Weekend Roundup: Nokia puts faith in Lumia 1020's super-snapper, Ballmer shakes up Microsoft, UK reels from cyber-attacks

Nokia pins hopes on smartphone snapper

Rather than an emphatic crash and burn, Nokia’s decline as a company has been a slow, protracted affair. Many commentators see its demise as an inevitability, but Stephen Elop’s outfit is not going down without a fight. A series of very capable handsets have bolstered Nokia’s flagship Lumia line over the past year, and Thursday saw the most significant addition yet, as the Lumia 1020 rolled into town sporting a ground-breaking 41-megapixel camera.

With the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy handsets dominating proceedings in the smartphone arena, it is clear the rest of the pack need a pretty striking USP to give their models any kind of chance. Huawei, for instance, went down the “world’s thinnest” route for its Ascend P6 handset recently, while Nokia has built its challenge around photographic capabilities, seeking to capitalise on the snap-happy generation of mobile users.

It’s taken the concept seriously too; the 41-megapixel sensor packing high-end Zeiss optics in six physical lenses, with some optical image stabilisation thrown in for good measure. Harnessing the impressive setup are software features like the Nokia Pro Camera app and pre-installed tutorials, making it “easy for anyone to take professional quality images.” Since there is little else to separate the Lumia 1020 from its fellow Windows Phone 8 Lumia brethren, Nokia desperately needs that camera to seduce the consumer market and revive the company’s fortunes. There can only be so many shots at a recovery before time simply runs out.

Ballmer shuffles his deck

A similar tale has been unfolding at Microsoft in recent years. Like Nokia, the firm was once an apparently unshakable force at the top of its sector, only to slip behind a new wave of ‘sexier’, more innovative brands. In the same vain as its Finnish mobile partner, Microsoft this week set about forging a fresh revival as embattled CEO Steve Ballmer announced a drastic company overhaul.

Among the key executive shuffles, Kurt DelBene will retire as president of Microsoft's Office division, having been at the firm since 1992. Terry Myerson, who has served as head of Windows Phone, will now be executive vice president of the operating system’s engineering group, which will cover "all our OS work for console, to mobile device, to PC, to back-end systems," Ballmer said. Rick Rashid will no longer run Microsoft Research and will instead focus on OS innovation, while Craig Mundie - who previously announced plans to retire next year - will be working on a "special project" for Ballmer through to the end of 2013 and continue on as a consultant in 2014.

"We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands," Ballmer wrote in a memo to staff, highlighting the essence of the firm’s new approach. You could say this mantra has already been pushed (rather unsuccessfully) since the launch of Windows 8 in October 2012. Ballmer and co were constantly telling us how the Windows ecosystem would run through all devices to unify our technological experience, with the touch-friendly, tiled UI mirrored across PCs, tablets, and Windows Phone handsets. Market share statistics show the vision hasn’t yet been realised.

Ballmer’s new line-up has a serious job on its hands to re-jig the status quo in Microsoft’s favour. The new approach, dubbed ‘One Microsoft’, is certainly a fitting name given the next two make-or-break launches from Redmond: Windows 8.1, and Xbox One.

Cyber-attack barrage refuses to relent on UK

Cyber-security has never been more relevant in the UK, and the vast sums being ploughed into projects to curb online threats seem more vindicated with every passing week.

The latest flashpoint relates to a successful data grab on the Ministry of Defence, significant enough to have “both security and financial consequences” for the country. That was the verdict of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee who revealed the information via its annual security report, in which cybercrime featured heavily. Yet details remain scarce on when the MoD attack happened and what data was stolen, and mere reference to the episode was inconspicuously buried deep within the report.

The manner of its disclosure therefore flies in the face of the new approach the government is advocating when it comes to tackling cybercrime – one of openness and transparency as soon an organisation is breached, so remedies can be developed quickly. This formed the very premise of the Cyber Security Information Partnership (CISP) partnership announced by Whitehall in March.

As such, it will be interesting to see if the private sector bows to pressure on companies to open up about suffering cyber-attacks. With a reported 70 cyber-espionage operations a month stealing valuable intellectual property from UK businesses, they may have no option but to own up and share intelligence if the battle against increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals has a chance to progress. Let’s hope the government shows them the way going forward.