Hooman Khalili first got the idea to make a feature film shot entirely on a smartphone in January 2010. A little less than two years later, his film "Olive," shot on a Nokia N8, is going to be shown in a Los Angeles theater for a week.
That's not bad considering how hard it is for indie films to get a theatrical release these days.
But if you're thinking, "Maybe I should shoot a movie on my smartphone too," be forewarned: It's not as simple as it sounds. At least not yet.
"There was a lot of things making this nearly impossible for us," said Khalili.
The Nokia N8 shoots in high resolution, but before Khalili and his crew could start filming, they had to hack the phone to turn off the auto focus and the auto zoom.
"The camera thinks it knows what you want to focus on, but it doesn't know," he said.
They tried to pay professional camera makers to build a 35-millimeter camera that would work with the phone, but they were turned down everywhere.
Eventually Khalili and his team built what they needed from scratch, dismantling a 1940s-era movie camera to figure out how it should be done. And when it came time to attach the camera to the phone, the best they could come up with was double-sided tape.
The one overhead shot in the movie was made by putting the phone in a remote-control helicopter and hoping for the best.
Still, Khalili and his crew tried to keep the shoot as professional as possible. There were makeup artists and location scouts. Actress Gena Rowlands was involved. Khalili said the film cost less than $500,000 to make. He was hoping to get funding from Nokia but got turned down. Instead he got the cash from Chris Kelly, former chief privacy officer of Facebook.
Pre-production on "Olive" started in April of this year, and the actual shoot lasted five weeks. In order to make the deadline to submit the film to Sundance, the filmmakers edited it in nine days.
"We didn't leave room even for an accidental sick day," Khalili said. "If anything had gone wrong it would have thrown everything off."
Khalili, who is trying to raise $300,000 on Kickstarter to promote the film, is hoping to submit it for Oscar consideration. In order to do that he needed to get the film into theaters before the end of the year. On Thursday he persuaded Laemmle's Fallbrook 7 in West Hills to screen the movie for one week, beginning Dec. 16.
As for the film itself -- Khalili has made the first five minutes available online. It's billed as a film about a little girl who "transforms the lives of three people without speaking one word."
Nokia has announced more than 10,000layoffs for this year and next as a part of its effort to switch its devices over to Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system.
And on Wednesday, Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture between Nokia and Siemens (Germany's equivalent to General Electric Co. in the U.S.), announced that it is cutting 17,000 jobs.
The telecommunications company said that the layoffs are a part of a global restructuring that will allow it to be more competitve on the mobile side of its business.
"We believe that the future of our industry is in mobile broadband and services -– and we aim to be an undisputed leader in these areas," Rajeev Suri, Nokia Siemens' chief executive, said in a statement. "At the same time, we need to take the necessary steps to maintain long-term competitiveness and improve profitability in a challenging telecommunications market."
The job cuts will be completed by the end of 2013, the company said.
"These planned reductions are regrettable but necessary –- and it is our goal to make them in a fair and responsible way," Suri said.
The job reductions will also trim about $1 billion from the company's operating expenses over the next two years, the statement said.
It seems Nokia and Microsoft's multi-billion dollar relationship will encompass not just smartphones, but Windows 8 tablets as well.
Paul Amsellem, the head of Nokia France, told the French newspaper Les Echos in a Wednesday article that the Finnish phone maker is planning to launch a tablet running the next Windows operating system as early as next summer.
"In June 2012, we will have a tablet that runs on Windows 8," Amsellem told the newspaper, according to a translation of the article.
Amsellem didn't offer Les Echos details on a Nokia Windows 8 tablet beyond that, but I did take a look at Windows 8 back in September running on an HP prototype slate and the new operating system, which will run on both tablets and desktop PCs, brought over a touch interface very similar to the Windows Phone software.
Amsellem also told Les Echos that Nokia is planning to expand its lineup of Windows Phone handsets, which currently consists of the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800. Both of those phones are available outside of the U.S. already and will hit America sometime in 2012.
