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Nokia Plan B (nokiaplanb.com)
317 points by wybo on Feb 14, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 174 comments

I did a bunch of work with Nokia back when I was working at Orange. We had a project to build push to talk software on Series 60 phones. Besides the idea that push to talk is a horrible idea, my job was to work with Nokia to make sure the software worked properly. We had some lower level software from our hardware provider (Kodiak Networks) and some UI code that we had built ourselves.

As these projects tend to go, things didn't go well. due to various issues in the Nokia closed source software layer there were a number of bugs we (Orange & Kodiak) couldn't fix. We decided to fly to Tampere (one of Nokia's R&D locations) to fix the problem.

Tampere is a lovely place to eat Reindeer. However, not once did I meet an engineer who could get shit done. Not once - Nokia never paired us with a serious developer who could even attempt to fix issues in their code. They surrounded us with product manager wankers and threw in a 22 year old engineer who wasn't able to make much progress debugging the problem. The Kodiak engineer was all ready to attack the problem with a dev board and a JTAG but no one would let us in the lab. What a clusterfck. Apparently a good bit of the S60 development wasn't even done in Tampere (or Finland). I think it might have been done in Japan. I think these sort of issues are what the author of the article alluded to regarding distributed development teams.

Perhaps I only saw a small slice of the Nokia culture. But it was really* bad.

I'm glad the guys behind nokiaplanb.com are passionate about fixing Nokia. Much as I think the M$ alliance is a waste of time, I admire Elop's bold actions. I can't see continued development of MeeGo as useful. What I have seen to date has been unimpressive and late. Additionally -why not just use Android as the base OS and innovate on top of it?

To counter point, 5 years back when our company sold our software product to Nokia, I flew to Finland to talk about architecture and implementation.

Ended up giving a lecture to 8 (+2 PMs) Nokia engineers, many of whom asked the most intelligent and domain relevant questions I heard so far. (3 even asked me to stay after the lecture and go over detail).

Things got done

good :) No doubt once you are plugged in their engineering talent is top notch.

MeeGo smartphones and tablet devices will offer overwhelmingly superior experiences and applications than iOS and Android based competitor products

That is one bold statement. I don't know if I'd bet the company's success on a claim like that.

Yes, their commitment to MeeGo being the center piece of their strategy is where I fall off being on the same page as these folks.

Phones need strong app ecosystems and familiar apps that everyone expects, but developers can only realistically support so many discrete platforms.

Nokia is great at making hardware, they should be confident that is what will stop them being a commodity OEM should they support a first-class citizen operating system (which is iOS or Android - so assuming no deal to support iOS means for me they have to do Android)

Depending on how Alien Dalvik works out, Meego may be able to take advantage of the existing Android ecosystem, while keeping the really nice bits of Maemo/Meego like telephony/messaging/address book subsystems.

       Phones need strong app ecosystems and familiar 
       apps that everyone expects
Both iOS and Android started with zero apps.

MeeGo is based on the Linux ecosystem. Porting games from Android / iOS to MeeGo should be trivial. Building cross-platform apps that run on all of them in C++ is also doable, since you can share the business-logic.

Android would be a bad choice for them. They are big enough to want to differentiate themselves from the competition. Forking Android would be terrible for everybody; Symbian all over again.

So MeeGo or a new version of Symbian is their best option: they can reuse existing code-bases and they also have enough control.

Either way, the partnership with Microsoft is a disaster.

"Porting... should be trivial."

There is a world of difference between getting an <strikeout>executable program application</strikeout> app to run and designing one from the ground up that is platform specific and provides an optimal UX.

That's why I said "games", which are written in C++ and for which you only really need OpenGL ES. Other differences can be easily abstracted.

And when speaking about "games", they have their own UI, so providing an optimal UX is not about using OS-specific widgets.

Apologies. I missed your games distinction. Quite right.

    Building cross-platform apps that run on all of them in C++ is also doable, since you can share the business-logic.
What about the OS-specific APIs? I would be more confident in a mono-type framework that makes Android ports much easier.

If you want the best user-experience, you have to use the OS-specific APIs.

Otherwise your best options are Webview components + HTML + Javascript + some native hooks to provide the missing functionality. Works quite well, take a look at PhoneGap + JQuery mobile / jQTouch.

I disagree. The platform has to first exist and be attractive for developers to wanna invest in it. This is the big advantage WP7 has over MeeGo.

I have both an iPhone and an Android with dozens of apps on them.

But I could do without all of them, all I need is an Email client + a browser + a Skype client.

If you build a usable/reliable OS with a usable browser and email client, people will buy your phone and devs will come.

WP7 is not even on the radar yet for developers. Porting apps to WP7 for me is waisted effort instead of improving the code-bases for Android / iOS (which also have shared logic that I cannot port easily to WP7 because WP7 doesn't allow native code).

Right, but the problem is MeeGo doesn't even exist in a final or mature form yet. As Elop said, they could probably only get a MeeGo device out next year!

As for the native code argument, well I don't entirely buy that. Developing for WP7 is easy and accessible enough - as evidenced by the flood of apps the platform has already.

Mobile phones are practically fashion accessories. You can buy jeans for $20 (if you don't mind the quality and lack of a brand), but lots of people still buy Levi jeans.

Levi's are the Fords of the jean world; they're hardly a fashion label.

I can tell you it varies by country. In places where they are scarce it is very much a fashion label. Believe it or not, so is GAP. I've given away tons of old GAP stuff I bought in college to family and friends who absolutely adore it but can't afford it.

Your reasoning sounds exactly the same reasoning they used against Apple for the iPhone.

Sure, but I wouldn't sacrifice my position as the world's leading commodity phone OEM to try to compete on features and brand with Apple; that sounds far more obviously suicidal than gambling on the Win Phone 7 platform

> That is one bold statement. I don't know if I'd bet the company's success on a claim like that.

This whole "Plan B" is big on nice-sounding words that don't stand up to a serious critical analysis. Here's the first point, for instance -

> Return the company to a strategy that seeks high growth and high profit margins through innovation and overwhelmingly superior products with unrivaled user experience.

1. High growth strategy (lower price, more market share, more sales) tends to be antagonistic with high profit margins (high price, lower market share, less sales).

