Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Nokia and Microsoft Announce New Lumia Smartphones

We’re at the Nokia event at the Center548 event space in Manhattan, where we’re expecting to see some new smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.

The release constitutes a big test for Stephen Elop, the new Nokia CEO brought in from Microsoft two years ago to rehabilitate the Nokia brand. For years, Nokia had dominated the global wireless handset market, only to be knocked off its perch by Apple with its popular iPhone; Google and its numerous hardware partners running Android, which include Samsung and HTC; and now, as the new owner of Motorola Mobility, Google itself.

Several details about the new phones have already leaked. If the sources of the leaks are to be believed, then we can expect that in this new batch of Lumia phones, improved camera technology will be a key feature, as will wireless charging.

So far, the Lumia brand has had a dubious history, and it’s hard to know if that will hinder the new phones. In July, Nokia slashed prices on the first one to use the name — the Lumia 900 — only three months after its debut on the market. A lackluster review didn’t help. And the price cut certainly didn’t help Nokia’s profit margins, which — after accounting for the cost of parts used to build it, and a $100 credit issued to some customers after a software glitch — certainly didn’t add up to a solid debut for the Lumia brand. The market share for Nokia’s primary rival, Samsung, has only widened since then, despite relatively solid sales in the U.S.

Time will tell if this new round of phones can get consumers interested in Nokia once again.

6:49 am: Good morning from New York. We’re live from the event venue, and waiting for the proceedings to begin.

On a large screen behind the podium is a huge hashtag: #SwitchtoLumia. Looks to me like that is going to figure prominently in some upcoming Nokia ads.

Lights are dimming, which I take as a cue that we’re about to begin. There are two very large mock-ups of new phones on the stage. They have the tiled interface of the Windows Phone OS. Some prominent logos among those tiles: Evernote, eBay, Weather Channel and Skype.

Also CNN and USA Today. And an Internet Explorer icon.

7:01 am: And we’re under way, right on time. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is onstage. “It was just 18 months ago that Nokia outlined a new strategy to deliver great mobile products.”

The industry shifted from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems.

First, we joined the Windows Phone ecosystem. We shared a vision with Microsoft. And we moved quickly to help Microsoft bring even more innovation to the ecosystem. The Lumia 800 perfectly complemented the uniqueness of the platform.

People started to take more notice of Windows Phone, and the ecosystem has been growing. The Lumia 610 has allowed us to expand presence in India, China and Europe.

We also introduced Lumia 900, and brought AT&T into the Windows Phone ecosystem as well. We also captured the attention of developers. From 7,000 applications to 100,000 applications. Nokia has focused a lot of energy in bringing more local developers into the ecosystem.

We’ve brought some big names to the ecosystem.

But Nokia’s new strategy involves more than that. It involves the Mobile Phones business. We’ve launched 10 new Asha dual-SIM-card devices. We’ve introduced a proxy browser, saving India customers a lot of money on data plans.

7:05 am: Elop: All the innovation in Asha is making them look like low-cost smartphones.

We stabilized our Mobile Phones business last quarter.

Now we deliberately speak very little about the third aspect of our strategy, future disruptions. We’re doing work in areas like materials and power management and radio technology. Across all of our strategy, we said Nokia would differentiate. Our designs are truly breaking through and exciting people. Nokia photography and optics are exciting people. Another innovation lies with our location and commerce business. Two hundred countries are now navigable. We are unmatched in the industry. Our business in this area started out as maps and navigation, and we’ve turned it into a platform by combining it with our services business.

We hope to share, in the days and weeks ahead, how other companies are placing bets on the location business.

We had to change the way Nokia operates. We’ve simplified our operations, and tried to be a more nimble company.

7:09 am: Here comes Jo Harlow, head of the Lumia team. She has just introduced a new video, debuting what I suspect will be the new phones.

Loud noise and what looks like the Holodeck from “Star Trek,” and boom, a new phone.

(FYI, the livestream isn’t working for lots of folks, so you are best off just staying here, notes colleague Ina Fried, who is (trying) to watch things remotely.)

A very complicated video animation of the phone torn apart and then reassembled, with a lot of attention to what looked like the innards of the camera.

(Ina sent along this alternate video link from Ustream, if you really want to watch things live —

Aaaand the music just died. Jo Harlow: Today, we are introducing the Nokia Lumia 920. “This is the most innovative smartphone in the world. And here’s why: The Nokia PureView camera for taking the best pictures of any smartphone. The best mapping on any smartphone. The most immersive viewing experience on any smartphone. And wireless charging to squeeze more out of your day, and the most personal smartphone experience. This is Lumia, and it’s time to switch.

