One on One with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in Nairobi Kenya

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On the 9th February 2012, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was in town in a tour which he described as meant to meet the Kenyans developers and the team working in Kenya. So we had a round table session where he addressed a number of issues. The following are some of what he had to say:

On the Strategy for Kenya and Africa

We have made conscious decision to increase our investments in Kenya and Eastern Africa region by 25% from what we did last year.  Those investments are in the form of investing in the Nokia research center based in Nairobi, investing in helping developers build applications and investing in the marketing activities to ensure our success in the region.

In terms of our products, In October we introduced the Lumia Products and more recently we introduced Asha line of products and we are very excited about the progress we are making around those. For example through the technology we have included in the Asha family of phones people are able to take advantage of the data services that are available through the modern networks. On Asha we have include the Nokia Browser, which is a special browser that design not only to allow people to surf the internet but to use small amount of data traffic so that we can keep the cost for the consumers much lower. Another example is that we provide the location services so that people can do mapping using these devices. The network operators would be happy with these because we are trying to encourage their consumers to take advantage of data networks.  You will continue to see new products and new families of product specifically targeted at the lower price end.

On the direction of feature phones in line with the acquisition of Smarterphone company.

Smarterphone has some very talented people and some very interesting intellectual property and technology that we think will be helpful as we continue to invest in our lower tie of our platforms. We have not been specific on what we are using or what we are doing but you will see that on the new products as we announce them.  It is a good example on how we are making new and fresh investments on the lower tie of our portfolio. It is clearly a strategic investment for us, as we believe that even at the lowest price point people have great aspirations for the technology they want and we want to help them get there.

On the Smartphone’s strategy and the Merger with Microsoft

Our Smartphone strategy was presented last year February and at the heart of that strategy is that we have to fight in the war of ecosystems. It used to be that you would compete in one device against another device but things have changed. We believe that there are a couple of competitive ecosystems out there and jointly with Microsoft we are building a third ecosystem.  I have to describe what an ecosystem is. An Ecosystem is the hardware, the software on the device but also it is all the services on that device.  It includes among others the search, the unify communication, the ecommerce, music, gaming and all these things. When you buy a Smartphone you are buying the whole promise. So what we arranged with Microsoft, was an actual situation where we would both contribute resources to the creation of this ecosystem. We are pleased that in just a few months after signing the deal with Microsoft, we introduced our first Windows phone product, the Lumia 800. It is obviously a beautifully designed piece of device and it is getting a lot of attention in the market and winning the awards.

Just as example of how quickly we are moving forward with this strategy, the second week of January we introduced for the first time Nokia Lumia 900. It is a larger screen format device. It got the  LTE radio standard. We have designed this initially for United States. It is full 4G device, front facing camera, very large battery, beautiful camera optics. We introduced the Lumia 900 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas and our device for Smartphone won the best of show in the US. This is the first time Nokia has ever accomplished that with any device in our history. It is a good example that the Nokia partnership with Microsoft is beginning to work.

Nokia Lumia 800 and Lumia 900

 

I think something which is important to consider, as people look at the future devices.  It is the case that Windows user interface on Lumia takes advantage of something called live tiles. Each of these tiles present new information.  For example I can see that in the last little while 63 people have tweeted about me, and I can see the tweets in real time, or email or whatever the case may be. What Microsoft has also shown is that for the future version of Windows for the Personal Computers and tablets that same experience; same live tiles experience is what is going to be used in the larger devices as well.  So when they introduce Windows 8 what you will see via tablet or a full PC, you will see the same experience

Does Nokia 801 exist?

There are rumors everywhere but I can’t announce any particular devices here today. We have a lot lots more still to come and that include in around Symbian, Windows  phones, as well as series 40. We are in study pattern of introducing competitive devices, so time will tell.

Why is Nokia keen on Kenyan developers?

First of all, there is pool of talents and expertise here. I met with about 50 developers who have demonstrated already their ability to build applications that serve not only Kenya but to reach around the world. On my first day on the job over a year ago, I had the honor of presenting an award to the best application which we had seen developed recently at that point and it was a young man from Kenya ( John Waibochi of Virtual City). There is also a well coordinated sign of support from the Kenyan Government as well. Where the Government is saying that mobility is something that will help to improve the lives of Kenyans and it needs to be invested in. So they are creating the conditions that are helpful to developers, and to Nokia and to our competitors. The whole mobile industry finds it easy to do good work from here.

The Relationship between Kenya and South Africa

What we recognized as we were looking at the structure of our sales organization is that there a lot of synergies and possibilities for sharing information and best practices between South Africa and Eastern Africa countries.  So the way our sales structure is establish is that South Africa and a number of Eastern Africa countries including Kenya are in one complete area. At the same time as we build our local team here recently, there two individuals, local Kenyan people who have moved on top management positions, in the Finance, Control and Logistics. Our previous General Manager for Kenya has taken global role, so he has moved up in the organization as part of the marketing team.

We like Series 40 but Africa is not made for Series 40, so when are we seeing the Windows phones here?

Let me make a general comment that the Lumia product line will be coming to Africa.  We are going through a process of doing it in a country by country basis. We have started by South Africa and we will see it spread in the rest of Africa in the coming months and quarters ahead.  About the price points, our plan around the Lumia product line is to cover the full range of Smartphone price points with Windows phones.  Clearly we have gone up in the price point with Lumia 900 , we have Lumia 710 which is lower price point. (He was speaking before they announced Nokia Lumia 610) . You will continue to see more over time as we expand to the full range of price points. Some of that will take some time because we have engineering work to do.  But it is clear that our focus s around the windows phones.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Kennedy Kachwanya
Lead Blogger at Kachwanya.com
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Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.
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