Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't be shy about available software update

Some years ago it was a big secret when Nokia (or any other manufacturer) published a firmware update to one of its terminals. The reason was simple: if people didn’t know about the opportunity to update the terminal, they didn’t rush to the service point and so didn’t increase Nokia’s warranty costs. Also users tried to avoid update as long as they could because they were forced to leave the terminal to the desk and - depending on the queue - update could potentially take days.

I wonder why they are still so shy about available updates.

Why Nokia just doesn’t take the great opportunity to run new marketing campaigns when they publish firmware updates to existing terminals? Make a big fuzz about it! Yes, there can be a press release if something very big happens (end users read corporate press releases, sure) or a news article on some professional website but that’s it. You can very easily find horror stories about new Nokia terminals that have huge problems with initial firmware release. Later those bugs are fixed, but the bad word-of-mouth marketing is still out there. How can people change their opinion about the terminal if they still hold the impression that software is buggy?

Software update is also a very smooth process with new Nokia phones. I took all this for granted before I started to use HTC Hero. Well, HTC was also quite silent about the firmware update but somehow I became aware of it. Upgrade process was more than messy: first I wanted to make a backup before I continued. Then I understood that there is no backup software included in the device. Luckily there are many backup apps available in the Android app store, but which one of those to choose? Do they work? I installed the backup app with best user testimonials and made my first Android backup. Then I was ready to continue with the upgrade, but it required a Windows PC - big problem for a Mac user. Then I found a PC, installed some HTC application and was able to continue with the upgrade. Process crashed twice (did I brick my device?) but third try was a success. Then after data restore I realized that every installed application was gone. Some data files and settings were restored, but every application and all personalizations had disappeared. Lots of work and Hero was OK again. Not easy, must say.

Compare that to Nokia process: run FOTA upgrade from device and that’s it.

Completely different thing is the shortness of the period when phones really are supported. Typically there seem to be a couple of updates for a model quickly after the release and then terminals just fade away from the update process. I don’t like the attitude that an expensive device is considered as an outdated model after a year, especially when there still are bugs that cause crashes. I can understand that sometimes there are problems but I can’t understand that those are not fixed.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Mobile augmented golf

Last week I was lucky enough to get an invitation to TEDxHelsinki event and I'm still excited about the quality of the event as well as the whole concept. It is just too easy to stick with your familiar thoughts and habits and reinforce the skills where you are at your best. Try sometimes to listen presentations outside of your comfort area and be prepared for an idea storm. You can start the journey from the TED website and remember my old investment tip.

I also had the opportunity to try playing golf (just to educate myself about what that is about). As a complete beginner two things bothered me and I think both of them could be solved by using latest mobile technology.

Where is my ball?
It was a surprise how much time is spent on trying to find the ball even if everybody saw where it went. When the small ball is somewhere 100 meters away in the long grass, it takes time to find it even if you know where to search. Why not put a small transmitter into the ball and use mobile phone (or similar) as a receiver. Even better if multiple phones could be used for that purpose so that they can together triangulate the ball's location. Sure, it can be against the allmighty rules of the golf but anyway, it would make playing faster and easier. Unless searching the ball is an essential part of golf experience?

Where to go next?
We were playing on a course that was unfamiliar for all of us. At least I felt that it was difficult to know where is the next tee or where is the hole. This is all very easily solved with a smart use of mobile augmented reality solutions that can display this information on a screen nicely. As there are already many available products for AR itself, the real task would be to make golf course information available for the applications.

I was told that golf etiquette would never allow applications like described above. That can be true but because I'm not a golfer I'm free to innovate....


Sunday, October 4, 2009

My 100th blog post, mixed salad of mobile stuff

When I launched this site long time ago, I had previously blogged at Forum Nokia. Because I was disappointed to the lack of dialogue at that site, I though hosting my own site would be a good way to get also non-technical readers and promote open discussion. This is now my 100th posting here and there hasn't been much discussion. I've heard many other bloggers saying the same - it is not motivating to post updates without any feedback. Lately I've found myself more often writing small updates to Twitter, instead of making a longer post here. In the future I plan to post here if there is something very interesting, but that will be more irregular than before.

I guess my problem is that I don't like reviewing new phones (there are enough sites doing that) and also I don't write about some new ower-hyped technologies but instead like to watch issues a little bit higher. When topic is not locked down to concrete technology terms but handled in a more abstract level, new ideas arise and old fixed mindsets can be left behind. By the way: this is also something that is recommended in a great book Fast Strategy: How strategic agility will help you stay ahead of the game by Yves Doz and Mikko Kosonen.

Today I was checking my old notes about different ideas I've had in mind someday. If you need something for a school project or whatever, this list might have something for you.

Get the facts about mobile email
Mobile email is an interesting field with many hype words and misunderstandings. That got very clear during the Nokiagate earlier this year. Many users seem to believe that "push email" is better than "pull email" because it consumes less battery and uses less data. Is it really so? What I would like to do is to run a series of tests where phone is connected to an email server and receives the messages using scheduled IMAP connection and some push mail solution. Then I would like to analyze the data volume and also the energy consumption. For the latter you can find a tool from Forun Nokia so that you really can get the hard facts about the case. If you have done this testing or will do it, I'd like to know the results, please.

Some applications for S60
Long time ago I had an idea about an application that connects phone to some home sensors. This is still a development area that hasn't got many solutions and might hold some business possibilities.

Another idea I got when travelling is a simple night clock that you can use without trying to press any keys in your device. I already made a simple application that just uses S60 accelerometer and displays a huge clock when device moves. Use case is this: you wake up in the middle of the night and grab your phone. As soon as it moves, clock is displayed without any keypresses and you can fall back to sleep. If somebody wants to grab the idea and productize it, please go ahead.

Make applications sync their state
I am using many different terminals during the week and hate when applications lose their state when switching between devices. I must find the radio stations for every device, I must setup the podcasts for every device, SMS messages are always in the wrong device and so on. Solution would be an application level sync so that the application state is sent to server for others to read. Imagine yourself listening a podcast with one device during the day and continuing the same podcast from the correct position at the evening with another device - that would be a benefit of application sync.

What I would like to do next is to write the 10 questions to evaluate a Mobile 'Expert' like in this article that puts your Social Media 'Expertness' into a test. Any ideas what to ask?