Harlow: Citing IDC research saying that images taken by phones in 2012 will surpass the numbers taken by dedicated digital cameras.

Harlow: For most of us who use a smartphone, we use the camera to replace a point-and-shoot camera. When we use the phone, two things are usually true: We can’t control the lighting. Second, we don’t usually have time to fiddle with settings to capture a moment. The beauty of having a camera in a phone is capturing moments when they happen. We’re all familiar with the dark and blurry images that result. The reason blurriness occurs is that the shutter has to stay open longer. Those few extra tenths of a second causes the blur, because your hand moves.

Harlow: The Lumia 920 captures 10 times the light of any competitor’s camera. There’s an image-stabilization system that reacts to those movements and balances the lens, leaving open the shutter, letting in more light, and, thus, better pictures.

7:16 am: Harlow: The same “floating lens” technology applies to video, as well.

(As we said days ago, the Lumia 920 is getting the PureView branding, thanks to these capabilities, but it’s not the same megazoom PureView abilities found on the 41-megapixel 808 cameraphone.)

Harlow: Since the Lumia 920 has the best smartphone camera, we wanted to help people find places to use it. Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive and something else — Nokia Places — are often cited as reasons people turn to Lumia.

We are bringing together Nokia’s location-based services to bring together a suite of experiences.

Harlow: These are true offline maps that really work.

You can launch Nokia Drive for free turn-by-turn navigation right out of the box. Also, there’s a daily-commute feature that estimates daily traffic. Nokia Drive will tell you what time you need to leave. Nokia Transport provides details on departure times and route, and walking directions to get you between stops. Also, indoor maps that get you exactly where you need to go inside a train station or bus terminal.

7:19 am: Harlow: Nokia City Lens provides a way to explore the world around you. (Seems like Google Goggles?) Point the camera at a city block to find restaurants and other points of interest.

It’s a new way to discover hidden gems, even in the city you know and love.

(For more on Nokia City Lens, here’s our January story on the technology.)

Nokia Maps get augmented reality to see directions of the route and points of interest along the way.

Harlow: This is just the start of a new way to discover the world.

7:21 am: We also set out to deliver the best viewing experience. Nokia PureMotion HD+. This is better than HD resolution and a fast refresh rate.

When you scroll through an email or a text document, the text stays incredibly sharp. But what about a sunny day? Nokia has screen technology that adjusts the color and brightness of the screen that reacts to sunlight. You can even see it in the desert, and certainly on the beach. So immersive that you never want to put it down.

Now Harlow is talking about power.

The first thing we did was install a 2,000-milliamp-hour battery. But because the experience is so immersive, hat tip to Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, which is 30 percent more efficient than quad-core alternatives.

Harlow: What else could we do? Wireless charging. (The leaks were correct on this one, too. She’s showing the Fatboy recharging pillow.) Put it by a sofa, and every time you sit down, your phone sits with you. It’s one of many partners we’re working with to make wireless charging a reality. It’s the Qi (pronounced chee) wireless-charging standard, so consumers can charge their devices on any wireless charging device. Today we are announcing deals with Virgin Atlantic and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to bring charging plates outside your door.

Virgin Atlantic fliers can charge in airport clubs. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf customers can charge on tables there.

Harlow: It’s the start of a new era in smartphone power management. All of the innovation is based on a single-minded focus to get the absolute most out of your day.

Now, more on Windows Phone 8. Joe Belfiore of Microsoft is now onstage to demo Windows Phone 8.

He’s going to show some things related to camera and photography that haven’t been shown before.

Belfiore: We intend for Windows 8 to deliver the most personal experience possible.

I want to customize the experience that suits me. Fast access to one’s wife is important. He’s demonstrating live tiles.

7:30 am: Wife is now a thumb press away.

Oops. He’s missed a few call from a few important people, including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The top of the screen is now dedicated to the humans in my life. Now Belfiore is about to focus on apps.

The first thing is to grab a few apps that exist in Windows Phone 7. Windows Phone 8 supports them.

The live tiles from WP7 scale up to accommodate the larger tile sizes of WP8.

(Belfiore said that Microsoft is only showing some Windows Phone 8 features, with others to be announced at a later event. Interesting choice, given that you-know-who is announcing the next you-know-what on Sept. 12.)