The Nokia executive said that higher end Lumia phones were planned in the company's Windows Phone expansion.
"It's a bit the equivalent of the BMW 5 Series," Amsellem said in the interview, comparing the Lumia 800 to BMW's midsize sedan. "We will soon have a full range with a 7 Series and 3 Series."
The 3 Series is BMW's line of smaller compact cars, while the 7 Series is the largest, most luxurious and most expensive sedan the German automaker offers. Given the analogy, Nokia could offer a three phone lineup, with varying features, specs and price across the range.
Officials at Nokia were unavailable for comment on the Les Echos report on Wednesday.
But, for now, feel free to take another look at Windows 8 as seen in our "hands-on" video with a prototype HP tablet after the operating system made its debut.
Nokia unveiled its first Windows Phone handsets on Wednesday: the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800.
The stylish phones mark the first major step by Nokia in its gamble on Microsoft's smartphone operating system under an agreement announced in February and signed in April.
The devices, unveiled at the company's Nokia World event in London, are expected to be available in most markets in Europe and Asia this year, but not in the U.S.. The Lumia 710 is set to arrive in the U.S. in 2012. Nokia didn't say when or even whether the Lumia 800 would come stateside.
Windows Phone will need some very compelling hardware if it's going to steal smartphone market share from Google's Android or Apple's iPhone.
The most distinguishing feature of the Lumia 710 is a Nokia trademark: The back cover can be swapped by the user for a different color.
But aside from its looks, the Lumia 710 isn't offering much to differentiate itself from Windows Phone handsets already on the market in the U.S.
It will come in at 0.49-inch thick, with a 3.7-inch touch screen with anti-glare coating and a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, a single-core 1.4-gigahertz processor from Qualcomm, 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, 512 megabytes of RAM, eight gigabytes of storage with no microSD card slot. The Lumia 710 will run on 3G networks.
All of that is respectable but still would land the Lumia 710 at the bottom end of the smartphone market spec-wise -- competing against other Windows Phones and the Apple iPhone 4, which sells for $100.
The Lumia 800 will get 16 gigabytes of built-in storage and an 8-megapixel camera as well as a unique chassis with rounded edges. Both handsets will run the latest version of Windows Phone 7, that being 7.5 Mango.
Nokia hasn't said how much either phone would cost in the U.S. or what carriers its Windows Phone handsets will be available on.
Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Phone operating system has been playing catch-up to Google's Android and Apple's iOS ever since it launched on smartphones about a year ago.
And with Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango, being the first major update to Microsoft's mobile OS since its launch, that still hasn't changed. What also hasn't changed is that Windows Phone is one of the easiest-to-use smartphone operating systems on the market and a great entry point for those looking to get their first smartphone.
Mango adds 500 new features to Windows Phone but the look and feel of the software is pretty much exactly the same. The "live tiles" and "Metro" user interface remain in place and for good reason -- the look is an attractive one that even at a year old still feels new.
Yet at this point, despite the Mango update, Windows Phone in my opinion doesn't feel like it will rival Android or iOS for market share anytime soon. Microsoft's rivals continue to add polish and pull further ahead with Apple's iOS 5 being my favorite of the pack currently and the promising Android Ice Cream Sandwich on the way.
But Windows Phone 7.5 is a big improvement over 7.0 and with RIM continuing to struggle with its own BlackBerry mobile platform, it seems Microsoft has an opportunity to snag the No. 3 spot in the smartphone wars -- especially with new Nokia, Samsung and HTC handsets planned.
Some of Mango's most outstanding new features follow in the footsteps of what's been available on other platforms for some time.
Multitasking on Mango is easy and fun.
Windows Phone handsets have three buttons sitting below their touchscreens -- a back button to the left (indicated by a back arrow), a home button (which is a Windows logo) in the center and a search button (a magnifying glass icon) to the right.
Hold down the back button and whatever window you're in shrinks to sit in a row of screenshots of other apps running in the background. You can scroll between the window panes to see what's running and tap on the pane you want to launch into that app.
Want to see what this looks like? Check out our video demonstration below.