Friday, September 4, 2009

Keep Snow Leopard waiting

This week I've updated two MacBooks with Snow Leopard. Problems so far:
  • Cannot send email anymore using our corporate server. Our server accepts only encrypted connections with user authentication. When I try to send messages, mail client just keeps on asking the password even though server answers that authentication is valid. I'm not the only one, check here.
  • Our second machine had fonts messed up after the upgrade. Old documents were suddenly unreadable because the font was kinda packed, many characters were drawn to the same position. I was able to fix this problem by going to Font Book, selecting all fonts and validating all of them. Then I deleted and reinstalled the fonts that failed the validation - this fixed the problem. Again, I'm not the only one having this problem, check here.
  • I wasn't able to watch some videos with Safari's vlc-plugin before I put Safari to 32-bit mode. To do this, open the properties for /Applications/Safari and select "Open in 32-bit mode". This is not probably Apple's fault, but annoying problem after the upgrade, anyway.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Comment moderation turned on

Small piece of information about this site: I've turned on comment moderation to keep spammers away. All real comments will be accepted without delay, that's a promise!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sports Tracker, again

Once again I'll write about my favourite application Sports Tracker (ST) because latest edition of Finnish business magazine Talouselämä has a short article about the new company that will continue the development. Longer version of the article is available from Talouselämä's website (Finnish only).

The article tells how the ST core team has founded a new company and how this initiative is part of Nokia's "Innovation Mill" (I wrote about that earlier).

According to the news, Nokia didn't care about ST anymore, because "everybody who is interested about this application has already installed it". That's just crazy idea, ST has been so badly marketed solution that only those lucky enough to know about the application have installed it. Dig this: July 2009 edition of Wired had a cover story about "Living by Numbers", i.e. solutions like ST. Was ST included in the story? No. If this solution doesn't exist for Wired, it doesn't exist for average users.

Based on the article, ST is now in search of the business model but using the service will remain free. However, the phone application will be on sale in some channels and not free anymore. I've always thought that ST is so good solution that I'd even pay for some extra services but if the client application would have had a price tag, I guess I would never have downloaded and tried that. Here are some ideas for business (in no particular order), but please think again if it really is beneficial to charge for the basic application. ST is not just an application, it's a solution.
  1. Keep the basic solution free and create a subsciption model for extended features (classic "freemium" model). One example of premium services I'd be happy to pay for is the weather information. Whenever I record new activity with ST, premium version could add the current weather information to the event. Also improved training analytics features would be worth considering.
  2. Partner with gyms and connect ST to their client registers. When user visits gym for excercise, that information could also be stored to ST's database. That way ST becomes the storage for all sport activities, not just outdoor sports. Compare this to solutions that are only for runners: ST is already far ahead those and with this feature comparing ST to others is just waste of time.
  3. Create a partner network of trainers that can analyze user's exercises and suggest them improvements in training schedule. Something like "this is how I've trained so far, what should I do to be able to run marathon in 6 months?"
  4. Partner with insurance companies. User's who can display long records of healthy life from ST database can get their life insurance cheaper, for example.
  5. Sell special hardware. Polar's hear rate belt is a good example of hw that really adds value to ST. I remember when I once went to Nokia flagship store and tried to buy one - just to learn that it is not available. It seems I wasn't the only one disappointed, based on Polar's support site.
  6. Sell service to large companies, specifically to their HR department. Encouraging employees to take care of their health saves costs. Take a look at Pekka Niska to see an example what this means in practice.
  7. Allow open innovation and publish API's to add entries to your database. The more users have personal information in ST database, the more value it has to user and to the company hosting ST. There is also a possibility that somebody else writes the client applications for iPhone, Android, Maemo and all the other current and future mobile platforms.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Update to Nokiagate

After the summer it's good to catch up what has happened for "Nokiagate" lately. For those who don't know what Nokiagate is, read my posting that started it all and follow the case from here.

I did receive a couple of calls from Nokia during the summer and they were interested to hear my opinion about how they managed the situation and how their processes could be improved. I told them that it appeared as if there was no process at all to handle security reports like this and it took far too long from my initial report before action was taken. After the starting difficulties things began to go smoothly when the conversation channel was opened.

I just ran a quick test with some updated terminals I had available and here are the results (device / firmware version / result):
  • E75 / 110.48.125 / Opens connection without asking permission, content unknown.
  • 5800 / 30.0.011 / Opens connection without asking permission, content unknown.
  • N96 / 30.033 / Account can be created in offline mode, OK.
It looks that E75 and 5800 still go online without asking user's permission. However, new firmware ensures the validity of server certificate and doesn't anymore let me examine the contents, but the connection goes to Let's hope they have removed password information form the request as they earlier promised, unfortunately I cannot verify that.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are SMS alerts an opportunity or an expense?

Just now there are two major factors that shake the ground under the (postal) logistics business; first is the economic downturn and second is the almighty internet. The combination of these two means that the volumes in their business have fallen significantly and will continue to do so. As an example, volumes for Finnish Post have decreased between 9% to 16%, depending on the product category.

Someday the economic situation will improve, but internet and electronic communication are here to stay.

There is a major trend to move away from paper invoicing to electronic invoicing because of the huge cost savings. Deutsche Bank estimates there is a potential of €54 billion savings if invoicing process is improved, and that’s just in Germany! It is safe to assume that volumes of paper invoice are going to drop dramatically in favor of electronic invoicing.

Let’s leave business-to-business invoicing aside and concentrate on business-to-consumer invoices. In the B2C world the problem is how to send the electronic invoice to the customer, the scene is very fragmented and solutions are many. The selected media should be reliable, fast, common and cheap.

Assume that someday electronic B2C invoicing is working flawlessly and you will in some digital way receive the minimum information that’s needed to accept the invoice. What’s missing from the business’ point of view? Today paper invoices come with customer newsletters, marketing material, offers and so on - invoice has become an “advoice” that carries much more information than just the invoice. At its best advoice concept is so powerful that customers are delighted to receive the invoice, because of the attached content. When everything is electronic, what will happen to advoices and this media? The progress reminds me of the banking business in the 90’s - banks created products that allowed customers to do self-service instead of visiting the offices. Later banks understood that maybe they succeeded too well in allowing self-service as they had lost contact to customers. Now banks and insurance companies try to get customers sometimes visit the office, but results haven’t been good. How to sell new complicated products to people without personal contact?

Ok, what’s my point? Finnish Post has a service that allows companies and organizations securely send messages (e.g. invoices) to customers; it’s like an email system that allows only pre-approved senders to send messages. When new message arrives, user will get an alert to his email inbox and he can login to see the message.

This summer system was upgraded with an option to send also SMS alerts when new messages arrives to inbox, end-user price is €0.25 message. This is a mistake, messages should be free and here is the reason why.

I can easily understand why there is a price tag in the alert message, it’s just the easiest way to secure the decision maker’s background in the current economic situation. "Customers want SMS, let’s put it there and charge for every message" goes the easy rationale. Last year there were total 2.1M messages sent through the system. Just taking list price from an SMS-aggregator shows that if they had sent alert for every message, the cost would’ve been about €72.000. I don’t think that is much if compared to other media that they use for marketing: with that sum Finnish Post can’t even get two front page ads in a major newspaper - and that's just the printing cost. Comparing a print media ad to a highly engaging SMS message with a call to action and immediate return channel is like comparing a steam train to a sports car. Studies have shown that Blyk’s answer rate for SMS’s has been around 25%! If Finnish Post were able to do the same, they (or their customers) would have received 500.000 replies from end users. (Yes, this is not a fair comparison because Blyk’s model depends on having a very homogenous user base with information about personal preferences, but that’s still an evidence how SMS marketing works at its best.) Can you see the business here: trend towards electronic invoicing suddenly becomes an opportunity instead of a threat, but that needs some new thinking.

