It’s been more than two and a half years since Conor Pierce swapped Turkey for the UK to take on the role of the manufacturer’s UK head. He has stayed fairly consistent in that time in repeating the importance of building momentum and hearts and minds among partners and consumers.
While Pierce’s message has stayed the same, Nokia has changed considerably. The manufacturer in spring 2011 had just taken the bold, then arguably foolhardy, move of ditching its homegrown ‘burning platforms’, as CEO Stephen Elop put it in his infamous memo, in favour of Windows Phone.
Fast forward to the present day and Nokia accounts for the lion’s share of the UK’s Windows Phone sales. During the past three months, it had a share of almost 12% of the smartphone market, compared to almost 5% 12 months ago. Early next year Nokia’s handset business will become part of Microsoft, once the software giant’s €5.4bn takeover is completed.
Speaking at the launch of its Lumia 2520 tablet and Lumia 1520 phablet, Pierce gave a straight bat to any questions about how Nokia would fit inside Microsoft. However, he said he was encouraged by the ‘genuine enthusiasm’ he had been shown about the deal. He said: ‘For me when the deal was announced there wasn’t one partner who wasn’t positive about the move. Assuming it comes about, Microsoft is very focused on making it successful. It will take what we have and tap that into what Microsoft has. From a consumer perspective, if you put those services on a plate with a beautiful device, it’s incredible.’
At the centre of Nokia’s growth have been its low level Windows performers, in particular the Lumia 520. Pierce said these low cost devices were an easy route into Windows Phone from feature phones and he expected these consumers to trade up to the flagship devices over time. While the likes of the Lumia 1520 are selling in fewer volumes than its cheaper brothers and sisters, Pierce said there is still value in flagships. He said: ‘Why does any brand focus and invest in the high end? Look at the innovation we bring to high end devices. Some of those trickle down to more affordable devices. If you look at the Lumia 520 or 625, what gives me confidence is that whoever buys one of those is probably making their first foray into smart devices.’
Pierce is incredibly bullish about Nokia’s potential in the b2b market, given the gap left by BlackBerry’s declining market share. According to its UK head, Nokia is only ‘scratching the surface’ of the enterprise market and it will be a big focus for the company in 2014. He said: ‘On b2b, the opportunity is endless. We have a strong legacy there and a very strong relationship with supporting partners. We will be driving very hard next year.’ The company promised it will reveal another large enterprise partnership early next year.
A question of apps
One of the main criticisms of Windows Phone had been the paucity of its app store, compared to the well stocked digital shelves of Android and iOS. Both Apple and Google have more than one million apps each, with Windows trailing far behind at 190,000. However, Pierce argued recent additions such as Instagram and Vine showed Windows Phone is shedding its former reputation. He said: ‘I think there’s a myth that we don’t have a healthy ecosystem. There are 190,000 apps and the majority of the major apps are on there or at least very close.’
So, Nokia enters the new year with more apps for its devices than ever before, a new owner and a big opportunity in b2b. Pierce insisted the company still has a job to do but 2014 could be the year that the company’s marketing slogan from 2012 rings true: everyone loves a comeback.