Mobile

Nokia recruits Silicon Valley developers, says good things are coming

Nokia, the world’s largest mobile phone maker, dedicated a new office building in Silicon Valley today, and its leaders promised that good things are coming soon.

Stephen Elop, the former Microsoft executive who in September was appointed chief executive of Nokia, is planning to make a major announcement during a speech to investors in London on Feb. 11. As its rivals move fast in the growing market for smartphones and tablets, Nokia doesn’t want anyone to forget that it’s still the biggest player and isn’t going away.

Nokia isn’t saying exactly what he’ll talk about, but it says the announcement is a strategic one. The New York Times says Nokia may throw its support behind Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software (a possibility that we’ve been reporting since last September).

That would be a huge change, since Nokia has been committed to its Symbian operating system for a long time and has been developing the Meego smartphone and tablet software with Intel for some time. Rich Green (pictured) chief technology officer of Nokia, was at the Silicon Valley building dedication today and said in a brief conversation that he is very impressed with Nokia’s willingness to embrace change and turn the ship around. Elop got tongues wagging on Jan. 27 when he said that Nokia was open to “create and/or join other ecosystems.”

Green, a former Sun Microsystems software executive, joined the company eight months ago and is eager to help get it on track. It dominates the market for feature phones (the new Nokia office’s lounge has a display of all of Nokia’s phones, pictured), but in smartphones, it has stumbled. Our review of its flagship N8 smartphone praised its hardware, but found it lacking in every other respect. Apple’s iPhone and the Google Android operating system, and its various hardware supporters, have proven to be formidable competition.

The Finnish company’s growth has slowed, and it replaced its CEO because of market share losses. In the fourth quarter, Nokia’s share of the global smartphone market fell from 40 percent a year ago to 31 percent. Profit declined 21 percent. In the U.S. in the third quarter, Nokia’s market share was a tiny 2 percent in the U.S., according to strategy analytics.

Yet Nokia officials offered reminders that they have cool technologies such as Qt, (pronounced cute), which partners such as Netflix use to create TV-based web movie download applications. Qt, available for free, has won a loyal following for its ease-of-use as a tool for developers to create applications on a wide variety of web-based platforms.

In Silicon Valley, Nokia’s new office occupies about five floors of an office building in Sunnyvale, Calif., and it has a bunch of researchers in Palo Alto and Berkeley as well. At the event today, the company was courting all sorts of mobile developers, encouraging them to get to know the company and partner with it. Green wouldn’t say what was happening on Feb. 11. But he said it will indeed be big news that will signal the direction of the company in the future.


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