In short: it’s is just wrong to punish users who want SMS alerts. If that channel is used well, Finnish Post could in fact reward users who accept SMS alerts with information about new message and a short ad with a clear call to action.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Quick study about media companies' mobile sites

In my previous entry I wrote about a small study I made to see how top 100 Finnish companies have arranged their mobile presence. In short they havent done much with it, as only 8 companies had some kind of a mobile website that I could discover.

Frustrated about the bad results I made a second test, this time I took ten Finnish online media houses. The companies tested were not picked from any top-ten list, but those were the sites I use myself.

I tested for the existence of .mobi site, site with m-prefix and possible device detection with automatic redirection to mobile site. For more information about the tests, please check my previous posting.


This time I was able to see more mobile sites than before. Two sites had mobi-site and three had registered the domain but there was no service. Four companies haven't registered mobi-domain and one domain name was taken by some other company. The sites that had mobi-service were Yle and MTV3.

From ten tested sites seven had mobile service available in m-address (e.g., one redirected to original desktop browser site and two didn't use this server name at all.

Device detection and redirect to mobile site seems to be the most difficult test. In the top 100 company study only one company had deployed such a system, this time two sites (Digitoday and Taloussanomat) were able to detect mobile device and redirect user to mobile site when he tries to access the base service with his mobile.

This time there were three sites that were able to score 2 out of 3: Yle, Digitoday and Taloussanomat - kudos to them. Previous test round didn't find any company that was able to score more than one out of three. It looks that media companies have far better understanding about mobile browsing than top 100 companies do.

List of sites tested (random order)


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Study: Top 100 Finnish companies and mobile websites

Lately I’ve had many disappointments with corporate mobility especially in customer care. There had been situations when I have wished for a mobile access to some simple information, just to discover that it doesn’t exist or is not discoverable.

Because I started to feel that Finnish companies are not up to date with mobile solutions, I made a small study that reveals big companies are really missing the mobile opportunity. No mobile marketing. No mobile customer care. Just mobile silence.

I took a list of biggest (by turnover, excluding bank and insurance) 100 Finnish companies from Kauppalehti’s site. The things I wanted to verify were:
  • does company have a mobi-server (e.g
  • does company have an m-server (e.g.
  • does company have an automatic device detection (i.e. mobile users are automatically redirected to mobile site when accessing the main corporate site)?
The reason for these tests is that whenever I don’t know if a company has a mobile site, I try these two combinations ( and If those don’t match, I practice wishful thinking and try the main company site, just to see if there is some smart redirect to mobile site. After these three tries I usually will give up and understand that the company will not deliver information to mobile devices.

Test setup and results

Tests were conducted between June 19th and June 21st. Original list had 100 companies, but one of those doesn’t seem to have a website (or it is down all the time), so the results below will sum up to 99.


In this test I tried to access the company’s mobi-website (e.g. with a desktop browser. If site was found, I also tried to access it with a mobile device (Nokia N96) to verify the contents. For found mobi-domains I also verified whether those really were registered for the company.

Domain not registered


Domain not registered by company


Domain redirects to desktop website


Domain is registered by company but has no website


Mobi domain has a mobile website



From the list of top 100 Finnish companies only Elisa (operator, content not available for non-Elisa customers), Lassila-Tikanoja (password protected internal service or CMS console?), Nokia, St1 and Valio had a mobile website.


In this test I tried to access company’s website from address Because mobi-domain solution is often criticized for some extra costs for registering and administering the domain, I expected to see more mobile sites this time.

No m. service


Mobile site available at “”



Only two companies (DNA and Toyota) from 100 had mobile site available at m-address ( and Note that none of the “mobi companies” from above are in this group.

Redirect to mobile site

Because there is a possibility that company puts its mobile service to some other address and automatically redirects mobile user there, I also tested top 100 companies for automatic redirect. Test was made so that I accessed company’s main site with desktop browser and mobile browser (Nokia N96) and verified whether the content was the same or not.

No device recognition and redirect


Mobile user redirected to special page



The result was that only Hewlett-Packard has deployed mobile device detection and redirect to mobile website.

Notes about the results

The results are poor. Using this criteria only 8 companies from 99 have really thought about mobile access and the potential benefits. Of course some companies may have mobile sites at,, or something else. Those were not tested, because as a user I don’t like to guess many times just to see if there is a mobile site or not. Why not use “de facto” names or automatic redirect? Comparing “mobi” and “mobile” to “m” means 8 or 13 extra clicks with phone’s keypad when writing the website address, for example.

None of the companies was able to score more than 1 out of 3 and the list included 3 operators and 1 device manufacturer - they should know how to do the trick.

It looks that 32 companies have some plans with mobi-site, because they have registered the domain but not yet published a mobile service there. I hope they understand the possibilities and didn’t just register the domain to protect it.

Size doesn’t matter in mobility. World’s largest company Shell has a subsidiary also in Finland and they scored zero points in this test. No mobi-site, no m-site, no device detection. Ironically, Shell’s chairman of the board is Jorma Ollila, Nokia’s previous CEO and current chairman of the board.

This survey was only about the companies, not about the brands, trademarks or such. I’m aware that many corporations have mobile sites for their brands, but that was out of the scope.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Great product, but so hard to get

It's often said that Finns are good in technology but poor in marketing. Let me give you an example of that.

Nokia has long time ago created Sports Tracker, an application that will record and store your exercices. The solution is one of my favourites and I use it regularly to track where I've been when running, cycling and rollerblading. During excercises I use Polar heart-rate monitor to ensure that intensity is at optimal level and I don't start with too high speed. Sometimes I've dreamed of combining mobile phone and heart-rate monitor into one.

Good news is that Nokia and Polar have now created the solution that does exactly what I've wanted. With a special Polar heart-rate chest belt you can send the information to Sports Tracker application and later upload the training info to the website. You can see where you've been and how effective the exercise was. I have tried this combination and and it is - literally - breathtaking experience. Wow!

There's only one problem: this solution is almost impossible to buy!

First when I heard about this product, I went to Nokia flagship store to buy just the chest-belt - after all I have N96 that is same generation product than N79 that comes bundled with the chest-belt. I learned that chest-belt is not sold separately and I should buy the bundled N79 if I wanted this small piece of hardware. Didn't want to do that.

Then I went to the Polar website to see where chest-belt is available, maybe Nokia just doesn't want to sell that alone. Result was the same, belt is not available and their support forum has some angry discussion because of that.

