Stephen Elop Says Microsoft Will Ignite Nokia Innovation: Partners Skeptical

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Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop spent his first day in his new role as vice president of Devices for Microsoft vowing to push the innovation envelope with Nokia devices.

"By combining with Microsoft, we will each be able to innovate together in ways that we could not as separate companies," wrote Elop during an "Ask Me Anything” (transcript) session held Monday on Nokia’s website. "As we come together, innovation will be able to move faster.”

While Elop hammered the point that Nokia is now poised for fast-paced innovation as part of Microsoft, partners questioned if it were possible -- or even necessary -- to fix what they said were Nokia's problems.   

[Related: Partners: Nokia Name Change Shows Nadella Serious About Making Smartphone Gains]

"If you go into a bigger company, it doesn’t lend to innovating faster," said Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo Software, a Richmond, Calif.-based Microsoft partner. Stanfield said it may be too early to tell if Microsoft and Nokia can work faster as one of if they will be bogged down as they come together.  

"It's going to be wait-and-see," Stanfield said. "You have massive cultures with lots of people, and you're throwing them under one roof.” Stanfield questioned whether or not faster innovation is even what Nokia really needed at this point as it battles for market share and relevance in the handset market.

During his online chat, Elop stressed that Nokia would build on its camera and imaging technology that has been a standout feature on Nokia handsets. Last year, it introduced a technological tour-de-force Lumia 1020 phone running Windows Phone that sported a 41-megapixel camera. It followed up with the introduction of the Nokia’s Lumia 920, which has significantly better image quality in low light and excels in optical image stabilization.

"While I can't comment on specific product plans, it is safe to say that imaging will continue to be an important differentiator for us in the future," Elop wrote. "Lots of good things ahead."

Stanfield agreed, "Nokia has the best picture quality by far,” but expressed that it's the software that could hold them back. Most Nokia models run on the Window Phone OS, which has struggled to gain more than single-digit OS market share, he said.

"Do we need Nokia to be a faster innovator, or do we need them to be better?” Stanfield said. "You have to look at the package of what you get with the hardware and what you get with the operating system,"  Stanfield said. "Windows Phone 8 is in third place, and that's not a good thing."

Stanfield pointed to the mobile app store as the weak point for the operating system when comparing it to app stores built by Google and Apple.

Elop reiterated his innovative push again toward the end of the chat. "Now, combined with Microsoft that landscape is even broader, which is very exciting for all of us," Elop said. "So, stay tuned to lots of innovation ahead."

Elop also stated during the web chat his feelings on joining Microsoft. "The last few years had been both the most challenging and rewarding of my career," he said. "Like virtually everyone at Nokia, we worked harder and committed more of ourselves to this mission than anything before. Now, we have the opportunity to take it to the next level within the context of Microsoft."




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