The whole scheme is visually appealing and multitasking on Mango achieves the same goal as multitasking in Android or iOS, but the whole thing is pulled off in a unique style. It's refreshing to see Microsoft do this, and many other things, without feeling like it's a copy of its rivals.
Maps gain a feature called Local Scout which, whenever you let the Maps app know your current location, quickly serves up suggestions on what's nearby for eating and drinking, seeing and doing, shopping at and other highlights. Essentially, Local Scout adds a Yelp-like feature to Maps that works well and can aid in discovering new places and things in an unfamiliar location.
Local Scout also offers ratings and even suggests helpful apps that might be related to whatever the location is that you're checking out -- such as Foursquare, Foodspotting or transit-related apps.
The app suggestions, which Microsoft calls App Connect, also show up outside of Local Scout and in other spots such as the phone's built-in Bing search app. When you search in Bing, expected search results are returned, but a list of suggested Apps come up too. For example, if you're searching for something related to a breaking news story, a list of news apps might show up.
Bing search overall is improved as well.
Users can search by voice, text and images such as bar codes, QR codes, or the covers of CDs, DVDs and books. Local Scout is built into Bing and there's also a song-recognition feature too.
Altogether, Bing on Mango offers one of the most satisfying search apps on any smartphone I've tested.
Mango also does a great job of integrating social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn into the OS. This isn't a new idea either -- iOS integrates Twitter, and Android has long done the same for Facebook and Twitter and soon Google+. But again, the way Microsoft does this is impressive.
Inside of Mango's People app (Microsoft likes to call it the "People hub"), users can get an overview of what all of their friends across those social networks are up to in one place -- status updates, shared links, photos and other shared items.
And users can now also create groups inside of the People app, such as friends, family, co-workers, college buddies -- anything you can imagine. And you can call your groups whatever you want -- I called my friends' group "homies."
However, despite all of the fantastic improvements in Mango that will surely make existing Windows Phone users happy, I don't believe Microsoft has a "killer app" or one significant attraction that would pull droves of consumers toward a Mango phone over an Android or an iPhone.
When Windows Phone launched a year ago, Microsoft marketed the software on its ease of use and simple look that the live tiles offered with data being pushed to the tiles without even having to launch an app. And while that is a differentiating factor, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has admitted that the company hasn't seen the level of sales it was looking for.
What Microsoft has shown is that it now takes the mobile space seriously and Mango is a big step in becoming more competitive. But Windows Phone has a lot of ground to make up. So, here's an unsolicited thought: Go after mobile gaming with Windows Phone.
Ever since Windows Phone launched, gaming has been disappointing compared to what's available on Android and iOS. Sure, users can see their Xbox Live avatar on the Windows Phone and, yup, Angry Birds and other fun titles are there too. Still, many games aren't up to the impressive standard that the Xbox name brings along.
Here's a testament to Apple's leadership in smartphone gaming: Epic Games, which produces one of the top gaming franchises on Microsoft's Xbox 360 in the Gears of War trilogy, also produces one of iOS's top-selling game series in Infinity Blade. When Apple announced the iPhone 4S, Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, was at the event and introduced a new Infinity Blade game.
We've seen the studies that say gaming is among the most popular category of apps being sold on smartphones. Nokia, Samsung and HTC are all promising to bring better hardware to Windows Phone and game developers are looking to make more mobile games in response to this growing market. All the pieces of the puzzle are there.
If Microsoft really wants to start selling a large number of smartphones, making Xbox Live gaming the "killer app" of Windows Phone might be the answer.
Nokia announced it would cut 3,500 jobs in its second round of layoffs in the last six months as it restructures itself to use Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system in its products. The phone maker said the newest job cuts are tied to "manufacturing, Location & Commerce, and supporting functions."
The latest layoffs come in addition to 7,000 jobs cut in April when Nokia ended development of its Symbian operating system in favor of aligning with Microsoft. Symbian was the world's most popular smartphone operating system until Android dethroned it in the fourth quarter of 2010.