Nokia's own customer website doesn't seem to know anything about this combination anymore, N79 product page is silent about Polar integration, Sports tracker site promotes other N-series devices and so on. From one Finnish webshop I can see that by ordering the N79 + chest-belt bundle I could get the product in one week with 45€ extra price compared to standard N79.

Nokia and Polar, can you hear me: you have created a superb product, please put power to marketing and start selling! It's not good business to play hide'n'seek with customers. To Nokia: this is something that makes digital convergence and internet services real, not just hype. To Polar: don't be afraid about cannibalizing your traditional market, this combination doesn't compete against your high-end heart-rate monitors.

Great engineering, poor marketing.


Monday, June 29, 2009

I want mobile marketing!

Hi again, I'm back. Vacation is over.

I’m returning back home with my family after a month’s trip across Europe to Southern France. Roaming costs still being sky-high, I made a decision that I will not use cellular data connections during the trip to test if there are free WiFi hotspots available and whether that’s a real solution for connectivity problems. The answer was clearly “no”.

When traveling for business, one typically stays in hotels with network access and the offices also provide network access. For family trips the accommodation is more like bed-and-breakfast and private houses. And luckily there were no offices to visit!

When we walked the streets or visited cafes I tried to scan for open networks. Result was surprisingly bad and most of the networks I used were open by accident, I guess (most of them were named “linksys", “netgear” or similar). If there had been an open network for any cafe that I could recognize by network name, my promise was that I’d take my family there and spend some money. There was none.

Just letting customers and bypassers to use network for free is nice and might generate additional sales. However, often free WiFi is a lost marketing opportunity. Why not strenghten the customer relationship with some innovative solutions, like sending access password to customer's Twitter account as a DM message as soon as customer becomes a follower. After that the marketing channel is established and every follower has an existing relationship with the business. At least I'd be happy with this deal.

Another thing about mobile marketing that businesses should think about is the scope. Too often mobile marketing is just about phones and PDA's, but what about the navigators? Is your business visible in the common navigator placemark listings? When traveller needs a service (use case: hungry kids screaming at the back-seat), he most probably does a search with his navigator. If your competitor is there and you are not, that's bad for your business. I can confess that when we were in France, Casino lost a customer because their shops were not listed in the navigator database and instead we went to Intermarché, just because I was able to find their nearest shop from the navigator listing. Mobile marketing is business.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not a killer application

You are reading this posting, you are doing well. You have access to internet, probably a mobile phone and what’s the most important - you can read.

Save the Children has published its its tenth annual State of the World’s Mothers report and you can be sure that it is not a nice paper to read. What do you think about this:
  • every year, around 50 million mothers in the developing world give birth at home with no professional care whatsoever. In Niger, only 33% of births are attended by health personnel
  • the majority of children under age 5 in the poorest regions of the world do not get basic health care when they need it
  • for the 10 bottom-ranked countries, 9 out of 10 women are likely to suffer the loss of a child in their lifetime
  • in Sierra Leone 1 woman in 8 dies in pregnancy or childbirth. In Ireland the ratio is 1 in 47.000
How could the situation of the poorest be improved? The report gives recommendations and proposes actions, such as
“Prenatal and postnatal care should include counseling to encourage a safe birth, awareness of danger signs that require immediate attention, a plan for going to a skilled health care provider, counseling on how to care for the newborn, and help to ensure breast feeding. “
This is a matter of getting information to the people when they need it.

However, it is not an option to print booklets and deliver those to the people. Where the situation is the worst, there are also most of the people illiterate; usually the situation for women is even worse than for the population in general. In Chad female literacy rate is 13%.

You might think that internet is the way to deliver information, but even that doesn't reach the masses. Mobile phones looks much better option, for example in Sierra Leone there are 66 times more mobile users than internet users.

Mobile phone is the medium to reach people that are in need of information. In the developing countries mobile phone is often shared by a family or a community, making the potential number of users even bigger than subscription numbers show. For people living in places where medical assistance is not available, getting basic information with phone is certainly an option. What’s most important, the information should be available in their own language either from a live person or from a recording. When a pregnant mother uses the service, she can be instructed and also her phone number can be stored. Later the phone number can be used by the healthcare personnel to get back in touch with mother or she can be reminded with a message to get more information as her pregnancy goes further. After the childbirth she can get information about the importance of breastfeeding, and so on.

Does anybody know if this kind of a solution has already been made?

This is not a killer application. This solution saves lives.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recycling innovations

Some weeks ago Nokia and Technopolis published information about an interesting initiative that will recycle Nokia's unused ideas and innovations to Finnish companies. Any company doing R&D is bound to have such innovations and ideas that have potential but are not part of company's core business. Now Nokia will share such innovations for free and Technopolis will do the matchmaking with companies. So, there will not be an online form that you can use to browse through Nokia's innovation catalogue...

Primarily the shared ideas are about near field communications, environmental and energy related solutions, health care and well being applications, location-based services, mobile security and future internet services. Idea quality can be anything between an idea description to a patented solution. What's nice with this initiative is that there is also funding part included tightly to the process. Funds come from participating companies, local cities and Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation).

Program has got really a quick start, first companies have already made a contract with Nokia and are now moving forward in the funding pipeline.

Must say all this sounds very good. Do you know if other companies have similar programs?


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nokiagate: Nokia busy to fix the solution

Today I had an open and honest discussion with Nokia's representative about the Nokiagate. They have been working hard first to analyze the problem scope and then to fix it. As anyone who has been involved with mobile development surely understands, there is a huge number of different variants (operator, language, region) available for every device and also many variants of the email wizard itself. All the combinations must be fixed. When this job is done, terminal fixes will be published using the suitable channel, which is also device and market dependant. Some devices are likely to require a firmware update to fix the wizard.

The fixed email wizard will no longer send your password data to Nokia's deployment server and there will also be an offline option so that you can create an email account without any communications happening from your terminal to Nokia. To prevent future man-in-the-middle attacks, email wizard will enforce certificate validation that will prevent this kind of network traffic analyzing I've done when investigating this case. This of course raises a question how we will be able to verify that password is removed from the data...

They have also been fixing the server side implementation and current setup no longer tries to log in to your email server. Also a special security audit has taken place to ensure that confidential data really hasn't been stored to the servers. I was told that the result of the audit was that confidential data hasn't been stored, also the logs were not storing the passwords. In addition to that, some server locations have been changed.

I have a feeling that now things are moving to the right direction. There is a bug, nobody denies that. Bug has been analyzed and fixes will be deployed as soon as possible. I'm sure there will be a strict privacy audit for new solutions and hopefully we will not see problems like this again.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is Nokia EVP afraid of?

Last week I joined Nokia Developer Summit and had a couple of discussions there about the Nokiagate. Nothing new to tell about that case and the discussions followed the same pattern; first I was told there is no problem, then I explained the case and soon we were able to agree that the current implementation has a security problem. I’m still waiting for Nokia’s actions how this will be fixed in new devices and firmware versions.

