Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has dismissed concerns that the Lumia 920 will suffer from not being Microsoft’s “signature” Windows Phone, with HTC instead taking that crown, arguing that the perceived advantage is “ambiguous.” Asked whether Nokia felt slighted or sidelined at HTC inking a deal with Microsoft to put the Windows Phone 8X and 8S at the core of its new advertising campaign, Elop insisted that there’s more to Lumia than just Windows Phone itself. “We could have called our devices Windows Phone 920 or whatever,” the chief exec told Wired, “but we felt it was important to say that we stand for something a step above.”
That “step above” could consist of wireless charging, location-based services, photography under the PureView brand, or something else, but whatever it is it’s over and above the basics of the OS, Elop argues.
Mildly spanking rivals while remaining loyal to Windows Phone overall has become something of a habit for Elop in recent weeks. Speaking to GigaOm earlier this month, he countered suggestions that the rumored Microsoft own-brand Surface Windows Phone 8 might damage Nokia’s prospects.
“I don’t think it changes the relationship” Elop said of Nokia and Microsoft’s partnership, should a Surface phone appear. “It’s incumbent upon us at all points in time to build the world’s most innovative smartphones. Which is what we believe we’ve done, for example, with the Lumia 920. That’s something that’s done based on years and years of work, and years of investment in what makes great mobile devices.”
In fact, Elop is doubtful that Microsoft taking the sudden decision to lead the Windows Phone device parade, Google Nexus-style, would actually work out too well, because it takes significant periods of time to develop compelling features. “The reason the Lumia 920 is standing out so well amongst the competition, one of the reasons is the imaging capability, this low-light photography capability” he points out. “That’s five or six years of work in our labs, engineers doing nothing else but working on that technology. Saying, “oh, this year, we’re going to do our own phone,” doesn’t allow you to do that. You have to make those investments over a period of time.”
Those investments may well expand to encompass a more holistic ecosystem of devices than simple smartphones. Asked about the possibility of tablets or, further afield, TVs and other product lines, Elop was coy on plans but honest about the gap in Nokia’s current portfolio. “We haven’t announced anything specifically, but what I will say is that people in their digital experience expect to be able to move seamlessly between form factors like a phone, a tablet, a television, an automobile, on and on and on. So we’ll participate in different elements of that to a greater or lesser extent.”
Don’t expect a tablet immediately, however, as Nokia focuses on getting a solid start in smartphones. “The ecosystem in which we’re involved, we’ve got to be a part of a world where people are experiencing all of those things. Everything’s got to hang together” the CEO points out. “So yes, there’s a lot of opportunity there.”
Nokia and AT&T announced earlier today that the Lumia 920 would be ranged by the carrier as an exclusive in the US, the second time AT&T has been the sole place to pick up a flagship Lumia Windows Phone. Although rival brands have had great success broadly spreading their devices across multiple networks, Nokia has previously insisted that its strategy of focusing marketing and sales training on one specific carrier has paid dividends as it attempts to reposition itself in the smartphone marketplace.