2. "innovation and overwhelmingly superior products with unrivaled user experience" - They're going up against Apple, who are already doing an overwhelmingly superior job and producing an unrivaled user experience... and Apple has a 5-10 year head start. How do they plan to make that gap up while charging high prices (for high margins), and getting large market share?

...the whole site seems more based on arousing emotion than critical thinking/planning.

That is a bold statement, but I think MeeGo would be a better bet for Nokia.

Maintain ownership and control of the software layer of the Nokia products. Software is where innovation, differentiation and shareholder value can most easily be created.

This IMHO is undeniable.

yes but it's something they've been failing at for years. People buy their phones (around the world) because they make the best hardware, but they're losing ground to others who can make much better software.

Nokia 3310 was my first phone. It had the best software and user interface of its time.

Nokia 6310, featuring similar software, also dominated the market for business phones for a long time. Even when phones with color screens started to sell, people would still buy Nokia 6310 because it was reliable and easy to use.

Of course it is nothing compared to today's smartphones, but you're overestimating the talent and resources required to build good software, especially when they've got all the resources and talent they need.

Their problem is not that they can't write software. Their problem is the lack of focus, and this latest partnership only makes matters worse.

No, their problem is exactly that. They can't write software.

A software on 3310/6310 was much simpler than what we have today. It was hard to write because of the hardware requirements, but it was simple in design.

Please show me a piece of software you wrote, with UI as simple as the interface on 3310/6310, but also packing as much functionality.

    it was simple in design
The design was anything but simple. You only need to take a look at equivalent phones from Ericsson / Motorola from that time.

yes their software used to be the best but that was a long time ago, and things were simpler then.

From what I can tell they are cancelling all their different software efforts and focusing on making great hardware to go with Microsofts operating system. What makes you think this is making their lack of focus worse? Sounds to me like it's a step in the right direction? If they were adding WP7 to their current offerings I'd agree but I thought they weren't doing that?

Yes, for about 5 years I wouldn't buy anything but Nokia. And it wasn't because of the hardware, it was because the interface / usability was leagues ahead of the rest.

I wonder how many people bought a Nokia because it comes with free offline turn-by-turn navigation maps for most of the planet. I did then.

I don't think anyone disagrees on that point. But I see a lot of comments across the web (and here on HN) that people agree Nokia's strength is hardware, not software. If they don't have strength in software, can they really execute innovation, differentiation, and shareholder value at the software level? Elop's clearly shown where he stands on that thought with his burning platform memo. And I think the majority of people (from what I've seen from anecdotal evidence) agree with Elop.

Yeah, what are the chances they would come out with a compelling smartphone software platform in the next few months? It's hard to do good work with flames around you. ;-)

Maybe MeeGo would be great but that's certainly unclear at this point. They had years to come out with compelling software and they did not deliver. Essentially these guys are asking for more time.

At this point the steamroller that is Android is up to speed. I don't see how MeeGo is going to make inroads anymore unless it is drastically better. Even though WP7 is actually shipping, it has a similar problem. IMHO, it has to be quite a bit better than Android in order to gain much market share.

No, it isn't undeniable. IMO it's quite the opposite.

Are you saying that the software is the place it's the easiest to create a competitive advantage? (I understand that shareholder value equals to competitive advantage)

This statement is logically wrong - if it's easy for everybody to create a competitive advantage, then it's easy for nobody.

Or did you mean "It's software where Nokia can gain a competitive advantage against the competition". If so, then you should explain what is so special about Nokia.. Because from what we've seen so far this company proved anything but that it can do software well.

Or didn't mean a competitive advantage, but just innovation and differentiation? (I think that most people that repeat this statement do think it). Well - it is indeed easy to innovate and differentiate in software (change the UI, add some bells and whistles). But does it lead to the competitive advantage and shareholder value? There are plenty of examples to show that it doesn't (Symbian, BeOS to name a few).

So: no. Just because Apple uses software to gain shareholder value doesn't mean that it's just as good an idea for other hardware producers.

"most easily be created?" ...I don't see it that way. Building mobile software platform which would be attractive to both users and developers is extremely difficult to build. They already failed several times at that.

I think this is just the same old Nokia thinking - underestimating the difficulty of creating top notch software.

What I believe they are meaning with this is the next generation smartphone market, not the current one. WP7 and iOS will be needing total rework to fit in, whereas Meego is fine even at the moment (..when it is stable at least!). Targeting current market for complete takeover is just stupid, unless you are happy with dying out slowly.

Getting into margins now is job of WP7 platform. Symbian is not fit into smartphone field (use S^3 if you don't believe) and these guys realise it. True that Meego will need lot of work, but there should be enough time to polish it before market they should be targing opens.

Why would iOS require total rework to fit? The most important thing iOS brought was the idea, that small touchscreen requires new UI paradigm. I don't see that changing anytime soon. As for the "under the hood" stuff, it already has a lot in common with OS X, and will share even more with the release of Lion. Apple for one is known to be looking way ahead of "current market".

Chips that are able to put out more power than current netbooks and still fit into smarphones are not too far away, I'd expect those be ready for market in couple years. Handhelds would be phones that could also be used as laptops/dockable computers. Meego and Qt makes it almost trivial to make same apps work on touchscreen and also with traditional monitor/mouse/keyboard. Remember, the OS is not the platform anymore, it's the app ecosystem.

>Apple for one is known to be looking way ahead of "current market".

So was Nokia. So was Microsoft. It is easy get stuck into profitable segment and not to expand in fear of losses.

Plus, how many MeeGo devices has Nokia shipped? AFAIK, MeeGo system images are available for Nokia N900 (Maemo) handset, but not shipped on _any_ device. Betting the company on that track record would be quite a big bet.

MeeGo is just a Maemo's next incarnation. And Nokia has quite a succesfull track of Maemo-based Nx00 devices.

I know they are saying it's coming soon, but this is really missing 9 bios. You have a definitive plan for what you'll do if elected to the Board of Directors, which is a great start. But writing an open letter, asking for something so serious, without a paragraph-long bio on each one of you is crazies in my book.

I agree. If they can get a major shareholder as even a figurehead, it would add a lot more credibility over "9 young shareholders", which means they have at least 1 share each.

No kidding, if they could actually head a company like Nokia and create a superior UX then why not go shop your bios around SV looking for some VC to make a mobile OS. Or go shop your resume at Apple / Google / Microsoft. WinPhone 7 is light years ahead of anything I've seen from Nokia.

