Ina Fried

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Live From the Nokia-Microsoft Press Conference: It’s a Windows Phone World After All

There’s little mystery left, thanks to YouTube, open letters and press releases, but Nokia is just about ready to start its press conference here in London to discuss the big shift to Windows Phone 7.

Mobilized will have live coverage starting in just a few minutes.

10:06 am: Nokia CEO Stephen Elop takes the stage.

Nokia faces challenges. “The entire market is growing rapidly and we should be setting the pace.”

Quotes Winston Churchill saying a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees it the other way around.

10:09 am: He’s talking about Microsoft partnership now, but no new details yet. Reiterating Windows Phone is the primary smartphone OS for Nokia.

“We will help drive the future of the platform,” he said.

10:10 am: Why Windows Phone? It gives us an opportunity to jointly lead” a new ecosystem. “It gives us a faster path to the United States marketplace.”

10:11 am: Also good for developers and publishers, Elop says. Noting that Windows developers can use their existing skills.

10:12 am: Elop promises more on Nokia’s strategy later today, saying this only one part. With that, Ballmer on stage

10:13 am: Ballmer: Windows Phone more than just a single product. Brings together stuff from across company including Bing, Office, Xbox as well as third-party services like Facebook and notes its the easiest-to-use smartphone operating system.

“The people that use Windows Phones have been delighted,” Ballmer said, without saying just how many people that is. There are 8,000 apps in the marketplace, he said.

“We do dream bigger though,” he said, saying the company wants global reach and scale. “This partnership with Nokia will accelerate, dramatically accelerate the development… of a Windows Phone ecosystem.”

10:16 am: Ballmer is talking about how it will offer more choice for everyone–developers, consumers, etc. , not to mention the two companies.

This is just the start, Ballmer said. Already working together to create the first Windows Phone-based Nokia devices, but lots ahead. “We need to learn along the way.”

10:19 am: They are posing for pictures. Now on to Q and A.

10:21 am: When will the first handset be out?

No specific timing, Elop said, but partnership should allow faster time-to-market. Ballmer said that the two companies’ engineering teams are already working together.

“When there is news there will be news,” he said.

10:22 am: Ballmer stresses that the partnership is non-exclusive and other companies will be making Windows Phones.

10:23 am: Why Microsoft rather than Android?

Elop: What we assessed essentially was three options: internal options with MeeGo and Symbian. Worried about expanding to low-end price points and quickly develop their own ecosystem. Those two things make it difficult.

“We absolutely spent time with our colleagues at Google.” There were pros to chooising Android. “It’s moving very quickly. It’s gaining share.”

“Our fundamental belief is we would have difficulty differentiating. The commoditization risk was very high.”

10:25 am: What about MeeGo and Symbian?

Elop: Over 200 million Symbian users and see 150 million or more Symbian devices still to ship in the coming months and years.

“But it is a transition program,” he said.

MeeGo will ship not as a new smartphone strategy but as a way to learn. And then MeeGo will be used for longer-term planning in trying to determine what comes next in mobile.

10:27 am: Business relationship. Will Nokia pay Microsoft a license fee?

Elop: Quite a bit of value moving both ways. Does respect fact that Windows is royalty-bearing ecosystem, but also Nokia bringing a lot to the table.

10:28 am: Ballmer: Nokia’s got other assets, not just mapping assets that Microsoft will make part of platform.

10:29 am: What happens to Finland?

Elop: “Nokia is first and foremost and always will be a Finnish company. Finland is our home and it will remain our home.”

However, he said that the company has to adjust lower its operating expenses.

“The best thing Nokia can do for Finland is ensure its future success.”

Elop said the strategy shift will involve cost cuts, including in its workforce.

“There will be substantial reductions in employment” around the world, including Finland,” Elop said.

10:32 am: Asked what it means for Nokia since Windows Phone is so consumer-oriented.

Ballmer: We designed Windows Phone to be good for all aspect of people’s lives, not just the business aspect. Early users are a mix of business and consumer users. Promises more features to come that business IT departments will appreciate.

10:34 am: Asked about impact to costs:

Elop: It is the case we anticipate being able to substantially reduce R&D expenditures.

10:35 am: Being able to compete against Apple and Android required more than just a consortium like MeeGo but a more focused alliance like the one announced today.

Mobile carriers like it, Elop said.

“They need a credible alternative,” Elop said. “This is now a three-horse race.”

10:36 am: One of the things Nokia will do, Elop said, is help Windows Phone move down to lower price points.

10:38 am: Does Nokia have a tablet strategy?

Elop: The relationship with Microsoft and our strategy going forward gives us different options. Might go with some future Microsoft tablet product, but nothing to announce. Also preserve right to introduce tablets using other approaches, including internal approaches.

Not announcing tablet strategy today.

10:41 am: How will this help Nokia in North America?

Elop: We have to deliver a complete user experience — services, iconic devices, operator support. He also suggests there will be new leadership in North America.

10:44 am: Elop: We’re here to fight.

Ballmer: Nokia and Microsoft first talked back in November. Elop said he wanted a decision by around this time.

“That struck me as quick and we’re here,” Ballmer said.

End of Q and A.

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