By Natasha Lomas
Despite recent suggestions that Nokia (NOK) is at least keeping an open mind about adopting Google's (GOOG) Android platform, the company has reiterated that it is sticking to its guns with Windows Phone and its homegrown S40-based Asha devices. Speaking during its Q4 earnings conference call today, CEO Stephen Elop said Nokia is working with Microsoft (MSFT) to drive the Windows Phone platform lower down the price spectrum, while also cross-promoting its S40-based Asha devices to Windows Phone developers.
Responding to an analyst's question about whether Nokia might consider adopting Android for low-end devices, Elop said:
We are clearly innovating with Microsoft around Windows Phone, and are focused on taking that to lower and lower price points. You will see that over time compete with Android. But at the same time we’ve said consistently -- and we’re just beginning to see it in the Asha full-touch products -- that we will continue to innovate around our Asha smartphone line in order to compete with the very lowest levels of Android.
We are not in a situation where we are considering something other than Windows Phone combined with what we’re doing with Asha.
Nokia's strategy to make Asha compete with the very low end of Android is about focusing on lowering the overall total cost of ownership, said Elop -- pointing to additions such as proxy browser technology and an out-of-the-box Facebook client. "The overall total cost of ownership of one of those [Asha] devices on a data network is substantially lower [than Android ownership] and consumers are recognising that. That's a key part of how we sell," he said.
Elop also talked up Nokia's "strength" in having a two platform strategy, noting how it can cross-promote the Asha platform opportunity to Windows Phone app developers. "Part of the interaction here is for someone contemplating developing for the Windows Phone ecosystem, part of our conversation with them is if they also work for the Asha environment we can offer them an opportunity to make their applications visible and marketed to a very much larger user-base than commercially any of the ecosystems can offer," he said.
"We continue to invest and innovate in what we're doing with the Asha product line," Elop added. "There's a lot of excitement with that product line this year, there's no question. We're also -- if you watch some of the things that we're doing in terms of ensuring we continue to be competitive -- we're moving more, for example, with our Vietnam factory. Part of competing in this space is to make sure than on all fronts we're also commanding the lowest possible prices and taking advantage of the scale opportunity that exists around the world. So we're taking every step necessary to continue to focus on competitiveness with that product line."
When it comes to developing under the Windows Phone umbrella, Elop said Nokia continues to be focused on "differentiation" -- by "adding to" the platform, with elements such as its mapping product Here, augmented reality app City Lens, and its streaming music offering Nokia Music, rather than by customising the platform a la Android. "We are not wanting to do great deals of customisation to the heart of the platform because of course that could lead us into the situation that Android's facing -- where the amount of fragmentation that you're seeing is increasing as people take it in different directions," said Elop.
Elop also name-checked PureView as a key differentiating factor for Nokia's Windows Phones. The PureView cameraphone image brand was initially launched by Nokia on the Symbian-based 808 PureView. The PureView brand has since been used on the Lumia 920 but the technology itself is different -- however, earlier this week, the Verge reported that Nokia intends to launch a "true PureView" Windows Phone this year.
During the call, the Nokia CEO also took a swipe at Google's approach to managing Android. Responding to a question about problems with Windows Phone Gmail compatibility, Elop claimed Mountain View was trying to "turn the open ecosystem into something that's quite a bit more closed -- as we've seen quite recently."