Their naivety is betrayed when the talk about developing technology in house and then talk about Qt. If Nokia could build their own GUI toolkit they'd have no use for Qt.

They already own Qt and all intellectual property associated, so why not use it? It's also a cross-platform toolkit with a clean interface and lots of mind-share.

The whole MeeGo operating system is using bits and pieces from the Linux ecosystem.

There's nothing wrong with that. The difference between them using MeeGo and them using Android or WinMo 7, is that with MeeGo they have complete control, as it's their platform.

      WinPhone 7 is light years ahead of anything I've seen from Nokia
This statement doesn't hold water. I've tried WinMo 7, and it is decent, but all I could say about it was the same as for Windows 7 ... it is not that bad, but it's late, and limited, and those animations are causing me nausea, and tell me why should I choose a Windows again when I tried so hard to get rid of it the last time?

Also, speaking as a developer, porting games from iOS / Android to WinMo 7 is not really possible without a 100% complete rewrite.

And what happens when they completely break backwards compatibility again for WinMo 8, like they did with 7?

Now you've got 3 problems.

Wouldn't disagree with you on porting.

Backwards compat w/ WinMo 8? You rewrite your apps and get to sell them again :)

Nokia has also switched from Symbian to MeeGo so what's to stop them from breaking compat?

The point of directing a public company is to do so with the best interests of the shareholders, I could be wrong but I have a feeling the majority of the shareholders of Nokia would be happier with Elops plan than the plan of these guys.

Yeah, in which case they'd probably be better to sell the shares than attempt to grab the helm of a sinking ship.

I was looking for the bio's myself - It would make a big difference, especially for people who do not know the whole Nokia story.

I think a couple of things are obvious, from knowing some Nokia employees:

a) These 9 are young, and likely Finns — who are generally proud people and who are guarded against outsiders (like Elop)

b) They are software developers. Most of their Plan B focuses heavily on Meego and keeping development and R&D in-house. With Meego 'out' (or close to it) and WP7 in, software development resources at Nokia are likely to be slashed, and so of course they'd want to contest the decision.

The biggest problem I have with their plan though, is this:

> Return the company to a strategy that seeks high growth and high profit margins through innovation and overwhelmingly superior products with unrivaled user experience.

Return? Nokia & Symbian might sell a ton of phones in the global market, but they certainly haven't had high margins nor growth over the last few years. They can't 'return' to the way things were, because that strategy is no longer viable in today's market. To carry on as if Apple & Google aren't kicking your ass is a sure-fire way to lose everything.

Plan B: Fire a couple of execs and keep following the strategy that got us to this point.

Well, Plan A seems to be hitching their wagon to the horse that's seemingly in last place by a large margin. So comparatively, Plan B isn't that bad.

When you think about it, using Windows phone is actually Plan B - and while that horse might be in last place at least it's a horse.

Plan A was to internally develop their own hardware, running their own OS, offering customers items from their own ecosystem.... and they've kinda being fucking that up for the past 3-4 years. Hence Windows Phone Plan B.

So really these nine shareholders are offering Plan C, and their Plan C seems to be essentially going back to Plan A with a promise that this time it'll be different.

If I was an impartial Nokia shareholder I know how I'd be voting.

Astonishingly few people commenting seemed to have read the whole thing. The reason it will (supposedly/hopefully) be different next time is that management overhead, bureaucracy, and outsourcing are killing their software development. If they actually can cut through the red tape, then I don't see it as very far-fetched to say that they can come back as a mobile software shop. I've got a Maemo device (using it now; very capable, except the keyboard's a little cramped), and prefer it by a wide margin to my employer-issued iPhone or the Android device that I returned after getting this phone.

If I were a Nokia shareholder, I'd be voting for these guys for certain. Windows has consistently been unimpressive, and MeeGo feels a lot like a platform that has a lot of cool potential but is unpolished and has gotten too little love from its progenitor.

> The reason it will (supposedly/hopefully) be different next time is that management overhead, bureaucracy, and outsourcing are killing their software development. If they actually can cut through the red tape, then I don't see it as very far-fetched to say that they can come back as a mobile software shop.

sorry, this just sounds like hot air. anyone can say things like "management overhead" and "cut through red tape", but without a solid plan what exactly does this mean?

I take it you have never had to work with a team in a different time zone? It's hard enough staying in touch with the guys that come into the office at different hours than mine. Any more separation comes at an unbelievably high cost, in my experience.

The site specifies their plan for this. Did you read it before commenting that they don't have a plan?

The site outlined what has been wrong with their recent development practices and says what they intend to do to fix it.

Well, Plan A seems to be hitching their wagon to the richest and most powerful software company in the world who has pledged to give billions of dollars plus rights to customize a modern mobile operating system. So comparatively, Plan B is just sour grapes.

> Plan A seems to be hitching their wagon to the richest and most powerful software company in the world

... the same company that has been trying for more than a decade to produce a marginally adequate phone experience and has been consistently failing, with great comedic value, in each and every attempt to challenge whoever is the market leader at a given point. Nokia, who was the leader of this market on more than one occasion, is hitching their wagon to a goldfish who seemingly can't learn from past experience.

Sadly, this Plan B has zero chances of flying. The board is on Elop's side because they are betting Nokia is doomed and the billions Microsoft will inject will give them both time and some added value when they gut the company to sell its parts a couple years from now.

Nokia is gone. We'd better get used to it.

Remember the old adage about Microsoft: "It take them 3 god to get something right"? (1) Windows Mobile, (2) Kin, (3) WinMo7

Have you used WinMo7? It's really nice (and this from an Android fan).

I'm not sure it will save Nokia, but read a few reviews of WinMo7 ans go and have a play before you dismiss it entirely.

(Edit: WinMo7's biggest problem is it's name. "Windows" is a huge liability because everyone associates it with desktop windows even though it shares no common code at all)

(1) 1996 - Windows CE 1.0

(2) 1997 - Windows CE 2.0

(3) 2000 - Windows CE 3.0 / Pocket PC 2000

(4) 2002 - Windows CE 4.0 / Pocket PC 2002

(5) 2003 - Windows Mobile 2003

(5.5) 2003 - Windows Mobile 2003 SE

(6) 2005 - Windows Mobile 5

(7) 2007 - Windows Mobile 6

(7.1) 2008 - Windows Mobile 6.1

(7.5) 2009 - Windows Mobile 6.5

(8) 2010 - Microsoft Kin

(9) 2010 - Windows Phone 7

That's about 15 years and nine attempts

[Edit: reading further I've found Windows Mobile 2003 (and, I assume, 2003 SE) was based on CE 4.2, so numbers 5 and 5.5 should become 4.x and following numbers reduced by one]

Windows CE -> Windows Mobile 6.5 is all the same codebase.

