Nokia exec vents about Windows Phone app gap

In a rare show of frustration, a Nokia executive suggests that Microsoft needs to rethink its approach to Windows Phone.

Speaking to International Business Times, Nokia vice president Bryan Biniak said that it's hard to get people to switch to Windows Phone when the apps they rely on aren't available.

While he didn't offer any specific ways that Microsoft could improve the app situation on Windows Phone, he did suggest that Microsoft could be moving faster on building its mobile operating system. Nokia has been releasing new phones on a regular basis, including the new Lumia 1020, while a major update to Windows Phone may not come until next year.

“We are trying to evolve the cultural thinking [at Microsoft] to say 'time is of the essence,' Biniak said. “Waiting until the end of your fiscal year when you need to close your targets, doesn't do us any good when I have phones to sell today.”

Bejewled Live+ app

Biniak added that Microsoft doesn't have any major gaps in its catalog, but said there are “select applications that need to be there.” He also expressed optimism for the future of Windows Phone, saying that wireless carriers want a third ecosystem to succeed alongside iOS and Android. There was nothing in the interview to suggest that Nokia is planning to stray from Windows Phone.

Still, when it comes to bringing more apps to Windows Phone, Nokia has been doing a fair amount of the legwork. Some games and apps, such as Bejeweled Live+, Trivial Pursuit, Zinio, and ESPN Hub have launched as exclusives to Nokia's Lumia phones.

Nokia has also lobbied other app makers to support Microsoft's platform, most notably campaigning for a Windows Phone version of Instagram and announcing that Vine will be coming to Windows Phone later this year.

Another opinion

NPD analyst Stephen Baker said that the strategy works in a way, because while Microsoft focuses on getting major apps like Pandora and Hulu Plus, Nokia can fill in smaller gaps in the Windows Phone catalog. Nokia offers users a curated selection of apps, which may provide a good platform for lesser-known developers.

But as the underdog, Baker said, Windows Phone is always going to struggle with apps, and with getting people to feel comfortable about switching from iOS or Android. “The problem is once you start hearing [about the lack of apps], everybody believes it long after it isn't true,” Baker said. “The other problem is it only takes one app for someone who is switching to say ... that's a deal breaker for me.”

The key for Microsoft and for Nokia is to offer hardware and software features that aren't available on other platforms. The Lumia 1020, with its 41-megapixel camera, is a great start, Baker said. “I think it's unique, it's different, and it appeals to a lot of people because of what it's focused on,” he said.

As for software, Microsoft's sweeping reorganization may help, as it puts all operating system development under a single group. It's a little early to say how the shake-up will change Windows Phone, but it could be just the kind of cultural shift that Nokia's Biniak is angling for.

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