One presentation at the Summit was about the new Nokia Email offering. We were explained the idea and customer need behind the new solution. My silent question before the presentation was “why to fix something that isn’t broken” and I guess I found the answer.

Please understand: what I write below is not what Nokia told, this is how I interpreted their message.

The problem that the new messaging solution tries to solve is not technical; the problem is in business. Now people accessing their email directly from mobile terminal are not generating enough revenue for operators and device manufacturers. On the other hand, user’s without data plan are unsure about the costs of the mobile email access. To “fix” this, new email solution is needed that allows new business possibilities. So, Nokia is trying to route consumer email via their servers so that operators can separate that traffic from other data traffic. When email traffic is identified, it can also be priced separately. Take a look what says about the price:
“Nokia Messaging is currently provided on a trial basis. In the future, consumers will be able to acquire Nokia Messaging through an operator plan.”
Is this a beginning of an era of operators billing separately for different protocols? To open port 3128 (Nokia’s email service) customer must pay X euros per month, port 80 (browsing) is worth Y euros and so on.

A recent interview with Nokia’s EVP Tero Ojanperä reveals what is his biggest nightmare: that mobile user’s don’t want to pay for services, but instead go for free solutions, just like in the internet. If Nokia is bold enough to take the new email service to its extreme, be prepared to pay for your email access and after that pay for all the other protocols as well. A better way to get revenues from mobile services is to build so good and valuable new services that users are willing to pay for those. I’d choose the latter option if I were in Ojanperä’s position.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Nokiagate: my response to some comments

Last week the Nokiagate issue exploded and got attention worldwide. After having read comments and discussions from different sites I must clarify some basic things.

Lots of people have wondered if the communications is encrypted or not. I have already answered this question very clearly, but I will do it again. Connection is encrypted.

Second difficult topic to understand seems to be how email works. To start the wonderful journey into mobile mail, read an old post of mine. Then think for a second what Nokia’s marketing department has tried to communicate for some time: smartphone is an old-fashioned name for a device that has a new name: multimedia computer. That’s the name for a small battery operated pocket sized computer with one special feature, ability to send data and voice over cellular network. Nice little multimedia computer doesn’t require special protocols to access web content (remember WML and WAP?), nor does it require special protocols to access your mailbox. During this year’s Mobile World Congress Nokia’s EVP Anssi Vanjoki admitted that he hates the word “smartphone” and would rather use word “computer”.

Many comments posed a question how mobile phone then could access email without sending credentials to Nokia; after all this case is about the mythical mobile mail, right? If you have a desktop computer made by Dell, do you have to send your credentials to Dell in order to read your email? What about your Fujitsu laptop, did you send your credentials to Fujitsu before email started to work? Of course you didn’t, but you think that in a case of mobile device that has to be done? Well, that's not true.

Also many people told me that this is just how push mail works in general and Blackberry in particular. They have actively forgotten that I was't talking about any “pushmail” solution but wanting to use standard protocols to access my mail, without any mobile buzzwords. Blackberry solution (and many others) include messaging proxy server that sits between your terminal and the email server, that’s fine. When user wants to access his mailbox, messaging proxy does its magic and connects to the email server with the user’s permission. In my case user connects directly to his own mailbox (after the credentials have successfully been sent to an undisclosed server) and no proxy is involved.

So, is it a big deal to send password to a 3rd party server, after all Barack Obama is a well-known Blackberry user and if that’s not a problem for him, is this really a problem for me? Honestly I don’t know about Obama’s email setup and neither do you, but I’m very sure that if somebody in his team someday discovers that his terminal is silently sending stuff abroad that wouldn’t be considered as yet another "these things just happen but our intention was good" case.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Nokia's statement about the Nokiagate

I just received Nokia's official statement about the case I reported earlier.

Nokia's statement begin.
A Finnish blogger recently posted on his blogsite that Nokia stores users' credentials in Nokia when they try to configure their email account on their Nokia device using direct IMAP/POP access.

For the mobile email account to be created and for the user to enjoy a seamless mobile email experience, his email credentials (namely email address and password) need to be sent to the mail provider's server. In some cases, the user's credentials are sent directly to the mail provider's server, but in other cases, they securely pass through the Nokia mail server, without actually being stored.

Nokia takes security seriously in all phases of the mobile communication systems development process, and will further investigate this case using our normal processes and comprehensive testing. Also, based on the feedback that we have received, we will look into the possibility of amending the on-device email set-up instructions to ensure that end-user information handling in our devices and services is accurate.
Nokia's statement end.

My comment on that statement:
  • I completely understand and accept the need to ease the email account creation. Despite that, I still feel that sometimes sending credetials to email provider and sometimes sending those to Nokia's server is not acceptable. I want to be in control who gets my credentials.
  • I haven't claimed that Nokia stores user's credentials. I have written that credentials are sent to Nokia - I don't have any idea what happens to credentials after that.
  • I asked if credentials are stored. Now we got a clear answer that credentials are not stored. That's good.

If I may suggest a solution to Nokia, would you consider a solution that
  • tells to user exactly what's going on during the account creation
  • allows user to decide wheter wizard is used or not
  • if wizard is not used, no communications is done to Nokia's servers
  • if wizard is used, only domain part (e.g. is sent to Nokia server


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Info about the "Nokiagate"

Today has been an extremely busy day here at Mobilitics and lots of questions have been asked about the Nokiagate, both in post comments and private mail. Let me answer all of those at once.

Yes, Nokia is very much aware of this. I have made a report and they are working on this. Someday they will come out and give comment.

I am not talking here about Nokia Messaging or any other service they are providing. This case is about acessing your mailbox using IMAP without any extra middleware. You input information to connect to your email account and that information goes to Nokia's server. When the deployment server has tested that your account details are OK, information comes back to your terminal and the account is created. Now communication happens between your terminal and the actual email server just as it should.

Having said that, now it must be clear to everybody that Nokia's server is actually logging in to the email account when verifying the credentials. Test sequence includes logging in to both incoming and outgoing services - if that fails, client will prompt you to check credentials. If you want to verify this, you must be able to investigate traffic coming to your email servers.

Yes, according to my tests the verification server is located outside of the European Union, which means that your credentials are also there.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Instant mobilizer

I remember having read an announcement about a new instant mobilizer last autumn and forgetting that because there was nothing else available than a press release. Today I was renewing one .mobi domain and at the registrar's site I saw a small question "Mobilize it?" What is this?

It is instant mobilizer. dotMobi has partnered with domain name registrars and whenever somebody is buying or renewing a .mobi domain name, he will be offered an option to automatically mobilize an old website. Solution is productized so well that it is diffucult to see how the trick is done, but I guess that all traffic to new .mobi site is redirected to a server that runs Mowser and new mobile site is created on the fly.

Instant mobilizer is a great solution for companies that want mobile presence but don't want to invest on creating a new site for that purpose. This is again one step to the right direction, showing that mobility is not speciality.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Information about Nokia email case

Quick answers for the impatient readers:
  1. “Yes”
  2. “Yes”
  3. “It’s easy”

Below are my comments to some reactions I have seen regarding this "Nokiagate".