It doesn't matter anyway - adages are just rules of thumb. The point is that Microsoft isn't as bad at creating good products... eventually.

Think about these: XBox, Bing (esp travel search), C#, F#, etc

Try WinMo7 - it's quite impressive and different to the iPhone or Android.

sorry if I've touched a nerve there. I've never said (on this forum or elsewhere) a bad word about WP7. I've never seen one but I'm quite willing to believe all the positive things I've read about it. I was just having a light dig at your '3 attempts' remark, that's all

Oops - I thought you were the poster I was replying to and were missing the point. Sorry!

And yes: I agree that Microsoft managed to spend a lot of time & money on mobile operating systems that turned out to be dead ends.

no worries :)

The problem is that people think WinPhone7 competes with Google/Apple. It doesn't. It competes with Blackberry and will eat their lunch. If they can get some consumers to go along for the ride too it will be great but WinPhone7's differentiating feature will be a decent UI (better than blackberry and on par with Apple/Google) and excellent enterprise integration (which will be on par with blackberry), as well as leveraging the enterprise developer toolchain (Visual Studio). Once those are in place it's just a matter of offering incentives to get enterprises to ditch Blackberry. Blackberry is the next Lotus Notes.

People here (many/most of whom fall into the minority of people not using Windows as their exclusive OS) also seem to think that the Windows association is a bad thing, or that the average user is savvy enough to realise that the phone and desktop OSs have virtually nothing whatsoever in common under the hood.

If I were MS I'd double down on the association and launch a massive campaign based on their Office Win 7 phone apps, ensuring they enable a few token features that the Blackberry apps don't. Even if the extra "integration" is really superficial, enterprise IT purchasers aren't known for making the best decisions.

> enterprise IT purchasers aren't known for making the best decisions.

Specially those who are already Microsoft clients...

And this is exactly why MS will eat blackberrys lunch. Just wait until enterprise clients can order the Dell optiplex win phone 7 that acts just like a desktop as far as the IT staff is concerned. The first VS dev that shows a dashboard app that displays KPIs from the CRM to an executive will seal the fate of blackberry in that company. The only really powerful lockin that BB has is Pin to pin or BBM as I think they call it now. Phones arent yet powerful enough that a phone from 3 years ago still performs adequately, there are probably 3 or 4 cycles left to really change hardware/OS market share.

the difference between Blackberry and Lotus Notes is that Notes is and has always been universally despised whereas Blackberry has always had a very loyal following

I think the previous Microsoft phone efforst have been abysmal. The thinking was along the lines of 'windows is great, let's make a mini version'. That led them up a garden path, at which point iOS came along and blew everyone away.

However, the thinking coming from MS now is 'iOS (& android) are great, lets build one of those with a windows flavor'.

The resulting phone is actually rather good, and brings some genuinely new ideas that make an iPhone look a bit clunky and hard to use for some tasks.

I think the Nokia/Microsoft matchup is about the best both can do in a difficult situation. There are still a lot of Nokia brand loyalty out there, and having an as-good smartphone with MS software on it is going to convince a lot of people. I know I'd be serious about looking at it when it comes time to trade in my iPhone.

Apple isn't a software company (ok, yes they do have software but that's not what generates their profits).

> but that's not what generates their profits

If that were true, you would see 90% of Mac users running Windows. Since that's not the case, and many Mac users bought their Macs in order not to run Windows, I'd say their OS has some weight in this.

The software is given away to sell the hardware. iOS 4 was free for my 3GS that shipped with 3.1 same with my iPad

>The software is given away to sell the hardware.

I think you could equally argue that the hardware is given away to ensure that the software works in a consistent way - they are a full service company, they do both hardware and software, they offer [consumer] products that are ready to use.

oops... I think I answered to the wrong post...

Yes it is. What do you think sells their hardware?


Android was in last place by a huge margin, too.

> keep following the strategy that got us to this point.

No. To stop rampant outsourcing of R&D is a significant change.

Assuming this is genuine, it is too little too late. Nokia needed someone to come and say this before the decided to jump ship.

Its staggering to think of how many resources nokia have, and how little and slowly they've innovated. Nokia has been falling behind for a long time. One thing I always found disheartening was their desire to compete against themselves, and ignore others, as illustrated by them releasing an older version of symbian for their business phones, while using the new symbian for their media phones, but it seemed there was no place to get 'the best' nokia. It was always a choice, but one that didn't seem to have an easily identifiable consumer flagship. Just N's and E's and everything in between.

Right. It's totally too little too late. Getting a billion dollars from Microsoft and using their ecosystem may be their best option at this point to get in the game again. Otherwise, they have too much ground to catch up in too little time.

Why do you think that MS will help? Microsoft has no established "ecosystem"; not in the mobile phone world, at least. How does allying yourself with the aspirational #3 player in a two-player market help you catch up?

You look at their roadmap and look at yours.

While Android is doing well there are a LOT more Android phones and competitors. I suspect they went to Google and said, "we need to be the premiere OEM" and Google said, "screw you."

Then they looked at tech roadmap and maybe thought by end of year WP7 looks as good, if not better, than Android. They won't have a phone ready by then anyways, so the fact that WP7 is behind Android now isn't as big of a deal.

And if MS said, you're our premiere partner and we'll even give you a payout on phones sold... then it's a no-brainer.

Based on what MS showed today at MWC, this race tightens up, not spreads out.

Google has worked tightly with all major Android phone manufacturers to release at least one important product. They've also helped other manufacturers do the same, like some in India. I'm sure they would've helped Nokia to get off the ground as well and get their sh*t together. It's in Google's best interest that every manufacturer impresses with their Android phones, don't you think?

The guy above is right. If Android is the next Windows 95, which brings all manufacturers under it (I believe it is), then no matter whether Nokia likes it or not, choosing another OS would kill it, once it fails.

By the time Nokia helps WP7 capture 10% of the smartphone market, let's say by end of 2012, Android will reach 50-60%. There's no way WP7 can fight that back once Android reaches there.

