Uplinq 2011: Nokia's Elop defends tie-up with Microsoft

SAN DIEGO — Until Nokia Corp. (NOK) releases some actual equipment running on Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT) Windows Phone operating system, signaling a return to better days and some semblance of longevity in the smartphone space, the Finnish company is going to be on the defensive. President and CEO Stephen Elop has essentially been on the defensive ever since he announced plans to partner with Microsoft, and things were no different here at his keynote at Qualcomm Inc.’s (QCOM) Uplinq conference.

As he took the stage, Elop noted how it “wasnt long ago (Nokia and Qualcomm) were beating each others brains out in the court of law.” Legal squabbles aside, why was Elop here at a Qualcomm event now? Nokia needs Qualcomm to help it build Windows Phone devices. Every Windows Phone device in the market today has a Qualcomm chipset inside. “I’m here today to show you that Nokia is open to all of you,” Elop told the audience. After Elop decided to drop Meego, its flailing OS partnership with Intel Corp. (INTC), he felt there were two options on the table: Android or develop a new ecosystem with Microsoft on Windows Phone 7 and beyond. “Jumping into the Android pool felt a little bit like giving in,” he said. “There’s a strong attitude in the company that you don’t give in. You fight harder.” Elop said he believes there is an “opportunity for a third and competitive ecosystem to emerge.” As the shift from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems takes root, Elop has laid his chips with Windows Phone, but he admits that the OS has seen very little pickup thus far. “The majority of manufacturers out there right now are doing their best work for Android,” he said. For Windows Phone to truly pickup “it needs scope. It needs scale and a great manufacturer to take it around the world,” he added. Nokia will contribute to the Windows Phone ecosystem by contributing mapping, navigation and other features that will be made available to all Windows Phone manufacturers. “This third ecosystem that we’re constructing has to be more operator friendly” than iOS and Android,” he continued. “We have to do something that is fundamentally differentiating.”

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