Microsoft and Nokia explain quality over quantity game plan at #MWC13

25 Feb 2013

Pictured: the new Nokia 720 Windows Phone

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop revealed this morning that there are now 130,000 apps in the app market for Windows Phone 8 and this afternoon Microsoft’s mobile apps boss Todd Brix revealed some 1bn downloads of apps have been achieved. Senior people at both companies told that the strategy is about quality and not the volume game.

Both companies appear to be over the bad patch that allowed the smartphone market to become a two-horse race between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating system and have embarked on a course of just getting on with the job.

This afternoon, Nokia revealed two new devices: the Lumia 720, aimed at the trendy youth segment, and the Lumia 520, aimed at the low-budget end of the market.

The company in recent months unveiled its Lumia 820 and 920 devices, which are more for the mid-to-higher tier of the smartphone market.

I spoke to Bill Cox, senior director of marketing communications for the Windows Phone division at Microsoft. “We’re very encouraged by the progress so far. Our research shows us that three times as many people as a year ago are coming into stores and asking for the Windows Phone and four times as many as a year ago are leaving stores with purchased Windows Phone devices.

“We’re seeing real progress. We got out of the gate with the Windows Phone 8 in October and the reception has been great. You are seeing beautiful devices from our partners hit the market with great new features for people and they have this connection to the broader Windows ecosystem.”

Cox said that while Microsoft is pleased with the progress, the key thing to understand is the company is in mobile for the long haul.

This prompted me to ask will Microsoft ever declare itself a mobile-first company despite its legacy in personal computing?

“Microsoft as a company is evolving in front of our eyes and it is only in the past year that (CEO) Steve Ballmer started describing the company as a devices and services company – most people would not have predicted that. What happens in the next five or 10 years will be interesting. Mobile is a core part of the company’s strategy that goes beyond the phone to include beautiful tablet computers and laptops have never been better.”

A few good apps

I also spoke to Brian Biniak, vice-president of Developers, Partners and App Development at Nokia, who outlined the focus on forging partnerships with app developers who will create quality rather than just getting loads of apps published in the store.

“One of the great examples of this is an app called Job Lens, which we worked on with Zillow, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Dun & Bradstreet, which allows smartphone users to take a picture of a building and they are told if there are any jobs going there, how much people get paid and if their friends or connections work there.”

I asked him if it is proving difficult to tear developers away from established app operating systems, like those of Apple and Google.

“It hasn’t impacted us at all in terms of new devices. We take a very different approach to our relationships with developers than a lot of our competitors. We treat them as business partners. We don’t just want their app but we understand the business and how we can help them to build and create amazing apps.

“The phones we have now are the best we’ve ever had and we’d rather take our time and work with developers to create apps that are flagships for our phones. For example, we worked with GoPro to create an app that allows two different devices to shoot action films, for example from a snowboarder’s helmet cam while their friend watches from a distance and syncs the videos up as part of an edit.

“A lot of companies have long-term road maps, lots have ideas and dreams they are not able to realise but through Nokia we intend to bring them to life and make them happen and also help to reduce the risk by taking a more collaborative approach to make their app successful.

“A lot of the app stores never talk to the developer, the apps just pop up there and the developer hopes it works out.

“Our attitude, and it sums up the entire strategy with Windows Phone, is to take it slowly, do it right and aim for quality first. It’s not about quantity – we’ve no interest in trying to catch up by playing the volume game.

“We want the best apps in the world that will create a halo around the new devices,” Biniak said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years