MS is #4. iOS, Android, and RIM.

Plus they´re also competing with WebOS once HP gets them back in the market, which is arguably a superior product on a technical front.

Ouch, you're completely right. Nokia is jumping in with the #5 OS.

What are the arguments for webOS being superior on a technical front?

The inevitable conclusion is that Microsoft is not playing to win. It's playing to create confusion in the mobile market so that its disruption of the PC market - and of its most profitable product lines - takes longer to happen.

When I said "ecosystem" I meant a modern mobile platform with all the pieces needed to compete in the current market. Yes, they don't have mobile users right now, but they will be able to graft users from other markets that they own. The phone world can't be completely separated from other platforms.

Reminds me of Sony in the consumer electronic space. They've lost large leads in television and music player industries due to the same attitude.

I think the authors are underestimating the challenges of commercializing and then gaining market share with the MeeGo platform.

First, there is a question of development and time to market. By the time Nokia launches MeeGo and handsets, Android, iOS, and others (WP7, RIM, Palm) will be further entrenched in the market (e.g., market share, brand, hardware partners). Second, there is the fundamental issue that succeeding with MeeGo hinges not only on the OS but also on a thriving application market. Because of the application markets, there are strong network effects with mobile platforms. These network effects make it very difficult for a new platform to break into the space.

To complement investments in MeeGo and WP7 for the smartphone market and Symbian for the feature phone market, Nokia should immediately invest in an Android strategy as a fail-safe. I understand this conflicts with Nokia's historical strategy of controlling both software and hardware, but it's quite possible that Android will eventually emerge as the winner-take-all platform in smartphones, aside from Apple/iOS and several niche platforms. If this were to happen, Nokia's singular bet on MeeGo (or WP7) may destabilize the entire company.

In short, I propose that Nokia pursue a four-pronged strategy, pushing forward with MeeGo, WP7, Symbian, and Android -- Symbian for feature phones, which still account for roughly 80% of the worldwide mobile phone market, and MeeGo, WP7, and Android for the smartphone market. As uncertainty is reduced over time regarding 1) the potential of each of the smartphone platforms and 2) the pace at which geographic markets are shifting away from feature phones to smartphones, Nokia can appropriately adjust its investments. By making investments in each area, and adjusting the relative amounts over time, Nokia can better ensure its survival and prosperity despite the quickly evolving mobile phone market.

That seems like a lot of options to explore at once, and could be quite expensive from an R&D and product development standpoint, while at the same time failing to capitalize on large returns to scale. Rather than a 4-pronged strategy I'd rather see 2 pronged strategy. Keep Android, dump WP7 (it's a laggard and Ballmer's MS seems incapable of generating any big wins) and select one of either MeeGo or Symbian.

I don't own any shares in Nokia, I have never nor likely will ever own a Nokia phone, and I don't have any real insight into the nuances of the situation.

But as an avid spectator of the evolving mobile platform "war", this sort of coup d'état would be amazing to witness from the sidelines, no matter the outcome. Therefore, and for no greater reason, I really hope this goes through.

I think it's kinda sad. The marketplace shrank with this development, and a major powerhouse in mobile device development has been transformed into a commodity OEM. Nokia has suddenly been emptied of all of its unique value to consumers, leaving only an irrelevant shell of a brand without a vision or purpose.

I think people are forgetting that Nokia _did_ make a very innovative platform back in 2005 with Maemo at the GTK-based Hildon GUI. If they hadn't stopped innovating and had gotten others on board except for Intel, that platform could have been Android today.

It's true that they managed to kill it through sheer incompetence, including alienating a lot of first adopters by discontinuing product support for the internet tablets. But there's obviously brilliant people at Nokia, just like there were brilliant people at Apple before Steve Jobs.

Now, if Apple had ditched MacOS when Steve returned instead of using NextStep, and instead went with Windows, and shipped a WP7 phone instead of a phone with OSX, where would they be today? They _might_ have had the iTunes ecosystem, if Microsoft would have allowed it. Their "differentiating features" would be at the mercy of Microsoft and their strategic plans.

I guess people are right that you need an app ecosystem to compete in the smartphone market today. But the iPhone sold like hotcakes for more than a year before it had apps. If Nokia made a phone that users really wanted, I think the app ecosystem would have followed. Instead, they're using their huge market presence to give Microsofts platform the same boost.

Supposing they did get elected, I would expect they would cost Nokia a lot of money, possibly ultimately bankrupting the company, from litigation MS would inevitably bring and probably win. It would be a huge embarrassment to WP7 and MS if Nokia backed out, and if there's any way MS can swing damages for that kind of thing given their contract with Nokia, and I'm sure there is, they will definitely do so. I think that the ship has sailed and they're stuck with WP7 for the term of the exclusivity arrangement.

If these guys want to make Meego the dominant smartphone platform, they're going to have to do it with something besides Nokia.

> litigation MS would inevitably bring and probably win

Unless they can convince a judge Elop acted on bad faith against the best interests of the company and favoring his previous corporate master. That could make the Microsoft executives who helped broker the deal accessories to this.

I am not sure the first part is that hard to sell to a judge.

On the upside, tear up a contract here, a strategic partnership there, and no one would ever want to do business with them again.

Well Elop just dumped Intel the same way, so I guess it's never a problem.

I would not want to do business with anyone who proposes me a partnership like this.

http://nokiaplanc.com/ is up :)

No affiliation, but I think it's funny.

(For those who don't get it, Nokia was originally a rubber goods manufacturer)

It was originally many things, but before going into the rubber goods business it started out as a paper mill. http://www.nokia.com/about-nokia/company/story-of-nokia/noki...

For some approximation of "originally". The rubber company had bought a cable company and an electricity company, and they merged in 1967. The electronics work came from the cable branch and the name from the electricity branch.

The phone company was spun off in 1979, and the telecommunications one in 1977, and the mother company later bought both. They sold off the non-phone, non-telco bits around the 90's, including nokia tyres (worth appx. 3.5 billion euros now).

According to Wikipedia, anyway.

We are seeing the beginning of the commoditization of the smart phone industry. Smart phones will become ubiquitous and intense competition among handset manufacturers will erode profit margins.

While I admire the passion that fueled this letter, their goal to "offer overwhelmingly superior experiences" seems foolishly optimistic. How will Nokia differentiate from the plethora of Android derivatives, iOS, WP7, Web OS, and Blackberry?