1) You are stupid! Don’t you know there is a new service called “Nokia Messaging”? It has to be able to retrieve your messages from the server!

Yes, I know there is a solution called Nokia Messaging (read more from here), but maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my initial post: I am configuring direct IMAP/POP access to my own/company/organization/whatever email service and I am not using nor planning to use Nokia’s messaging proxy.

Messaging proxy is a piece of software that you can use if you wish, there’s nothing wrong about that. If you want to use that, then you understand and accept that your credentials must be available to proxy - otherwise things will not work. When you signup for such a service, that is made clear to the user and he accepts it. However, this wasn’t the case in my email issue.

After email wizard has finished with the email configuration, all network connections are done from my terminal directly to the IMAP/POP email server, not to any messaging proxy. When I use email, data traffic doesn’t go via Nokia. There is no reason why my credentials should be sent anywhere else than to my email server.

2) Is the data encrypted?
Yes, the data is encrypted. Read next sentence aloud using ironic voice: “When I configure private email account into my phone, my email credentials are sent to Nokia in a secure way.”

3) Can’t believe this! Can I verify this myself?
It’s easy. First of all, you need some solution to intercept all network traffic originating from your terminal. For this purpose I used WebScarab and Wireshark. WebScarab is a tool that creates an HTTP proxy which will allow you to control both HTTP requests and responses. Install, configure and run it in your desktop. Check your desktop’s IP address and port that WebScarab is listening.

Because sniffing cellular network is beyond my skills, I used WiFi as a data bearer (email wizard will silently use cellular network if that is available). To enforce WiFi connection, put your terminal into offline mode and/or remove SIM card. Then configure a WiFi access point that will use your WebScarab desktop as a proxy (you need the IP address and port here).

When you think you are done, launch browser in phone and try to open some site. If you see the request in WebScarab, the configuration is correct. If not....well, I’dont provide support for this setup.

After configuration is working, run email wizard and see what happens.

Request to readers
I don’t have any idea which terminals have this email wizard - and if it exists does it work the same way when configuring an email account. If you find terminals behaving this way (sending passwords), please send terminal information to this post’s comments. Include terminal type and software version (you can see that by going to telephony screen and typing *#0000#).

These are the devices and software versions I've tested and verified password leak:
5800 (
N79 (11.049)
E75 (110.48.78)


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why Nokia wants my email password?

Many new Nokia S60 terminals seem to have an "email wizard" that helps the user to configure an email account to the terminal. Wizard prompts the user to give some basic information and then in most cases wizard is able to create account with all the correct settings.

Lets use Nokia 5800, an iconic device that has sold over 1.000.000 units. When you start the email wizard, you will see a screen like this

If I click "Back", wizard closes and email account is not created. Clicking "Start" will continue the wizard, but was that answer also consent to store the personal information? Anyway, there doesn't seem to be a way to create an account without this wizard.

Let's create an account for user (his password is "topsecret" but I will not tell it to anybody). After you have entered this information, the wizard will open a network connection and make an HTTP request to URL

Nice! I just sent to Nokia my email address, password, operator information and terminal type (in HTTP headers, not visible here). All you Nokia 5800 users around the world: did you know that? I didn't know that, nor did I like it.

Today I had an opportunity to play with a new Nokia E75, phone that's supposed to be THE email device of all business users. First impression with the device is very good, it's solid and snappy. When I checked the email client, it was behaving just as in 5800. When you create an account, wizard will send your sensitive data over the internet to Nokia's server.

When I create an email account that has absolutely nothing to do with Nokia's email services, my user credentials are sent to Nokia's server. I guess that this feature can be a show-stopper in some business environments - "hey, let's create email accounts and send our usernames and passwords to Nokia" doesn't sound that good.

According to my tests it seems that if you want to create an email account without giving your credentials to Nokia, you have two options:
  • you should give a dummy information to the wizard when it is asking for email address and password. Wizard will try to fetch settings from the internet but finally gives up and you can input the data safely.
  • put phone to offline mode when creating the account. That way phone cannot connect to any servers and when wizard notices it, you will be able to enter the email account data without sending it to the Nokia servers.

So finally, here are my questions to Nokia:
  • Why you have created an email wizard that by default sends user's email login information to your server without making that very clear and asking explicit permission to do so?
  • Why there is no option available to create an email account manually, without any wizards?
  • When user starts the wizard and continues from the first screen, does that give permission to Nokia to store my personal information?
  • If my personal information was stored to Nokia's servers because I've used email wizard to create an email account, how can I get my data removed from the server?
  • How do you use my personal data, collected from email wizard?

Update: Read also my follow up post.
Update 2: I'm trying to give answers to readers' questions here.
Update 3: Nokia's official statement is here.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Going to Nokia Developer Summit

In case you haven't noticed, Nokia is organizing a Developer Summit in Monaco at the end of April. Check the agenda and decide if there is something for you; I will be attending the event. If you too will be there, come say hi!

By the way, there is also a LinkedIn group for the event.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Numbers of Mobility

Some numbers that describe mobile industry in March 2009 (statistic numbers from Gartner). Please judge by yourself what this all means and if Nokia is doing the right things in the smartphone arena.

-16.8% is the number how much Nokia’s smart phone sales decreased Q4/2008 compared to last year.

0€ is the price an iPhone user has to pay to get phone operating system upgraded to the most recent level. Update will be available this summer.

0€ is the price a Nokia user has to pay to get phone operating system upgraded to the most recent level. Update will not be available (source: Nokia).

2 is the number of different iPhone models available today.

3.7% is the number how much smart phone sales in general increased Q4/2008.

78 is the number of different Nokia phones available in Finland today. (source: product listing at

84.9% is the year-on-year growth in RIM’s sales.

111.6% is the year-on-year growth in iPhone sales.

138% is the year-on-year growth in Samsung smartphone sales.

1000 is the number of voluntary resignation packages offered to Nokia employees (source: Nokia).

1700 is the number of Nokia R&D people that are affected by the company’s latest cost reductions (source: Nokia).

2500 is the number of people that will be affected by lay-offs in factory at Salo when phone production is scaled down to meet the market demand (source: Nokia).

The list is pessimistic to shake you up, but clearly there’s something wrong with the way Nokia now performs. The number of different terminal models is huge (compared to competitors) and it is changing rapidly, too. As soon as you buy the terminal there’s something “better” already available and user is told that upgrade will not be available. Wake up Nokia, competitors outperform here!

