Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Nokia Microsoft: my tuppence worth

My tuppence worth of smart arse observations about Nokia

I would like to add a few points regarding Nokia that I "feel" haven't been given sufficient coverage.

A personal insight into why Nokia has always been lagging behind in regards to the all important third-party apps.


When Zipipop started back in 2007, we became Finland's first company to make Facebook apps and in 2008 we won the Mobile 2.0 Best Early Stage Startup award in Barcelona for our Zipiko app.

Zipiko had been started as part of a Nokia competition, and the challenges we faced with our commitment to developing on the diverse Symbian web browsers is easily understood; however, not so well known is the attitude we encountered with Nokia's third party developer support team.

We attended a meeting with them to find out if they could provide any support in making Zipiko work better on Nokia phones.  The result was (remember it was 2008): pay 400 € and we give you the license to develop for us, and access to some extra documents on our developer portal. Doesn't sound like much to pay, but it was a lot for us at the time when we got almost nothing in return.

The attitude was basically: we are by far the largest maker of phones and it is your privilege that we let you develop for us. One of the team members was also totally dismissive of Facebook (which is a choice I respect, but not if you are in the mobile app developer business).

Not long after came Apple with its pay 100 USD and we give you an advanced SDK (software development kit), and easy-to-use app store, and a share in the sales.   Unfortunately we were too committed to Nokia, and our resources got consumed alongside the infamous "burning platform".

Things were later improved regarding third-party developers, but I totally agree with this 2011 analysis post (three years later) in the All About Symbian blog:

"The biggest failure in the Ovi strategy is that Nokia fundamentally underestimated the importance of third party applications. Ovi Store was slow to arrive at the start line of the app store race and the early implementation was poor. While the implementation has improved markedly, it is still fundamentally limited by an inadequate software catalogue, which is the direct result of failing to fully connect with developers and build the services, tools and platform requirements they needed to create a sustainable business."

So to this extent I think Elop was right in saying;

"The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems."
 
And to this extent I was supportive of the move towards Microsoft, in the sense that they at least did software (and hopefully app portals) better than Nokia, and there was the potential to tie into the substantial goodwill amongst businesses.

One thing is not listening, but another thing is not being told.


When I first came to Finland I was very aware that it was almost sacrreligious to criticize Nokia – both personally and especially not in the press.

So it used to worry me that the Nokia execs could potentially go about their day-to-day business in Finland, attending private dinner parties, etc. not even hearing suggestions that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

When my relatives and friends in the UK started swapping their Nokia's for the Samsung and Motorola clamp-shell phones (e.g. the Razr) around 2005, I tried hard to find a Nokia clampshell in London stores but Nokia didn't make one: Nokia's attitude was that it was just a phase and they didn't start producing a clam-shell until the significant "phase" was coming to an end – by which time huge swathes of users had abandoned ship.

So I am well aware that the fact I am writing this post now shows that I too was party to that silence.

Developing software iteratively in short time periods works – but not for physical devices


We are all aware of how Nokia's early fame for being easy to use got replaced with a reputation for being difficult to use – so I won't dwell on that; however, I did get really fed up with the many substantial faults in my various Nokia phones that I believe was the result of trying to rapidly develop physical devices iteratively in a similar way as software, but this doesn't work for physical things:  new models of the same phone would come out with fixes to the things that were broken or broke (sometimes physically) in previous (and recent) models.

In my case a stronger case fixing to the lanyard (mine snapped off) was added to the N92, and a harder screen to the N95 (the first soft one cracked in my pocket).



And after a while I lost all interest in the multitude of new upcoming models because they seemed to come out every month and it was impossible to keep track – compared to the hype surrounding the yearly release of the "signal" new iPhone. 

OK, I finally got that all out of my system – time to look forward


So I appoligise for taking this opportunity to use this post as a cathartic opportunity to release some long-buried angst.

I do believe that the Microsoft tie up will ensure Nokia remains at least the third big player in the market.

But it will take something extra to bring them higher – a few years ago at a private party one Nokia exec said he liked my Nokia King of Keys strategy – but I never saw any developments in that regard.

Maybe they should listen to it again ; )

2 comments:

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atta ur rehman said...

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