Isn't that what android is all about? Commoditizing the market, and acclimatizing users to sophisticated capabilities (Like handheld search!). I'm not a fan of microsoft, but I am a fan of competition.

I kind of like this battle that's warming up here.

I have an idea, startups.

Have some former Nokia lead engineers and managers, start working on that plan.

Have some other managers and engineers work on the Android plan.

Have some others compete with Nokia to make better WP7 phones.

Gets rid of 100 layers of management, etc.

I don't think smartphones can win without apps, and the OS market is getting pretty saturated. If iOS, Android, WebOS, and WP7 all have more users, when am I ever going to get around to writing MeeGo apps?

MeeGo, at least last I knew, follows in the vein of Maemo and doesn't need special apps written for it, it can run the same software as any Linux userland. Perhaps this has changed recently but I don't think it has.

You can unify most of the codebase in .NET probably; use MonoTouch and MonoDroid for iOS and Android, Mono for Meego, and MS's included CLR on WP7. That only leaves webOS.

it doesn't need special apps written for it, it can run the same software as any Linux userland

This type of fundamental failure to understand the consumer space is exactly what's driving Nokia into the ground.

Consumers don't give a fig what userland your device is compatible with. Consumers want a super-simple way of finding interesting apps, putting them on their phone, and having them look good and run problem free.

So yes, you really do need special apps.

I didn't say consumers cared. I am annoyed to see people upvoting you since you are replying to something I didn't say or attempt to say. The grandparent said developers would have a difficult time keeping up, and I was replying to that. If you have a decent consumer-facing Linux application, it is easy to port it to Meego since it's basically the same thing, with maybe a few extra integration hooks to add in. Especially if the app uses Qt anyway. This, indeed, is a positive for developers, which is what the OP addressed. It trickles down to consumers, too -- if I can run normal programs with few or no changes on my phone, I'll have a lot more choices that already exist available to me.

Also, as I stated, a normal Linux userland means normal Linux applications and things work -- you can use Mono or Wine if you want to run a Windows or .NET application.

Honestly, doing this backend work is pretty trivial. Aside from Windows Phone that is, where everything must be in managed code (doh). But iPhone / Android is trivial, like literally a couple of days for a moderately complex app with storage, threading, background downloading, and so on. Even input isn't too bad for simple gestures.

The real work for non-game apps is converting all of your UI and device interactions to the new OS. Linux compatibility might let you avoid rewriting your code that opens files, bit it's not going to let you make a UI element pulse for a few seconds then drop off the screen.

I think those benefits are overstated. You've still got to make significant changes to the interface if you want it to work well on a touchscreen device.

And is the backend any more portable from regular C++ > MeeGo compared to iPhone, or Java > Android?

"Port Linux applications to Meego"

So that's the plan to save Nokia? Wow.

Surely the success of the iPad vs Windows Tablets has taught us that the touch interface is totally different to the WIMP interface?

If that's not enough, then huge difference in hardware between a 24" i7 and a 3.2" ARM means perhaps the programs should behave just a little bit different?

  > So yes, you really do need special apps.
Do you really? All you've stated is that MeeGo needs an AppStore.

All you need is an app store to install linux desktop apps on your phone? Even the dreaded Microsoft worked out that phones aren't tiny desktop PCs.

Even if that were the case, you still have to package your app for distribution. The app store model probably makes this easier to do since you don't have to develop a framework for pushing your apps along with any updates you have down the road. Naturally there are libraries for this, but you still have to mess with them, and maintain deployment stuff on your own end.

I cannot think of a more surefire way to make your smartphone fail than to have it use a desktop UI.

Probably Nokia should write the emulator of Android and iPhone API? Something like cygwin. That would give them a lot of apps.

It's already coming.


With this Nokia can use Android ecosystem while not being yet-another-Android-vendor.

That's actually a very interesting point. Is maintaining another app distribution system viable in the face of "developer fatigue"? I guess that also sorta begs the question: is developer fatigue real?

If they had a clue based on modern software practices, they would make it easy to support them.

From the bottom of the AGM questions page:

Who has the right to participate in the AGM 2011 and what is the last day to buy shares if I want the right to attend and vote in the AGM? Each shareholder, who is registered on April 19, 2011 in the Register of Shareholders of the Company, has the right to participate in the Annual General Meeting. A shareholder, whose shares are registered on his/her Finnish book-entry account, is registered in the Register of Shareholders of the Company. A shareholder, who wishes to participate in the Annual General Meeting, may register for the Meeting by giving a prior notice of participation no later than on April 27, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. (Finnish time) by which time the registration needs to arrive in the Company. - http://www.nokia.com/agm/2011/in-english/questions-and-answe...

Although their plan is not in the list of proposals. How does it work? 1 vote per share or 1 per shareholder? Can I buy 1 share (which stock name on which exchange?) and support them? If not, and only big shareholders count, why the twitter popularity campaign?

What specific goal(s) do they have (how many people, doing what?)

I like their developer plan. Focus on two areas of main development and eliminate a lot of the waste on the PM/Manager level.

I think their biggest challenge with going down the MeeGo route would be acquiring the kind of App ecosystem that iOS and Android have. I reckon their best bet would be to implement something like Alien Dalvik[1] to allow very easy porting of existing Android apps to MeeGo, and make their 'app store' as seamlessly alike to iOS and Android's (including working with top app developers to encourage them to bring over the most desirable apps).

Once they can be seen as having the same big name apps as the other two, I think MeeGo has much more of a chance of being competitive, rather than being a 'third world country' of a platform.

[1] http://www.allaboutmeego.com/news/item/12571_Alien_Dalvik_ho...

While that is certainly true, MeeGo is much more of a linux system than android is, and has great potential to attract hackers. The same tools and libraries can be used to develop for MeeGo, as is used in any (desktop) linux distribution. My point is, there is a lot of developers out there that already know how to develop for MeeGo. Not a proprietary but only very lightly platform specific tool chain is needed.

Meego's got a potential Dalvik port, though I don't think that will quite give it the Android Market, it's a start.

I think WP7 + Nokia is a great move. Nokia makes great hardware and Microsoft makes great software and has a HUGE developer base.

I have switched from iPhone to WP7 after 3+ years and I am really happy with it. I do miss some of the apps and games but love other features that make up for it.