For quite a long time I’ve been annoyed by the gap there is between product launch and product's actual availability, at least when it comes to the flagship models. The marketing heat is on after the launch, but there’s nothing to sell and neither there is actual date given for availability. When the terminal some day silently hits the shops, in the worst case there already is a new flagship model to steal the marketing momentum. Who wants to spend hundreds of euros for an "outdated" device you cannot upgrade? For example N97 was launched back in December and many models have been launched after that - when will all these devices be available? Give us the exact date and make noise about that, these devices are not made for engineers but for customers to buy. Why people have to play detectives to get the information when they can buy these terminals? Is marketing department awake?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Cloud hits the Ground

When email storage space was limited users had to keep their inbox small, messages organized to folders and delete every message that wasn't absolutely important. Now you can use services like GMail that have (practically) unlimited storage space in "the Cloud" and let you search your messages so quickly it makes organizing just a waste of time. When using GMail I just don't organize nor archive messages - search is enough.

Nokia's S60 phones have an email client that can regularly login to your IMAP mail account and load new messages. When you enable that feature, it will disable the setting that limits the number of messages in your phone's email account (why is it like that?). Tried this automatic refreshing feature with GMail, decided to disable it and left other settings untouched.

Later I began to wonder why the email access has become very slow in my phone and why some applications either crashed or displayed clearly wrong information about my mailbox status. Then I checked the message count from my terminal's email application and there were 3900 email messages listed! Having all messages in your inbox is not a problem when processing happens in the Cloud, but then (fattish) clients like S60 email application will hit the Ground.

I know there is a GMail application available for my phone, but I rather use the native messaging application because that way I can have all my SMS/MMS/Email messages stored in the same place and I can access those without switching the applications.

Having all messages in the same place, hmmm....

Why my SMS/MMS messages are only in the phone? I'd like to have those archived in the Cloud, too. When I work with the messages, I'd like the changes to be replicated to my GMail account - that way I could also use GMail application to access my messages from the Cloud and messages would also be stored in a safe place. If all my messages were replicated like that, there could be just a new folder available in the GMail mobile application to access my SMS messages. That would also allow me to do search from all of my messages, no matter what media was used to deliver it. As far as I understand, it is no rocket science to create a solution like this to upload messages automatically to the Cloud. Anyone interested to try?


Thursday, February 26, 2009

S60 / Google synchronization almost here

Today I understood that Google has just added ActiveSync support to their portfolio to let users sync contacts and calendar events to their ..... iPhone! Wait a minute, doesn't that mean that I can also use Nokia's Mail for Exchange (MfE) to sync the data to S60 device? I made an experiment and here are the results.

First install MfE, and then set up the account:
  • Server address is
  • Your username and password are the ones that you use to login to your Google account
  • Domain name is mandatory but you can type to that field whatever you want
  • Your email address is also mandatory but not really used, just put your Google email address there
  • Your new MfE profile includes task and email synchronization by default. Disable those, they are not supported by Google.
If you managed to fill up all the fields correctly, you can now synchronize calendar events and contacts between S60 terminal and Google account. My first impression was "Wow, this works!", but unfortunately there seems to be a strange problem with the user credential management. 

It looks that I can synchronize data once and then there must be about 5 minute delay before that can be done again; if I try to sync too soon MfE will display an error message that tells my password is not correct (the same password that just worked fine!). There is probably a problem in Google's authentication module, as MfE synchronization also disables Apple's iCal application from syncing with Google (remember my family calendar?). Soon after MfE sync iCal prompts me to enter the password again and sync fails every time. Just wait a couple of minutes and sync is OK again. 

Before you get too excited, remember that Google officially states that syncing with MfE is not supported. But when this gets official support, we will have a superb mobile service for individuals and small companies - with a very reasonable price tag.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday is a Mobile Dev Camp day

Today I joined Mobile Dev Camp event at Helsinki. On the agenda there were presentations about current mobile hot topics, greetings from Mobile World Congress and networking with the peers. Some notes from the event:

Based on a question made by one of the speakers I got a feeling that many listeners are taking their first steps in mobile development field. Think about the new runtime options that have emerged during the last years; Flash, Python and especially web technologies. All these broaden the mobile world to the fields of the traditional development world; such thing as "mobile development" is soon to extinct and it will become development as usual. Totally another thing is if you can understand the needs and desires of mobile users - that's what will separate failure from success. 

Many presetations handled about Android and tried even reach to Palm Pre. Should I develop to these platforms? Let me present "Harri's mobile platform feasibility test":
  1. Buy a 24h ticket to your local public transport system. Spend one day in busses, trams, subway, ferries, whatever. Count how many people you see using the devices powered by the platform prospect. If count is > 1, proceed to step 2, otherwise jump to step 4.
  2. Visit some of the major mobile phone reseller's store and wait for your turn. When you have drawn staffs' attention to you, try to buy a device that runs your platform of choice. If you leave the store with a brand new device, proceed to step 3, otherwise jump to step 4.
  3. Your platform selection has potential, good luck. 
  4. Are you really sure with your platform selection? 
Finally a small reminder: some time ago I wrote a paper about topics that new mobile developers should keep in mind. If you are just about to develop your first mobile solution, there can be something for you.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

The fuzz about Nokia and Facebook

Did you happen to notice that last week many newspapers and sites reported that Nokia and Facebook are discussing about partnership? For example, here is a link to WSJ's article. So far I haven't noticed that anybody had asked the silly question - what's there to negotiate? Facebook's triumph began when they opened the programming interface for third parties to create applications and a couple fo weeks ago they even improved the status API. Using that API with Nokia's smartphone platforms is no magic. So, no reason to talk for months, but as Bill Clinton put it:
It's the economy, stupid!
My claim is that nobody has made the Nokia/Facebook application yet, because - as so often - the business model is missing. Even though there seems to be a "I want a Facebook Application for my Nokia and I want it now!" group, it is hard for developers to see where the business could profitably be. Nokia has tried to ease the user's pain with a simple Facebook application available from the Download-client, but that application is just capable of launching the browser to the Facebook's mobile page.

Good mobile Facebook application is something that users want now and developers could do now, but companies are busy negotiating the terms. The missing link in this picture is not the contract between the companies but an online application store that puts the business in it's place. I won't dive into comparing the Nokia's Download client with the Apple AppStore, but S60 ecosystem just isn't working without a much better way to sell applications. 

Tomorrow Mobile World Congress opens, I hope we will hear what Nokia will do with this problem.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Two interesting new dissertations

This is funny coincidence. Today at 12.00 o'clock two interesting mobile related dissertations will be published from two different Finnish universities. 

I thought you may like these:

Links point to Finnish pages, but I hope that title and abstract tell enough to decide whether these interest you or not and if you want to go for printed publications.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Augmented (mobile) reality

For some time I’ve been fascinated about the idea of (mobile) augmented reality, the concept that things in real world can be increased or extended by some clever use of software. This sounds too theoretical to be interesting, but let’s take some examples what this can be.

Marketing people have already found really interesting ways to use new opportunities. What would you think about a car launch commercial that would allow you to explore the 3D model of the new car - on top of the newspaper. This has already been done by the Mini car company, check this page. The trick is that you use your computer’s camera to capture a special image and from the computer’s screen you can then enjoy and explore the model. Why this is better than studying the model from the pictures? Because this is a much more engaging experience!

