Live from D9: Nokia's Stephen Elop takes the stage

We know, we know -- you should've left the office hours ago, but if you hang tight for just a wee bit longer, you'll be able to join us on our journey of the last D9 liveblog for June 1st, the year two-thousand and eleven. Hot on the heels of Steven Sinofsky and Leo Apotheker, it's the president and CEO of Nokia, Mr. Stephen Elop. He's been doing the media rounds while camped out in California today, and now it's our turn to see how he reacts to Walt and Kara's questioning. Live coverage of the interview continues after the break!

8:40PM And that's a wrap! Apologies for spotty updates at the end, had an unforeseen brush with security that we're going to sort out.

8:34PM Nokia's still characterizing MeeGo as "experimental," though there will be a MeeGo device out this year.

8:32PM Walt: "Are you going to get into the tablet game?"

Stephen: "I'm not going to announce a tablet here today. But as a high level point, there's a connected digital experience will increasingly define what consumers are looking for. It's important for us to play across that space. We have to address that whole space."

He stopped short of confirming a tablet, but let's be real -- there's a new Nokia tablet coming.

8:31PM Stephen: "There's clearly fragmentation in the market. To what extent does that matter? Time will tell -- that's always been the challenge in the mobile market, it goes back to Flash vs. J2ME. There were scores of J2ME variations."

8:28PM Walt: "Talk to me about RIM -- do you consider them a strong competitor for the future? What's the deal?"

Stephen: "First of all, I have a huge amount of respect for them. It's no longer a battle of devices, it's a war of ecosystems. We were fighting the device battle, and now we're partnering with Microsoft to take on the ecosystem."

8:24PM Stephen isn't going to show off a Windows Phone / Nokia product, darn!

8:20PM Walt: "When are you going to ship your first Windows Phone?"

Stephen: "We're making very good progress -- in the fourth quarter."

8:19PM Stephen: "It doesn't make sense when you think about it. Look at the synergies between the companies -- if you sell, you destroy value in the process."

8:18PM Walt's talking about the rumor of Microsoft buying Nokia's hardware business.

Stephen: "We will remain in possession of the hardware business. The rumors are baseless."

8:18PM Stephen just admitted that Nokia's paying Microsoft for some things, and vice-versa. The net is that both companies will reduce expenses due to this. Elop won't talk about who is paying who more. Elop is convinced that it's a "very positive financial thing" for Nokia over the term of the agreement.

8:17PM Stephen: "Microsoft had a critical requirement for a partner to do their best work for Windows Phone. On the other hand, Nokia -- from a software platform perspective -- we were serious challenged. We had to look for someone who would give us hope to differentiate from a software perspective." Those two needs obviously lined up.

8:16PM Walt's asking yet again if Elop's relationships with Microsoft folk had any impact on the decision.

8:15PM Stephen confesses to understanding Google's intentions to limit fragmentation, but he'd still rather have the power to tweak things heavily. Makes us wonder if we're going to see significantly overhauled versions of WP7 on Nokia devices...

8:14PM The pattern that we're worried about on the Android side -- will the OEMs truly have assurance that their takes will be able to shape and form Android. Essentially, it seems that Nokia *wants* to fragment, or at least force a skin on the OS.

8:13PM Walt's asking if Nokia made the decision to side with WP7 due to its ability to have a say on the software revisions.

8:13PM Stephen: "We will not do something on our WP7 phones that won't work on other WP7 phones -- it's a philosophy for success."

8:12PM Stephen: "As the ecosystem grows, Nokia gets the app developers. You need the app developers. And they need volume and scale."

8:12PM Walt's pretty confused -- why wouldn't Nokia just want Nokia to be the bona fide best?

8:11PM Stephen: "We have tremendous assets -- map assets, etc. We need the WP ecosystem grow overall. I want to see Samsung and HTC be successful with Windows Phone 7. I'd like to be more successful than them, of course, but I still need them to succeed.

8:10PM Stephen: "The point of competition is with Android and Apple; those are the groups that we need to differentiate from."

8:10PM Stephen: "Nokia has the flexibility that we can differentiate over time -- we have the complete flexibility to do that."

8:09PM Stephen: "Nokia felt that with Windows Phone, it had a better shot at maintaining long-term differentiation than with Android."

8:08PM Walt: "So, differentiation is why Android didn't work for you?"

8:08PM One of his lead devs said that a shift to Windows Phone 7 could allow Nokia to achieve certain goals in 1/3 of the time as it would take if it used Symbian.

8:07PM Stephen: "When I went to Finland, the plan was to move to MeeGo. I knew that Symbian needed to be assessed. We looked an Android as an option. We looked at WP7. We looked at all of these, we looked at everything."

8:07PM Stephen: "Our assessment was this -- with Symbian, it'd take too long to match the main competitors. It's a bit crufty, takes too long to change. To modernize, we had to evaluate what it would take to get there."

8:05PM Walt: "Are we looking at two years for this thing to be fully recognized?"

Stephen: "Well, let's talk Symbian. There are hundreds of millions of these out there. Symbian support will be provided through 2016 in many places around the world. In the US, it doesn't feel quite that way, but in other places there's life left."

8:04PM Elop admits that the news released this week was painful, and that it could continue for a little while. Walt's asking him about the Symbian / WP7 transition.

8:02PM Stephen's out! No time wasted between Steven and Stephen. Fitting.