Hate Microsoft all you want but they have made great software (and also bad).

Great = win7, wp7, zune, visual studio, expression suite, office suite, sql server.

Bad = well you all know the list: IE8,7,6,5,etc..., hotmail, windows me and a ton of others that I am too lazy to list.

If history is any indication, Microsoft will eventually dominate the mobile marketplace or at least be a very close second.

Nokia + MS can give a good fight to others provided they work very closely and act in lightning speed ... but this should be plan B and not plan A.

Also Nokia is HUGE everywhere (except north america). What they have to do is to spend more on ecosystem to get things done as fast as possible and also spend on marketing in north-america ...

MEEGO is a universal OS, it is used in cars, TVs, Games, tablets etc. so it's better to make it part of Plan A where users can be switched flawlessly from symbian with a solid ecosystem in place.

I give Nokia Plan B a solid D- for too little too late. MeeGo got a horrible reception today by Intel (http://www.slashgear.com/meego-preview-at-mwc-2011-disappoin...) and it's obvious why Nokia abandoned it at this point, even for a bad choice like Win Mobile 7...what other choice did they have? Symbian? Bleeding market share like gutted cow. Android? Can't differentiate in that space.

So to hear these 9 disgruntled folks say they're going to stick with a bad plan and make it happen sounds like lunacy to me.

"Android? Can't differentiate in that space."

I've yet to see an explanation for any way in which they can differentiate on WP7, that they couldn't do better and more easily on Android.

Say what you will about Open Source development, but when it comes to differentiation, there's simply no way to beat it...look at the variety of Linux distributions, for an example of differentiation gone wild.

You should see how badly Android users react to not being given the latest Android updates (e.g. XPeria X10). In the end, when people buy smartphones they care more about the OS than hardware alone.

It's not so much about differentiation, it is the fact the Nokia alone can be the only manufacturer of low-end WP7 devices because the WP7 has rigid hardware requirements that Nokia won't have to follow.

Out of the gate WM7 is quite different from Android or iOS so there's that. I think maybe the bigger implied message here is that Nokia was not confident in their own software development teams to handle this transition. Look at what they built on top of MeeGo -- it's not very impressive. Would having Android underneath there make any real difference? I doubt it. They basically want to outsource their OS development.

Yes, but that's not the question. The question is, "how different is a Nokia WP7 phone from, say, one from Samsung or HTC?"

If WP7 is a success, then by the time Nokia ships (late 2011 at the earliest), they will be entrants in a crowded field --- and so far, Microsoft is requiring most WP7 phones to be near-lookalikes, to get consistency of user experience across the platform.

(Of course, part of the deal here may be that Nokia gets to differentiate their products in a way that nobody else does --- but if it is, then the other vendors may be ticked in a way that causes long-term problems for the platform as a whole. Contrast to Android, where vendors have complete freedom to reskin it right now.)

The difference may be who does the differentiation. I think part of Mokia's problem is their developer talent isn't super strong. Them doing significantly dev on Android is a problem. If MS adds support for Nokia functionality on WP7, Nokia can focus on HW quality and drive requirements for MS to build the SW that exploits it.

From what I can tell the negotiations with Google and Nokia went really poorly.

"They basically want to outsource their OS development."

So ship stock Android, thus outsourcing OS development to Google. I agree with what SwellJoe says, haven't heard any credible explanation of how WP7 allows differentiation that Android wouldn't.

Apart from the fact that Android is the most popular smart phone OS and WP7 is thus far not a success.

The first WP7 devices were released on October 21, 2010. Exactly how large of a success was Android in February 2008?

"Out of the gate WM7 is quite different from Android or iOS so there's that."

That's only really a differentiator because no one wants Windows phones, so there aren't as many in the hands of users. I'm not sure that's the kind of difference Nokia needs right now. That's just lack of familiarity...not really a positive differentiation.

> Can't differentiate in that space.

That's complete BS.

Android phones offer very different experiences, from fairly standard Android, to the completely alien Sony-Ericsson:

http://www.expansys.com/zoompic.aspx?i=207496 http://www.expansys.com/zoompic.aspx?i=207852 http://www.expansys.com/zoompic.aspx?i=203457 http://www.expansys.com/zoompic.aspx?i=204827 http://www.expansys.com/zoompic.aspx?i=185317

I think a quote by Henry Ford sums up the the whole Plan B and their approach.

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." ~ Henry Ford

Increase the lifespan of Symbian to a minimum of 5 years

Glad you're not going to any shareholder meetings of companies I own shares in...

Their statement sounds like ones that come out of politicians. That can only end well...

I was watching some meego videos on youtube, it does not look that impressive and launching the phone usually takes a full minute. Whats up with that. Its an early build i guess, but as software ages, it generally gets more bloated meaning even slower.

> and launching the phone usually takes a full minute

If boot time is tolerable (i.e. it takes not more than a minute) this is one of the last things developers should care about. Users reboot the phone very infrequently, like, once in a while, when they completely forget to charge it and the power goes off.

However, when phone is booted, it should run as smoothly as possible. This is the one thing I dislike in Maemo 5 - I managed to make my N900 run quite slow (sure, I've tried lots of the unstable apps from devel-extra so it's mostly my fault).

Not all top talent is young...

I like the "make Nokia leaner" part. But I don't think they are in touch very well with the marketplace. Personally.

I'm considering putting together some fun and easy mobile games for some mobile device in 2H 2011. I can select iPhone, Android, or, I guess, WP7.

I'm looking for a platform that has these features:

* Nearly free to register and start developing * Provides app store & DRM mechanism * Doesn't eat too many profits. * Ideally, lets me program very fast, think Ruby on Rails or similar framework.

Okay, so that doesn't exist as far as I know. If Nokia can reboot to provide the above - then they can probably provide a fourth option.

Nothing I've read so far indicates that they are going to roll that route.

Plan B is the dream of what Nokia could have been. Unfortunately it should have been enacted over 5 years ago.

It's too late for such a strategy now - by the time they delivered on their promises, the competition would completely eat their lunch.

Hmm, usually shareholders don't run the company. They own it. Stuff like choosing the tools, organization of R&D department and so on should be in the hands of the management. That's why you pay them.

Plan B? Not Really. More like a wish-list.

Long ago (~2002) when I lived in Beijing, a vendor at the city's Silk Market had Nokia-brand socks on offer. I suspected they were fakes. The Marlboro-brand shirts were decent, though...

