Steve Ballmer Surprises Audience at Nokia Press Event

Posted by · January 9, 2012 4:53 pm

Consumer Electronics Show 2012Having stood in line for the Samsung press event for over an hour, only to get to the door and be turned away, it goes without saying that I was frustrated at best as I stood in line yet again for the Nokia press event.  Thank you, Nokia for making the wait (one hour) worth my time!

From the moment Nokia  CEO Steven Elop took the stage, you could feel the excitement in the room.  A few bloggers with the inside scoop had already tipped the rest of us peons off that Nokia would be announcing a new Windows Phone, but what they didn’t tell us was that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer himself would take the stage to introduce the software.

But let’s go back a bit.  Elop started off the event by telling the audience that for Nokia, the smartphone market was no longer a battle of devices but a war of ecosystems.  According to Elop, Nokia is going to win that war by partnering with Microsoft, building Lumia hardware devices and establishing beachheads in various countries around the world.

On January 11th, the Lumia 710–a Windows Phone released by Nokia outside the US last year–will launch on the T-Mobile network for $49 with a contract.  Nokia’s goal with the Lumia 900 and its pricepoint is to target the 150 million people in the US who are still without a smartphone.

But since the Lumia 710 is not strong enough to win the ecosystem war by itself, Elop announced that Nokia will be releasing the Lumia 900 in the US later this year. And that’s when things got good.   According to Elop, the Lumia 900 is “the first Windows phone built and designed for the North American market.”

The 4G LTE phone has a 4.3 inch display screen and gives users a rich media experience including people hubs and live tiles that sync your contacts up with your social networks.  You can group people together and then view someone’s individual profile to view all the conversations you’ve had with them on social media.  There’s also a built in Facebook chat feature, so you can message friends on Facebook directly from their live tile profile.

The second feature Nokia is really promoting on the Lumia 900 are the phone’s front and rear facing cameras.  The rear facing camera has a wide aperture lens and 28 millimeter focal length and the front facing camera is equally as impressive, with a 2.2 wide aperture lens.  According to Elop and co, the front facing camera lets in just as much light as the back camera on nearly every other phone out there.  Oh, and there’s also a built in Tango application for video conferencing…which I’m just now realizing is kinda weird because Microsoft owns Skype.

The third feature Nokia exulted about the Lumia 900 is its content hub.  Nokia is working with ESPN (who isn’t these days), CNN, Sesame Street, Michelin, EA Sports and the ACC to provide Windows Phone users with a rich and differentiated content experience.  (Uh, yeah. The randomness of Michelin’s inclusion definitely covers the “differentiated” part.)

After Elop and one of his colleagues extolled the virtues of the Lumia 900’s features, Elop said that some of the most important elements of Nokia’s Windows Phones are the search and productivity software and location based and developer tools; and Elop was pleased to welcome none other than Steve Ballmer himself to talk about those elements.

The audience, of course, erupted in whispers and flash photography as Ballmer took the stage.  Nonplussed by the commotion, Ballmer–who probably doesn’t need a microphone at these events, he really is that loud–said that he was thrilled about Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia (which he pronounces Nah-kee-ah). He then proceeded to feel up the device and talk about how good it felt in his hands; and finally, Ballmer closed with a few words about how much he trusts the folks at Nah-kee-ah and that he is looking forward to exciting customers with this new product.  His whole presentation was short and a little bit weird, but it was still cool to be surprised by his presence.

After Ballmer was done, Elop took over the microphone again and announced the arrival of President and CEO of Consumer Markets at AT&T, the official carrier of the Lumia 900, Ralph Del la Degas. (I know. I cried when I heard that too.) Del la Degas told the audience that with the arrival of the Lumia 900, Nokia is going to be back in the US in a big way.  AT&T will start offering the phone in the “coming months” (no word on a retail price) in black and cyan, the official Style Geek approved color of the Lumia 900.  Del la Degas had definitely practiced his marketing colloquialisms before coming on stage, as he said things like: “The Lumia phone will be built around people, not applications” and “With the combination of Windows Phone, Lumia hardware and AT&T’s service, the Lumia 900 is a knockout product” and awkwardly enough, “Welcome back, Steve.” (I wasn’t sure what he meant by that either.)

The folks at Nokia left some time for questions at the end, with the best question asked being whether or not Nokia plans to expand to Verizon soon.  The short answer was “no.”

I have to say, I was super impressed by what I saw of the Lumia 900.  I know seeing a phone demoed at a press event is one thing and actually using it is another, but for my social media loving, non-Apple using (except for that iPad I just bought…) self, the Lumia 900 seems like a phone I would love to have. After it comes to the Verizon network, that is.