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Friday June 13, 2014 4:27 pm

Chris Weber interview: The future of device branding for Windows Phone

Chris Weber Microsoft Nokia

Chris Weber is the CVP of Mobile Devices Sales at Microsoft, re-joining the company through it's purchase of Nokia, where he was in charge of global sales. He knows his way around every Lumia device, and is now aiming to make sure that Windows Phone first-party hardware is an even player at the devices table. We were able to sit down with Chris to talk about Nokia, Lumia, Windows Phone, and what changes need to be made in order to realize the success he is seeking. Check out the full interview below:

When is Windows Phone 8.1 coming out?
The answer varies by device and operator. The Lumia 630 and 635 are the first 8.1 products, launched internationally. We’re also working with our current products, and any Windows 8 phone is upgradeable to 8.1. There is currently a developer preview, but the operator version requires further testing. 8.1 is a completely different experience. Things like the background wallpaper, increased customization, and especially Cortana, which is one of the best features.

There are key differences between Cortana and similar services on other devices. It proactively learns. The other day I was flying to Moscow. The week before, it asked if it wanted me to track my flight to Moscow. There is a link that says "Do you want to know how I knew that?" Cortana looked at my calendar and started looking up flight numbers. It also has geo-fencing. You can say "Remind me that Ignacio owes me $100." I can say remind me when I send an email, when I arrive home, etc. Or "Remind me to pick up my dry cleaning" and when you get in the area, the message pops up. "Remind me to pick up milk at the grocery store” and you get the choice of having it remind you when you are near any grocery store, not just one specific one.

Back to being on the plane, I said "Remind me to download the music for guitar when I get home." It's really, really good. Flow writing, which is similar to Swype, means I can do emails faster on my phone than on the keyboard now. I got a new phone and it wasn't running 8.1 and the hunt and peck was tough!

So, when is Windows Phone 8.1 coming out?
I guess I didn't answer your original question and you caught me! I don't have all the dates for Windows Phone 8.1 release, but starting in summer you should start seeing a rollout.

How do you get Microsoft back into the mobile conversation in a positive way? The focus is all iPhone and Android, and rarely do I see people carrying a Windows Phone who doesn’t either work at Microsoft, or live with someone who works at Microsoft.
The population of Lumia phones is wider in Seattle. On the low-end, the Lumia 520 is the best-selling smartphone globally. Where we continue to have opportunities is on the high-end against Samsung and Apple.

A couple things - we need to work more on the "app gap", addressing thatissue. Instagram is beta, for example. Pinterest was just released, but that’s also beta. The volumes we are driving with the 520 is opening up more conversations with developers, the more people using a platform, the more they are willing to invest.

The other is, how do we tell the broader story of the Microsoft ecosystem across displays. Now you can write a Windows Phone app, and then with 20% more work have that same app work across all Windows PCs, tablets, and Xbox.

One of our demos is a phone where they were taking pictures of the press people as they walked into an event. As they did that, you got to see that the images would show up on the phone, on the PC, in OneDrive, on the tablet, and on Xbox One. There is a lot that we assume everyone knows feature-wise, but features like that which we think most people know, and they still don't.

Another example is a Windows 8.1 device allows you to synchronize your background, Live Tiles, favorites, etc. On a PC or tablet, your content is replicated and synced automatically.

Any plans will Microsoft do to incentivize salespeople in stores to push Windows Phone?
Verizon and AT&T want their salespeople recommending what is best for the customer. The challenge is that there are two dominant players that they've been selling successfully over the last few years. To sell an iPhone or Android device, they can sell that within a couple of minutes--time is money to them. To educate a customer on Windows Phone takes more time.

I always say, if you give me 15 minutes I think I can convert any iPhone or Android user, but in 3 minutes with a potential customer who already know what they might want? We need to create zealots. We need people and word of mouth.

Xbox is universally seen as cool, while Windows Phone doesn’t yet exhibit a cool factor, and comes across more like Microsoft Office than Xbox. Is that how it should be seen? It it more of a business device, or more of a cool, consumer product?
We need to leverage the coolness of Xbox on the phone. We have to think about how we make Windows cool. The challenge we have as Microsoft and Nokia is we have successful incombant companies that, at times, tend to take a safer route. In reality, we are the challenger and we have to start thinking like challengers. Your edginess has to get better. Our wedding and recital ads that we did a few months ago, we got great feedback on those. Our phones are the best phones for business. It integrates into what most CIOs are managing today...but we have to make sure consumers see it as cool.

The phones out there are all black and dull. You can see a phone like this yellow one, you know it's a Lumia phone. I think what's made the 520 successful is that it's a beautiful device at a great price point.

What are you doing to capture that youth market who think the iPhone is for older people?
I think people see iPhone in the US and they’re getting tired of it, or see it as their parents phone. It's about how we think about marketing and branding. We need a unifying brand across phone and tablets. We have discussions about what the brand is - Lumia? Surface? More importantly, what do you want the brand to stand for?

