phone or a tablet that maybe has never been done before. We have more experience than most in thinking those matters through.

Imaging is a great example. We have a core competency there -- how to design the antennas of the device. We're bringing product, we're bringing technical expertise, we're bringing sales and marketing expertise. Taking a company that has been predominantly hardware and a company that has been predominantly software and putting them together is very complementary.

With its quad-core processor and Full HD screen, the Lumia 1520 is the most impressive phone Nokia has to date. Is it considered a true flagship phone, though, given its niche audience of those who want huge phones?
Elop: The Lumia 1520 is not intended to be the flagship but a flagship. The large display -- that's the first thing people are going to respond to. Some people will love that, but for some people -- maybe with smaller hands -- it might not fit. With phones like the 1020, it has a smaller screen but it's much further down the line in terms of imaging. You can see we don't really have a single flagship, but a variety of them.

Was the Lumia 2520 tablet -- which uses the Windows 8.1 RT operating system -- developed with Microsoft's blessing? Was there any worry about cannibalizing sales between the 2520 and Microsoft's Surface tablet?
Elop: We worked with Microsoft well before the announcement of the MS Nokia transaction. They're clearly interested in having different manufacturers build tablets, and they saw in this, and continue to see, a very differentiated approach. We focus on mobility, not just LTE, but also, for example: how does it work outside, can you actually use it? They were very much aware of what we were doing.

Why do you think your Windows RT tablet will succeed where others have failed?
Elop: A couple of things: For one, the focus on mobility and the focus on imaging and design. Also, I think RT is coming into its own. I feel personally, "Will I use this device?" is a good test for all of us. I carry devices in a backpack and I can say that it just got a lot lighter. I can still watch my movies and look at my photos, but I also have a full Outlook environment so I can take this along with me everywhere I go and LTE, Wi-Fi, Outlook -- I have the whole package. For me, that's very attractive and that's entirely in an RT environment.

Do you think there's anything that's still holding RT back?
Elop: Applications is something we have to continue to focus on, so I think that's generally a true statement. Clearly you saw progress today. Being able to announce Instagram -- finally -- is good news, and there are many more examples of that coming.

And -- this is true of both Windows phone and Windows [RT] -- this is something that's not new and people have to experience it. They need to get used to live tiles and that construct. What gives me great confidence is that I know, with these devices and the devices that came before: if you've had a Lumia experience and you get used to it and you play with it, your propensity to recommend it to others becomes very high. So it's a very positive experience. Of course, our challenge is to get you to try it in the first place. We need to break through in retail and get the marketing message out.

Are there any plans of single purchase apps that will allow for download across multiple devices? />Elop: Nothing that's been announced. But what you're seeing is some commonality. Take the big applications, for example, that come with the tablets and now with the phones, You're seeing some early signs of thoughtfulness across the platforms. I think the best example is SkyDrive -- I have that Excel spreadsheet here, I have it there. It's all synchronized. OneNote is all synchronized, and so it's very much on our mind to have a companion experience.

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About the author

Andrew is a senior editor at CNET and has always been fascinated by tech. When not getting up close and personal with the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

 

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