The newly announced job cuts will take place by 2012, Nokia said in a statement, and include the closure of a manufacturing plant in Cluj, Romania. The cuts will also affect jobs across Europe related to that plant's operations.
The jobs cut in the Finnish company's location and commerce divisions are related to Nokia's location, mapping and navigation services in Bonn, Germany, and Malvern, Pa. Nokia is planning on partnering with Microsoft for those services.
Nokia also said it was going to review the long-term role of its manufacturing operations in Salo, Finland, Komarom, Hungary, and Reynosa, Mexico, a process that could result in job losses in those locations early next year.
"These factories are expected to continue to play a key role in serving European and North American smartphone customers, but the plan is to gradually shift their focus to customer and market-specific software and sales package customization," Nokia said. "It is estimated this would have an impact on the number of personnel in 2012, with no impact in 2011. Nokia will engage in discussions with employee representatives and stakeholders in these sites, and expects to have more visibility into the possible headcount impacts in the first quarter of 2012."
Stephen Elop, Nokia's president and chief executive and a former Microsoft executive, said the job cuts will enable the company to make needed changes that should allow it to succeed in the long run.
"We are seeing solid progress against our strategy, and with these planned changes we will emerge as a more dynamic, nimble and efficient challenger," Elop said. "We must take painful, yet necessary, steps to align our workforce and operations with our path forward."
Photo: Nokia employees leave a factory near Cluj, Romania, after a meeting to discuss the cellphone maker's latest round of layoffs. The job cuts will result in the closure of the plant, which opened four years ago. Credit: Mircea Rosca/Reuters
Pushing aside once-dominant players Nokia Corp. and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd., Google Inc.'s Android and Apple Inc. devices now account for 62% of smartphones sold worldwide, nearly doubling the 32% share the two had at this time last year, according to a report today from research firm Gartner Inc.
The recent quarter also marked the first time that smartphones outsold previous generation "feature phones" in North America, said Hugues De La Vergne, the Gartner analyst who prepared the report.
In North America alone, the Apple-Android combination accounted for 83.5% of smartphone sales.
Android devices alone now account for 43.4% of the smartphones sold globally each quarter, showing the Google-powered operating system has gone from a minor player to a market force in a relatively short time. That is partly because of a growing number of phone manufacturers who are offering lower-cost Android phones, often in the $100 range.
As of the first quarter of last year, Android smartphones still made up less than 10% of smartphone sales, increasing to 17% the next quarter. A year later -- the end of the second quarter of 2011 -- Android phones accounted for 43.4% of unit sales.
As for Apple, nearly 1 in 5 smartphones (18.2%) sold around the world is now an iPhone. Unlike Google, which is responsible for the basic architecture of its Android operating system but does not itself manufacture phones, Apple builds its own phones and profits directly every time an iPhone is sold. Indeed, with more than 20 million sold last quarter, iPhone sales have propelled Apple to record profits. The company is now neck and neck with Exxon Mobil Corp. as the world's largest firm by market value.
Although Finnish phone-maker Nokia still remains in second place, the company's share of the smartphone market has dropped steeply, to 22% in the recent quarter from 41% a year earlier.
Research in Motion also dropped further behind, falling from 18.7% of phones sold to 11.7%. And despite several attempts to promote its line of smartphones, Microsoft Corp. has had trouble getting traction, slipping to 1.6% of smartphones sold from 4.9% a year earlier.
Google's Android operating system continued its dominance of the U.S. smart-phone market in June, but it was Apple and its ever popular iPhone that took the top spot among actual phones sold, according to new data from the Nielsen research group.
The Android OS powered 39% of smart phones in the U.S. last month, while Apple's iOS landed in second place with 28% and Research In Motion's Blackberry phones fell 1% from May to a 20% share of the market in third place, Nielsen said.
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS had a 9% share of the market in June, while HP webOS accounted for 2%, as did Nokia's Symbian.
In May, Nielsen's findings pegged Android at a 38% share, with Apple at a 27% share.
