Nokia's Elop: Apple helped create Android

LONDON--Nokia CEO Stephen Elop dismissed any question that the company is up for sale, and moved to highlight how he plans to turn around the company by building an ecosystem to compete with Apple's iOS and Google's Android. At the same time, in discussing how mobile ecosystems developed, Elop said that Apple's iPhone helped create Android.

Elop restated a familiar refrain he has made since Nokia decided in February to use Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone operating system. The battle within the mobile industry has shifted away from devices to a battle of ecosystems, he said. The strength of Apple's and Android's ecosystems has been built by investment from across the mobile community, but "there is room" for a third player built around Windows Phone and Nokia's core competencies, Elop said.

"The introduction of the iPhone set the benchmark for the industry, but in a very Apple way the company built a totally closed ecosystem," Elop said during a keynote session Thursday at the Open Mobile Summit in London. "They created the conditions--an industry vacuum--that enabled Android to become the 'open ecosystem,' although there is a question as to how open their approach might be."

Explaining why Nokia chose not to adopt the Android platform, Elop said: "It was an option, but how could we differentiate ourselves? If we couldn't, then it would have been very hard for Nokia to survive."

He also expressed his concern at the growing fragmentation that he said is happening within the Android marketplace today, pointing to what Motorola and Samsung have done to the operating system. Elop said this will become a real challenge for the growth of the developer community and the future of Android.

Returning to his plans for the partnership with Microsoft, Elop outlined five key strategies that he believed would see this Microsoft/Nokia co-op battle its way into becoming a major ecosystem provider for the mobile industry:

  • The consumer must be delighted with what's on offer.
  • The ecosystem must be complete, customisable, offer multi-language support and provide opportunities for operators.
  • The ecosystem must be constructed to support operators so they can participate fairly.
  • The ecosystem's scope should be broadened to support an array of devices, such TVs, vehicles, etc.
  • The ecosystems must be attractive to developers.

Elop said he believes that the combination of software services, technical skills and knowledge of partners, such as mobile operators,  available from Microsoft and Nokia will provide a formidable competitor in the ecosystem market.However, Elop did concede that Nokia must start to "unleash innovation in a much more rapid way, which has not been the case in the past."

"We have to empower people within Nokia, change processes, inject originality, and make people accountable--there was a need for a fundamental reset within the company," he said.

Commenting on Elop's efforts to turn around the company, Ben Wood, director of research from CCS Insight, said that Elop's message has been consistent, and is reportedly having an impact within Nokia and causing real change. "But does he have the time?" warned Wood.

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