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Nokia did everything right for a very long time. But when everything is great success, people behind that success shadow the people who could make success in the future.

Netflix is great example of how to do big transition right. Netflix was in renting DVDs by mail business. When the decision to move to streaming was made, Netflix CEO did not allow managers who responsible for DVD renting business into meetings where the future was planned.

People responsible for Symbian should have been locked out from all future planning. They were allowed to participate and of course they sabotaged–both intentionally and unintentionally–all big changes. Moving from hardware and embedded software world to full software platform mindset required completely different people.




You hit the nail on the head. That's exactly the same reason why the big German Auto companies can't build a Tesla rival even though they have more resources.

All the old boys managers of ICE tech run the show and don't want electric to be too successful as their decades of experience in a now outdated tech would put the future of their corporate careers in danger.

Had a similar situation at an ex company where a manger would only allow a crummy outdated tool he developed 10 years ago to be used as that guaranteed his job security.

To move forward you have to find the people holding the company back and cut them off, but that's difficult to see from an upper management perspective.


Big German auto companies don't want to build a Tesla rival because there is no money in electric vehicles to be had.


So true. Blackberry is another example of doing it wrong. I was at presentations of there's when the iPhone was coming out and the CEO was still talking about battery life in pagers. They couldn't see apps taking hold and actually actively blocked it. We had a streaming audio/podcast app that legally re-broadcast other people's stations and they wouldn't support it because they were afraid of the RIAA, etc.


> They couldn't see apps taking hold and actually actively blocked it.

Didnt Steve Jobs block the idea of having native third party apps on the first Iphone as well.


While I can understand the reasoning of letting new managers in, it sounds pretty brutal. Imagine you helped the company to make billions and be a market leader and the result is that the CEO starts excluding you from meetings because you represent old success.

Like with age discrimination, a company should be able to judge people by character, not just by CV or age.


As I read it, it’s exactly judge people by character.


For me it sounds more like judging by past success. Just because someone successfully built a DVD business doesn't mean they cannot help to build a streaming business. Excluding people who were successful with "old" technology usually just leads to age discrimination.


They were doing things wrong long before the iPhone was released, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_7600


I think that's a sign of Nokia doing the right things.

Nokia made a metric fuckton of different kinds of phones. Some of them, like your example, were just really goddamn weird and didn't really work out. But the key thing is that they weren't just sitting on their asses making a better Nokia 3310 every year.

When Nokia found a winning formula they absolutely used it and created devices based on that formula. However they were never afraid to try new weird shit. Doing new things and trying to break the mold of a traditional handset was exactly what allowed them to find new features and things to add to phones.

Their real problem was that they were too slow to adopt the changes brought forth by the iPhone, and were too confident in their dominance over the mobile market so they never saw the possibility of someone overtaking them.


Nokia had big screen touch-centric smartphone model prototypes long before Apple even dreamed doing phones. It was not like the idea was not there.

It was classical engineer vs. designer/marketer viewpont.

It's slower to write in touch-screen. From objective engineering perspective it's backwards in ergonomy. But most people who are not power users like Obama and his blacberry addiction. They just want to point and drag and big screen is better for pointing.

Steve Jobs saw the trade-off. Uses are willing to write slower and do more errors in exchange of bigger screen. Nokia engineers were doing ssh connections with Nokia Communicator and iPhone UI sucked small planets for anyone writing a lot. Touch-screens are still slower for writing.


> Steve Jobs saw the trade-off.

Well according to some folclore it wasn't that straight forward.

It also took a long time and a lot of tries from internal teams to Jobs acknowledge they were onto something. Jobs had the same concerns you mentioned, and some more (accordingly).

And one of the deal breakers for the iPhone to be launched was the Keyboard, where they were predicting which was the most probable letter to be typed and increased the area of the letter without displaying it.

Don't take me wrong, Jobs ended up being the one pushing forward with ridiculous deadlines, high ambitious goals, and, when he was on the train, the vision.


Pre-iPhone Nokias all had resistive touchscreens. Not a pleasant experience for pointing and dragging. Before 2007 no one was insane enough to put glass on a phone.


This. It's not the glass specifically (you can still buy cheap androids with polycarbonate screens), but the capacitative touchscreen, which is more expensive and requires a much fancier controller to read. But without it, either you have to use a stylus, which despite Samsung's belief hardly anyone wants, or press fairly hard. And you can't do multi-touch at all.

Capacitative touchscreen + "real" web browser (not WAP!) was the key capability of the iPhone. The fact that it subsumed the already successful iPod was a big benefit too.


> you have to use a stylus, which despite Samsung's belief hardly anyone wants

That's an odd swipe in an otherwise good post. You don't have to use a stylus with the Galaxy Note series but the option is quite popular


> which despite Samsung's belief hardly anyone wants

Which is why nobody is buying ipad pros or surface pros and Wacom is bankrupt /s.

Having a pen in addition to capacitive touch is great. Having only a pen was not. Though the resistive screens in the Nokia N900 or the Nintendo DS for example were not bad.


First usable application of capacitive digitiser on the smartphone was done by HTC. Even before Touch, they tried to make WinMo operable without a stylus.

A big part of Iphone 1 UI was a direct copy of HTC designs.


> It's slower to write in touch-screen. From objective engineering perspective it's backwards in ergonomy.

I've seen this idea a lot on Hacker News and similarly-minded sites ever since the iPhone came out. It's a myth--touchscreen keyboards with good software are faster than physical ones. The Guinness world record for phone typing speed has gone to touchscreen keyboard users for years, and it doesn't even allow autocorrect or predictive text [1]. The average typing speed on touchscreens is only 14wpm less than on full computer keyboards, and some people get up to 85wpm [2]. Software buttons are larger than physical ones and they change activation area based on the predicted next character, among other advantages. Even if screen space weren't an issue, touchscreen keyboards would still be better.

[1] https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2014/5/fastest-tou...

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-49933204


> It's slower to write in touch-screen. From objective engineering perspective it's backwards in ergonomy. But most people who are not power users like Obama and his blacberry addiction. They just want to point and drag and big screen is better for pointing.

You could see it the other way around: for regular users who mostly just wanted to message, which was their core audience since the 3310, the keyboard was best. For power users who wanted to take advantage of the new features that were being ported from the PDAs used by professionals, like Wifi and HTML browsers, it was clearly that the lack of a decent pointing device was a major hindrance.


>Nokia had big screen touch-centric smartphone model prototypes long before Apple even dreamed doing phones. It was not like the idea was not there.

Yes. They just didn't have the skills or the execution or the taste to apply the idea...


Nokia 7xxx was fashion and experimental series and not a sign of failure. They were used to test features and target specific consumer segments. In that era it was common to launch large number of different models each year. 3-4 different series and different models in each series. It was how the old hardware-centric model worked. The phone fashion changed from year to year and Nokia was constantly increasing the market share.

When you move to smartphones as software platforms you produce basically the same phone hardware with 2-3 small variations. It was this transition that Nokia missed.


I've heard the idea that all the different products were a cause in Nokia's downfall, since all the different product lines wouldn't be as profitable as one big series and it would prevent the designers and marketers from focusing on one model only, dispersing the efforts of the company.


Wow, was that as brutal as it sounds? Not necessarily wrong, I've seen the result of the "old guard" slowing down and missing the point of radial changes, but what happened to the people involved in the DVD rentals? Were they laid off? Or transitioned back when the major decisions and direction had been set? Just curious really :)





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