"However, because Apple is the only company manufacturing smartphones with the iOS operating system, it is clearly the top smartphone manufacturer in the United States," Nielsen said.
The Taiwanese company HTC was responsible for 14% of the U.S. smart-phone market with its Android phones and an additional 6% with its Windows Phone 7 handsets, Nielsen said. That combined 20% share of the overall U.S. smart-phone market, leaves HTC tied for second place in with RIM.
Motorola's Android devices are owned by 11% of smart-phone users in the U.S., while Samsung's Android devices are used by 8% of consumers and its Windows Phone 7 devices take a 2% share, Nielsen said.
Check out Nielsen's June data as presented in its graphic below.
Apple and Nokia have reached a settlement in patent disputes over mobile phone technology going back as far as 2009.
In the agreement, Apple will provide Nokia with a one-time payment as well as licensing royalties in the future -- though Nokia, which announced the settlement, wouldn't say how much was being paid by Apple.
The payments will cover all past and ongoing use of patented Nokia technology by Apple, the Finnish tech company said.
"We are very pleased to have Apple join the growing number of Nokia licensees," Stephen Elop, Nokia's president and CEO, said in a statement. "This settlement demonstrates Nokia's industry-leading patent portfolio and enables us to focus on further licensing opportunities in the mobile communications market."
Both companies have agreed to drop their patent suits against each other, Nokia said, but other "specific terms" of the agreement are confidential.
Apple officials were unavailable for comment on the settlement on Tuesday.
The disputes between the two firms, covering more than 30 patents, came in complaints to the U.S. International Trade Commission relating to technology used in touch-based user interfaces, on-device app stores and other mobile features used in Nokia phones and Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch products.
Nokia said it has spent more than $62 billion over the last 20 years in research and development to build a portfolio of more than 10,000 "patent families" and that "this agreement is expected to have a positive financial impact on Nokia's recently revised outlook for the second quarter 2011."
The smartphone market worldwide could end up growing by 55% in 2011 as more consumers ditch other mobile phones for smartphones, and Windows Phone could be the second-most-popular operating system by 2015, according to a research group.
International Data Corp. said in its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report that about 472 million smartphones could ship to retailers in 2011, significantly outpacing an estimated 305 million shipped in 2010.
The research group also is predicting that smartphone shipments could nearly double to 982 million by the end of 2015.
The reasons for the rapid growth in the smartphone market, "which will grow more than four times the rate of the overall mobile phone market this year," include declining average smartphone prices, increased functionality and cheaper data plan options, which all make smartphones attractive and attainable to an increased number of consumers, IDC said in its report.
"The smartphone floodgates are open wide," Kevin Restivo, a senior research analyst at IDC, said in a statement. "Mobile phone users around the world are turning in their 'talk-and-text' devices for smartphones as these devices allow users to perform daily tasks like shopping and banking from anywhere."
Growth in the smartphone market is taking place worldwide, but is especially noticeable in emerging markets such as the Asia/Pacific and Latin American regions of the globe, which will only accelerate in coming years, Restivo said.
In a prediction that few other analysts probably would share, IDC said in its report that it expects Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system to account for as much as 20% of the smartphone market by 2015 largely because of its alliance with Nokia -- which so far has yet to produce a Windows Phone 7 handset for consumers.
"Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will benefit from Nokia's support, scope, and breadth within markets where Nokia has historically had a strong presence," IDC said.
Nokia isn't expected to begin producing a significant number of smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS until 2012, which will result in Windows Phone remaining a small player in the market this year, and probably next year too.
"Nevertheless, assuming that Nokia's transition to Windows Phone goes smoothly, the OS is expected to defend a number 2 rank and more than 20% share in 2015," the group said.
IDC estimated that Windows Phone will end up with about a 3.8% share of the worldwide smartphone market at the end of this year.
The research firm also predicts that Google's Android OS will remain in first place, growing to more than 40% of the global smartphone market in the second half of 2011, and taking about a 43% share by 2015.
Apple's iOS platform is ranked third in IDC estimates and the firm is expecting that to remain all the way through 2015.