Actually I think Meego does not have a chance because of C++. It is Meego's main fault. Qt is a great framework, but that won't help if you force programmers to use languages from the stone age. Anyone who wants to establish a new platform should make it at least as easy to develop for as Android. And I also doubt that you can catch up with other OSes while using a less productive development environment.

On the other hand, I never expected Objective C to be as successful...

I know those bindings (obviously not all of them), but AFAIK there is not one binding that doesn't treat the programmer like a second-class citizen. For example, is there at least one binding with a complete reference documentation? From what I have seen, bindings typically document only the difference between the C++ API and the target language. That makes the documentation hard to read, especially for people who don't know C++.

More people that I know of use Python and PyQt to program for the N900 than C++.

Check out QML.

Wow! Who are these guys? What do they know about building a mobile ecosystem? Young how young? Looks to me like a bunch of kids who are scared to put their name out ..

1. They are right regarding bureaucracy reduction and sane R&D management. They should migrate all their R&D to Silicon Valley and maybe Israel.

2. The simplest solution to SW is to be OS-agnostic. Offer the same phone model with different preinstalled OS choices. In the same way as you offer it with different colors or panels.

Hell, let users change OS or use OS vrtualization, like one OS for Work (WP7) and an other for Home (Android) with two different numbers.

Well all you want is Nokia's $billion to spend however you want and at the end of the day if you couldn't make it you'll just stand up dust your hands and move on. if the Plan is so good you can take MeeGo which is open source or heck even Android and make the best phone/OS/EcoSystem out there surely you wouldn't have any problem attracting VC funding would you?

Looks like a good start, but going with MeeGo is a fail in my book. Intel and Nokia should throw their weight behind Android and focus on making the best, fastest Android phone, with better features than anyone else.

Maybe if they leave things alone Nokia might just survive. If they do whats in that list, they wont be shareholders or directors for long. Nokia fanboys need to realise that they are on a downhill slope right now, and if they continue on that path Apple and Android will bury them and Microsoft. I have owned Nokia phones from Australia's GSM introduction until last year when the lack of Nokia's software capability, in this country at least, forced my hand to the iPhone. Id give anything to go back to Nokia's quality hardware if it had a decent OS. Windows Phone 7 is a really nice OS, but for now is on some of the shittiest phones I have seen. Nokia + Microsoft should hopefully make a really nice bit of gear.

Nokia has the engineering/intellectual manpower to turn MeeGo into a diamond. Currently, we have 2 solid contenders in the mobile market - Android, which is encumbered by lawsuits from a 750 lbs gorilla (never mind the 500 lbs) Oracle, and iOS, which is plagued by the departure of its iconic founder, Steve Jobs, whose presence and vision is what made Apple's redemption possible. Steve may be with us for some time longer, but eventually he will either retire or pass, in which case, doubts remain about whether Apple can maintain its innovative/technical edge.

The good thing about Linux is it is owned by no one, yet it is above everyone else. This is good for _you_, all of the posters here, who own a mobile phone/device/PDA/tablet/etc.

Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical has jumped on the Ubuntu on Wayland wagon too - and guess what MeeGo is based on? Yep - Wayland. It will breathe new life into Linux by giving a low-level, efficient display server that will supplant X windows, and establish a new legacy for the next 10-20 years of Linux being the premier mobile/desktop/server OS.

THAT is where you want to be going - into a future where no one owns the operating system, and it has become a commodity, and it has a solid GUI, much like OS X (or Windows, let's be honest, which has a top notch GUI), and a gazillion C++ or Java or whichever applications on it.

If Nokia Plan B happens, which I have no doubt it will, Nokia can succeed where Microsoft continues to fail - to recapture the hearts of developers by giving them C++, Java, Objective-C - any language, available on the mobile phone/tablets.

MeeGo is going to provide the default GUI shell for most if not all of Nokia's phones, but they can create a platform that is welcoming to ALL developers of all facets with knowledge of all languages, by leaving room for this on the MeeGo tablet.

There's no technical difficulty in being able to run either DalvikVM or native C++ or Objective C or heck, even Python or JAva apps on a MeeGo/Linux platform - it can all be designed in such a way where it supports both.

My point is, by providing the freedom for devs to do what they do best, on an OSS platform, Linux, and giving them a top-notch GUI API (Qt) w/bindings for various languages (dynamic ones for rapid dev), they can rise into a very dominant position in the next 5-10 years, and be a worthy competitor, and perhaps even carry the torch of iOS and Android, if the other two come to a sudden death because of lawsuits or health problems of its founders.

I am _super_ excited and thrilled that Nokia wants to make MeeGo its top platform, and in my view, you ought to be too.

Interesting that they see outsourcing and distributed development as bureaucratic and inefficient. I wonder if this sentiment is becoming more common in the industry.

I agree with all points, except one, spend half resources in meego and the other half in android, just to be sure.

"We're young shareholders, and our plan is...get this...young software developers."


Would it really be possible to cancel the deal without getting sued by Microsoft?

young chaps calling for a revolution. Not even listing credentials. This is not going any where.

Do they have a chance?

Increase the lifespan of Symbian to a minimum of 5 years. Reap the profits of the existing market share and consumer preference that Symbian already enjoys in Europe and Asia.


Transition to an R&D setup where 90% of all Nokia R&D takes place in only two geographical locations. One of them will be in Finland and the other will be defined later.

actively visit top universities worldwide to screen and and invite top students for interviews in Nokia R&D locations.

That's a lot of long-distance flights to Finland.

I got sort of an open question: Is there a platform independent API for development for WP7, iPhone and Android? It'd be great to write for one idealized target and have it run on all three ... or more if they make serious inroads.

Yes, it's called HTML5 and Javascript. (Seriously.)

yeah see phonegap or titanium appcelerator (convert html5/javascript to a mobile app, with access to stuff like the camera, contacts, sensors)

also check out jquery mobile, sencha touch, cappuccino...

I doubt. How much of HTML5 features WP7 really supports?

I've heard that:

> The browser for Windows Phone 7.0 is based on IE 7.0, which does not support HTML 5 (in desktop terms HTML 5 support is part of IE9, which is currently under development).


And it also runs on WebOS.

We need a common layer over the top of the various hardware (GPS, accelerometer) access API. I am sure something like jQuery can do that.

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