Now he’s grabbing a CNN tile. CNN has built a Windows Phone 8 app. There’s a new “extra-large tile.”

Belfiore: The last thing I want to do is bring the Web into this story, as well. (Oh yeah! The Web!)

7:35 am: He’s demonstrating Pulse, the news aggregator and its new HTML5-ready site, running nicely within Internet Explorer.

Now he’s pinning the Business News section from Pulse to the customized start experience along with the tiles. People, apps and information that matters to me.

Here’s something new: Sharing the start experience with friends. Windows Phone 8 now supports screenshots (catching up with iPhone on this one.)

7:37 am: Now Belfiore is demonstrating photo albums. Wow, the screenshot he just took is there.

Belfiore uploaded the photos to SkyDrive.

Now he’s demonstrating other start-experience examples.

Belfiore is demonstrating some photography features. A “Lenses” button. There are a number of “Lens” applications that integrate deeply in the camera experience.

(This is a powerful concept — the idea that not everything needs to be a standalone app. This has been the promise of Windows Phone from the start, but not fully baked.)

Bing Vision recognizes objects. There’s a CNN iReport Lens application for CNN iReporters. He’s choosing one called FXSuite. The application runs and takes over the viewfinder of the camera. It was written, Belfiore said, by two Microsoft interns over the summer. Cool.

He’s taking a shot with a “negative” view, reversing light and dark. Weird effect. Seems kind of Instagrammy.

PhotoSynth Lens is a super-panorama app that captures 360 degrees.

Opened in PhotoSynth, you can pan around and see the 360-degree shot taken in a third-party application.

7:44 am: This allows third parties to add value for enhancements and image quality.

Full-resolution uploads are automatic to the SkyDrive.

Now Belfiore is on a notebook, and the photos are uploading from the phone. “We’re trying to build Lenses to work seamlessly.”

One more Lens example. (I guess the way to think of Lenses is really just like apps for photography.) This one is called Blink. It uses face recognition to get the best image of a face. It takes a lot of images of a face — like while someone is talking — and then the system picks the one that looks best.

What Blink is doing is storing all of the data associated with that picture. As a user, I can later on go back and reengage the Blink Lens.

Nokia also has its own Lens apps. Belfiore is wrapping up.

And here’s Nokia’s Kevin Shields to demonstrate some more hardware capabilities of the Lumia 920.

Shields: We brought innovation that makes your smartphone fit more naturally in your life. It all starts with innovation and design.

“Lumia 920 proudly sits apart from the crowd.”

He’s talking about the polycarbonate material that Nokia uses to bring colorful outer bodies to smartphones.

He’s comparing the colorful yellow Lumia 920 to monochromatic competitors from Samsung and HTC and others.

“You may have seen our competitor driving a nail with the display.” Ours is even stronger. This is a strong, durable phone. Twisting: No squeaks, no cracks. The shell is made with a material that’s nearly impossible to scratch, but which looks great.

7:52 am: Shields is now onto talking about the display.

This is the fastest LCD display ever shipped on a smartphone. WXGA, higher than 720p resolution.

Super-sensitive touch: He’s putting on gloves. “If you’re like me, you enjoy winter sports, or living in Helsinki!” You’re wearing gloves. If you live in Finland, you might lose a hand to frostbite. So you can interact with the screen while wearing gloves.

Another demo. The charging plate. The point of the demo is show that charging is effortless. No wires, no effort.

Now there’s the JBL speaker. Colorful, and has wireless charging integrated. Oh, yeah, he says, Lumia 920 has NFC (near field communication) integrated. It taps the speakers, and the music goes straight to the speakers. Oops, a little glitch. Okay, now it’s working.

So the music is playing, and the phone is charging.

Shields: And now, a quick public service announcement about Nokia Music. Nokia Music is coming to the U.S., and should be downloadable in the Windows Phone Marketplace any moment now.

There’s also wireless headphones. Just tap the headphones with the phone and they start playing. And there’s a charging nightstand.

Shields: There’s some exclusive new apps on the Lumia 920. He’s getting into the Lens applications that Belfiore talked about. The first, Shields says, is City Lens, which is tricky to demonstrate indoors.

Another demo glitch. The demo image isn’t coming up. Sorry, Kevin.

City Lens is displaying restaurants nearby, as he cranks around. Hard to see from five rows back, but you get the idea.

Shields: We worked with Rovio to create Angry Birds Roost. A way to discover the best of the Angry Birds universe, news and tips to finish tricky levels. Ringtones and wallpapers. Good if you’re obsessed with Angry Birds, which I was, uh, last year.

