Nokia and Windows Phone: Notes from Nokia Dev Con

Nokia held the Nokia Developer Conference in Bangalore on Friday (that’s the 4th of November 2011) and it was an interesting event; more so because we were all interested to see how Nokia would engage developers and push forward development for Windows Phone.

We also got to talk with Vipul Mehrotra, Director and Head of Smart Devices business for Nokia India, and Kris Efland, Chief Architect for Location and Commerce Platform Products at Nokia.

I’m not going to talk too much about the developer space, but here’s what we found interesting:

  • Nokia’s push for the Next Billion (Mobile users) is focused on S40: The belief is that as  Nokia Pushes the smartphone platform, more regular users will be introduced to smartphone like features in S40, such as hardware acceleration and GPS enabled devices to provide more location aware services. Since data usage on S40 isn’t that prevalent right now, applications would use binary SMS to bring in small amounts of data to provide the web like experience that smartphone users are used to. It may not be the full application experience, but it brings more data and services to a market that wasn’t really exposed to such experiences in the past.
  • Symbian: Vipul Mehrotra confirmed that Nokia is not dropping Symbian, and that Belle isn’t the end of the road. He mentioned that there was much more coming up for the Symbian Platform in the future (and I hope it’s the near future). Having used Belle, I can say that it’s a completely different experience coming from Symbian Anna and earlier Symbian Devices. Vipul also mentioned that payback to the developers on Symbian had been quite good, especially in markets such as India, where the Nokia Store has the highest downloads.
  • Windows Phone and the Nokia-Microsoft alliance: Vipul mentioned that the reviews that came in for the Nokia N9 were really good, and the hardware design was something that everyone loved. Therefore, the first Nokia Windows Phone device was made using what Nokia is known for (the hardware) and use it to provide a better Windows Phone experience. The process used to make the N9 wasn’t something that you used once and dropped, especially because of the attention to detail on the unibody polycarbonate device, and the curved glass display. Having used the Lumia 800 and the N9, I can say that the tiles interface looked really good on the Lumia 800.
  • Changes to Windows Phone:Vipul did mention that they had a deep partnership with Microsoft, and it was more an Interlock than just a tie-up. As such, Nokia would not call for changes to Windows Phone that would change the end user experience across the Windows Phone ecosystem, irrespective of the Manufacturer device.
  • On NFC: Kris spoke about NFC and the differences that exist right now, because there are no standards as such. The protocols to initiate a connection (the handshake) is pretty much the same, but beyond that, the data transfer, the storage, the secure elements, etc are not the same across devices and platforms. As such Nokia is looking towards NFC standards that would allow all (or most) services to function, irrespective of the platform. This could be data/media transfer or Mobile Payments, or any other use of NFC.
  • Nokia Maps & Bing Maps: Nokia Maps exist for pretty much every (if not every) country, and as such Nokia doesn’t intend to keep it to themselves. Kris mentioned that Nokia Maps would be coming to all Windows Phone Devices, irrespective of the Manufacturer, sometime early next year. This includes the free Turn-by-turn navigation that makes Nokia Maps so brilliant. What’s more interesting is the fact that Bing Maps would be leveraging Navteq and Nokia Maps’ resources in the future, and that rollout would occur across ALL platforms; xbox, pc, web and more.
  • LTE & Pentaband 3G: Going forward, Nokia definitely intends to bring LTE to its handset lineup. How soon is the question though. My guess is, just like apple, they’re waiting for LTE radios on phones to be more battery friendly; Nokia devices are generally pretty good in terms of battery life and standby. Also, LTE isn’t really available everywhere just yet. Regarding the current Lumia phones not having pentaband 3G, something that made Nokia devices unique (and truly global), it sounds like it will make a return in the future; it just depends on the chipset that goes into the next set of Nokia Windows Phone devices.

Will Nokia’s entry into the Windows Phone space help Microsoft? I think so yes. But how much can they do? It’s really nice to hear that Nokia’s going to play fair, and let other Windows Phone OEMs use Nokia Services (some of it at least). Will this help Nokia rise back up to the top of the smartphone list? Personally, I don’t think that’s going to happen just yet. Windows Live restrictions are quite irritating, especially the fact that you cannot change the country of residence and therefore, the billing details. If I were Nokia, I’d push for that change. But this is a start.

The first tech post I ever wrote was titled Nokia really doomed?. I’m happy to see them back in the news, and for something good.

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Raghu Kannan

Drummer, Car enthusiast and wanna be rally driver, between jobs and loving it! @raghukannan

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