The research shows that if you market in a youthful way, people my age always want to feel youthful. If you market to my age, the youth will shy away from it.

How much have you thought about things that Apple has done great? The ecosystem is amazing, things like Square where small businesses rely on Apple products. I associate Microsoft with big business rather than small business. Do you?
If you look at Microsoft you say they have this amazing B2B business. We have a huge opportunity with Microsoft. The reason we came together as two companies is, first, R&D. There are two camera modules in the Nokia Lumia 1020. The default with Windows Phone and the other from Nokia that does all the special features. We had to do a separate one because we didn't want our IP out there for competitors. From marketing, we have multiple brands: Windows Phone, Lumia, Microsoft, Nokia, Surface. Getting around one brand, there are huge efficiencies and confusion to customer goes away.

Skype, Bing, OneDrive, Office 365? The commercial offer should always be the best on a Windows Phone. You should have the best offer for Skype on a Windows Phone. When you talk about small and medium-sized business, that's a huge way to participate in those. We have a number of customers asking us to do embedded card readers and should marry them in a way that no one else can do.

The last thing that we're looking at it that Microsoft has the best sales force and largest channel to small and medium-sized business.

To get someone to connect all the Microsoft brands that you mentioned on a phone or tablet is a nightmare compared to, say Android and Google calendar, Hangouts, Gmail, etc. What about that?
Microsoft can take those integration costs out. We are going through a transformation through One Microsoft. Instead of working in silos, we want to marry all the assets together so everything has a higher value proposition. That was the whole gist of the re-org. A lot of work is being done there. Satya thinks about how simple it is to try a service, buy a service, and use a service. If it is 11 clicks, he says it needs to be 2 clicks. Microsoft has more assets than anyone else out there, even around digital life. It is the ability to string all that together in a meaningful way that is the challenge.

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Windows Phone app marketplace has a lot of cruft in it. What are you going to do about bogus apps?
Compare us to Android, not only are there bad apps, but there’s a lot of malware. It's a fair question. We do try to watch for them. When you have a more limited set of apps like we do, you become more known for them. We’ll be looking into this more in the near future.

Are you looking at Surface as a true laptop replacement?
It's the tablet that can replace your laptop. It's your laptop replacement and it's your tablet replacement. It consolidates and you don't have to have two separate ones.

How can I ever use something like a Surface if I have tons of devices I need to use with a PC?
This is as powerful as 98% of PCs on the market. Get out your USB hub. If you take your laptop and tablet with you when traveling, this is the device. No longer need an iPad and a laptop. I have the Acer Aspire A7, and this is more powerful with a bigger screen. I don't sell Surface, so this is my personal feeling.

Apple has been in the news regarding labor conditions, and Samsung and Microsoft were also in the same boat...but Nokia wasn't. What do you guys have to say about ethically manufacturing your products?
At Nokia we've focused a lot on this, and the same standard is at Microsoft as well. That same standard is at Apple as well, they don't have a lax standard there. Within Microsoft they take it seriously, and I'm guessing Apple would say the same thing. If we find something, we work to fix it quickly. Apple is a great competitor, and they aren't doing this in an unethical way. At Nokia, it was one of the things we were known for. The way we operate around the world from a fairness and ethical perspective was renowned, and Microsoft has those same ideals. Same thing with being environmentally-friendly.

Talk about the strength of the Nokia brand now that it's part of Microsoft. Will we still see Nokia branding? Microsoft? Just Lumia?
On our smart devices, Microsoft doesn't own the Nokia brand. So, Microsoft will be the master brand and that's the right thing to do. As for the devices, does it say Microsoft? Is it just a symbol or logo on the device instead? Those things have to be decided. We’re also thinking about the brand for first-party hardware. Is it Surface? Lumia? There is a lot of opportunity.

The 1020 is actually officially called the Nokia Lumia 1020 with Windows Phone. When you say it that way it sounds terrible, and if you put it in print, it's just too long. We need to get something more consistent. I think Microsoft will be the master brand, but we need a unifying brand for our first-party devices. There's a lot of work being done on this. Anyone from Nokia wants it to be Lumia, if you're in Surface you want it to be called Surface...but the work is being done.

Google doesn't seem to want to play nice with its services and apps on Windows Phone. Why is that?
This is very frustrating. We want to play well, but it takes two to play. It's the same thing we have with all apps. How do we get developers to put their time into our platform? Well, for Google, it's a competitive platform to Android. We've made sure their services would play well on our phones, but the more scale we can get, the more they'll wanna play nice. We are really interested in getting Google services and apps on our devices, we know that people rely on them.

We recently released the first touch-version of Office on the iPad. That is a huge message in terms of what we want to do for our users. We want to provide our services and apps to them in a great way, regardless of the device they carry.

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