Still troubleshooting the dead demo display. Maybe it’s a sleepy onstage notebook. Kudos to Shields for holding it together, now that it’s working.

What do you do when you want to get a bunch of random people out of the way? You just erase them. System takes a bunch of images and combines the pictures, with the moving objects removed. Kinda cool.

8:02 am: Cinemagraph: Not just a still image, but adding the emotion of a moment. Basically a photo with some motion going on. Like a person waving, or blowing a kiss.

And also the flag blowing softly. Nice touch.

Shields: We’ll be shipping these technologies to current Lumia devices.

(By the way, here’s our just-posted interview with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.)

We’re having some technical difficulties here, but basically, Kevin is still going on about Nokia’s improved photo-taking capabilities, even in the dark or from far away.

We’ve got backup, though. Ina Fried — in Los Angeles for the Amazon event — is taking over for a bit, thanks to the now-working livestream.

Shields now showing a second Windows Phone 8 device, the Lumia 820, with a 4.3-inch screen.

Lumia 820 also packs the same apps and sunlight-sensitive screen. The back shell pops off, allowing access to the battery and microSD card, as well as the ability to change the back case color.

“It’s the cover that you don’t have to cover,” Shields said.

Also, the 820 has an optional wireless-charging-capable cover.

8:13 am: Okay, what about price and availability. We’re more than an hour in.

CEO Stephen Elop retakes the stage.

Elop quickly recaps the company’s Windows Phone journey over the last 18 months.

Brings out Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

8:14 am: Ballmer: “This is a very important milestone,” Ballmer said.

Windows Phone is unlike any phone on the market, Ballmer said. It keeps you closest to the things that matter most. “You can really see it in the Lumia 820 and in the Lumia 920.”

Ballmer: Make no mistake: This is a year for Windows. On PC, tablet and phone.

Ballmer: With Windows 8, the software is all out there. People can go out and use it now. With Windows Phone 8, we’re first seeing the hardware.

Ballmer: The new Lumias fill out that promise in a big way. And soon we’ll see the rest of the Windows 8 software.

Ballmer: We share live tiles in both phone and PC and tablet operating system. We bring the power of Bing, both as search and as a service. We integrate your Microsoft account as a single place to log in for photos and Skype and SkyDrive.

You see the integration of Xbox.

Perhaps as importantly as anything else we bring the developer platform and the store, to give developers across the family of devices the ability to build applications that they can monetize.

Ballmer: We should see close to 400 million new devices running Windows. Lumia and Surface. Those devices represent the single largest opportunity for software developers, in the biggest community. The next app developer to hit it really really big will do so on Windows.

Ballmer says he likes his new Lumia 920. He wants to shoot night-game video of his sons playing football with it.

Elop is speaking again. “We started this journey with ambition.”

We started by bringing Carl Zeiss optics to the phone. We started with navigation, but today we’re creating the best way to navigate through your life. We started by joining the Windows Phone ecoystem. We started with the ambition that Nokia could build something beautifully different. This is Lumia, the world’s most innovative smartphone. Thank you very much. And we’re done.

Elop says phone will come in Q4. Oh yeah, no information yet about price or carriers. We forgot all about that!

A question about China. China, Elop says, is a very important market.

Obviously we’ve jumped into a Q&A session. A question about Arabic support. Windows 8 supports it. No news specifically today.

Will Canada get Music and City View? Elop: Navigation, yes. Not sure about music yet.

8:25 am: Someone asks Elop how he feels about Samsung stealing Windows 8 thunder. “Anyone can go on stage and show a device. We’re proud to show Windows Phone 8 fully working. We have the first working Windows Phone 8 product.”

Elop artfully dodges a question about tablet plans.

And another question about undisclosed products. “We’re on a journey to do more and more innovative work with Windows Phone. There’s a lot more excitement still to come around our Lumia strategy.”

Will Windows 7 apps work on Windows 8? “I won’t say the word ‘all,’ but the objective is full forward compatibility.”

One more question. Your market share has gone miniscule versus Apple and Android. Where do you see it, going forward? Elop: “With each step we take with Microsoft, we intend to grow the share higher and higher. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that is right now looking awfully the same. We stand apart.”

And I think that was the last question.

Elop is wrapping up. And now we’re done, really. Elop: “It’s time to switch to Lumia.”

And we’re out. Thanks for coming along on the ride.

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