To experience this by yourself, go to Boffswana’s page, print the image and prepare to be impressed. Tried this at home and my kids went crazy. How would you use this?

On the mobile side I have an idea that I’d love as a tourist. Take some new mobile terminal that has embedded GPS (to tell where you are) and a compass (to tell where you are looking at). Add that information to data sources similar to what Google Earth uses and display the information on the device’s screen while the camera is taking live picture from your neighborhood. This solution not only could tell you where you are, it could also tell you what you are looking at. The marketing people could sell ads to this service; imagine that when you look at the world through service like this, it could display you where in the picture is a good restaurant, for example. Physical and digital world meet on the mobile terminal's screen - nice.

It seems that Nokia has tried to create a service like this a couple of years ago, but at that time devices weren’t ready yet and add-on hardware was needed. Don't know whatever happened to the project, now time would be ready for applications like this.


I was just pointed to a blog post made by a fellow Forum Nokia Champion David Caabeiro, he has already made an application that's demoing the idea I presented above. This proves my claim that terminals are now ready for applications like this!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mobility is not easy for anybody

Mobility should be something that makes life easier, simple solutions for everyday problems, right? Considering from the users' point of view something has gone wrong when 
"...setting up a new handset is as challenging as moving bank accounts."
as BBC's report about a recent study puts it.

Dear users, life isn't easier for developers. Some time ago I was involved in obtaining a Publisher ID for Symbian development and signing. The process includes creating a request and then sending it to the authority, plus a copy of your passport, official document (no older than 9 months) verifying the existence of the company and a signed confirmation document supporting the request. Then you might be allowed to get your certificate, that of course isn't useable right away but requires some certificate-voodoo to get it working. As a comparison, check the process of getting license to acquire firearms here in Finland.

Executive summary
To create a mobile solution that is too complex to use, developers need a certificate that is more difficult to get than a license to buy a shotgun.


Friday, January 23, 2009

What to study for mobile development?

After having written my previous entry and suggesting that the presented idea would make a nice student project, I began to think what I would study if I were a computer science student today and interested about mobile application development. (Well, if you are a CS student you should study the theoretical foundations to ensure that you are able to grasp the future, but you get the idea...)

Not so long ago I would have suggested you to focus on Symbian development because on that platform you have access to interesting set of features and terminals are very widely used. Native applications have access to almost all of the terminal's resources and the there isn't any runtime overhead when running compiled applications. But taking now a look back, I understand that I haven't been doing much Symbian stuff during the last year. Why is that?

Symbian (as a development platform) is as it has been for quite a long, but other platforms have improved a lot. It is like driving slowly on an expressway; you are moving but all the others are passing you.

The platforms I'd study today for mobile development are all useful also for non-mobile devices:
  • Web technologies. Mobile browser is a very good platform for a wide range of solutions. With html and javascript you can have first version running before you have created and built a new Symbian project with a Carbide project wizard! New runtimes like Nokia's WRT even allow you to access native applications and terminal data.
  • Flash. I haven't ever done Flash-applications myself, but I see everyday new mobile applications implemented with it. There must be something in it, at least when you want to make nice looking graphical applications.
  • Qt. This is the new player in town and Nokia seems to be putting a lot of effort on this. Also with Qt you can enjoy the benefits of being able to use your implementation with multiple platforms. Keep your eye on this.
You might notice that native Symbian API's are the enabling layer for all these, which is aliged with the message I've been trying to communicate: Symbian is an important platform, but think carefully if native Symbian development is worth the effort. Somebody might already have done it for you allowing you to concentrate more on the actual substance.

Finally quick non-scientific statistics from Nokia's career website (January 23, 2009):
  • There are 19 open positions that match search "Symbian"
  • There are 51 open positions that match search "Qt"


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do-it-yourself User Interface

Today new mobile phones - more or less - all share the same technical features. Still device manufacturers and operators must try to differentiate their products somehow to get media and customer attention. How to do that cost efectively is the question. New buzzwords arise frequently and technical gimmics are given too much attention. A couple of years everybody was supposed to have a phone that was slim like the Motorola Razr, today you must have a touch screen to be taken seriously in the game. These innovations and also the older ones like 3G and camera all are hardware related and so require the manufacturers to do the job and hope for the best. So far customer created innovations in mobile domain have been rare - it is a nontrivial task to create mobile applications.

I haven't had an opportunity to really use Nokia's new touch UI devices, but based on the quick feeling the user interface carries the legacy of the S60 platform. The latest and greatest UI is clearly an ancestor of the good'ol 7650 from year 2001. What was nice then, needs to be redesigned today.

What if user's could create their own mobile user interface? Could they innovate something that hasn't been seen yet?

I once began to think how we could implement a mobile home screen that a user could easily configure by himself? This time configuring is not about just changing the background image but really doing main UI structure so that user can decide what is visible, when and where. I made some tests with Nokia's S60 platform and I'm convinced that technically all this would be fairly straightforward thing to do. As always, having the implementation is...just a good start. Packaging the solution and marketing is completely another story. Did I hear someone ask about the business model? I don't have a clue.

Nerdy stuff follows.

Well, technically the idea is not very complicated. S60 terminals have an embeddable browser control framework that can be used to create an application that includes the native browser engine. Search for BrCtl* stuff from Forum Nokia or use my search tool. This is the core of the solution; you create an application that draws a fullscreen special browser and replaces or complements the native Menu application. 

When this application launches, it should connect to the server to download user's home screen preferences. As in any mobile application, here you should think how the application works in different situations (no network coverage, roaming, etc.). Caching data is a very good idea.

When you have done it this far, you are able to display a new menu to the user, only your designer skills set the limit. And yes, JavaScript works also. Now you understand there's a problem, you have no way to launch local applications or documents. The solution is that you can implement your own link resolver that you can use. Define your own url-type and encode the information of the application, view and other possible options.

Now the implementation has reached a point where you can display a menu to the user and he is able to launch applications etc.  Next question is where the displayed structure is coming from? Well, create a nice website for that purpose, where users can manage and share their own mobile UI.

When the solution described above is done, it will allow users to create mobile interfaces by themself using your nice editor, html and javascript, helping them out from the native S60 menu jungle. Because javascript is available, you can do lots of nice things, like enabling and disabling stuff based on the terminal's local time and so on. I'm sure you get the idea and can imagine more possibilities.

Somebody might notice that the solution above is quite near what Nokia's WRT-runtime can do today. That's true, but this way you will gain better control to the features that you will provide to the user and you can handle browser events at the lower level which will later allow more possibilities for new features. 

Previously I've given ideas to many student projects, I guess this could perhaps be a nice project work for a mobile related course in any polytechnic or technology university? Project would include mobile implementation, web implementation and graphical design, allowing a team with mixed skills work together.