Sunday, December 26, 2010

John Wayne trying to save Nokia

A couple of days ago Helsingin Sanomat published an interview with Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia's former CEO who got sacked this September. In this personal interview OPK tells about his feelings for the first time after he stepped down from his Nokia position. It's a good read, please take a look.

For quite some time Nokia hasn't been famous for innovative products and its new rivals have made Nokia look like an old struggling giant. Nokia has been hit by the Innovator's Dilemma.

Think for a second what would you need in order to be "innovative". I'd list things like time to think, seeing things from a new perspective, vision about future, sharing ideas with unexpected people and hard work - and this is just a start.

Then read carefully OPK's interview, especially the part where he tells about his work routines. Twelve hours spent daily at the office and after that working some more from home. He had vacation only a couple of days annually and for five years he couldn't visit trot races - his favourite hobby. Christmas lunch with friends he had this year first time in fifteen years!

How do you think an organization acts when the leader works like John Wayne, trying to alone save the entire company? My guess is that next management levels are trying to follow him, because they think it is the right way to work in this company. The more you work, the better you are and get closer to promotion. No casual meetings, no lunches with friends, no hobbies, no vacation. Just work.

If you work like that, you will lose most of the things that I feel are the requirements for innovations. If you don't have any slack in your calendar, when does your mind work freely? If you don't even have time to meet friends, how can you get exposed to fresh thinking? If you work like that, can you evaluate the innovations presented to you and decide where to invest?

Another small detail that caught my eye was that OPK will probably never buy an iPhone, he wants to remain loyal to Nokia. Many times I've thought that Nokia's top executives shouldn't only be allowed but instead forced to use their competitors' products in everyday use for a month or so. If they see something nice in their products, Nokia could proudly imitate those features - that's what their competitors do, anyway. And finally they would know what struck them.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ovi Store disappointment

Earlier Nokia's Ovi Store has had some usability challenges, to put it politely. Having used new Ovi Store for some time with N8 I've been quite happy with it as there has been a major improvement to user experience. Application discovery and installation work acceptably and sometimes I've even found myself browsing the store just to see what's available.

After many installed applications I started to wonder that I never received any notifications about application updates. You know, sometimes developers do make mistakes and release fixes for those or even add new features to applications. Must say I was shocked when I was told that missing update notifications was not because Nokia developer ecosystem has reached the ultimate quality level but because Ovi Store doesn't support update notifications!

Ok, no update notifications then. Before application is installed from Ovi Store, there is a button to download the application and after installation is finished, the same button allows me to launch the application. I can't download the same application again - is the purpose that I must uninstall the application before update?

How am I supposed to update an application I've installed from Ovi Store if I know an update exists?

How would I know there is an update available because Ovi Store doesn't show version numbers?

Why does Ovi Store offer me the same application again and again for download even if I have it already installed?

Has somebody really wrote specification that states this is the way an application store should work?

Below are some screenshots if Ovi Store is not familiar to you.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

I like N8!

Nokia is going through interesting times. Stephen Elop will begin his job next tuesday and in a month new N8 will become publicly available. I've had a pleasure to use N8 for some time in everyday use and that device must be put to the same category as 2110, 9110 and 7650. N8 is a great and exiting device. Really, that wasn't a joke! Let me tell you why.

N8 is not a piece of plastic. As soon as you hold the device in your hand, its aluminium body feels solid and robust.

N8 has capacitive touch screen, say goodbe to stylus.

N8 has amazingly good camera with a xenon flash. Takes as good pictures as my digital camera and I can read my email, call wife and check Facebook with N8 - something my camera cannot do.

I didn't think HDMI connection has any value before I connected N8 to my TV and watched the pictures together with my family. HDMI and great camera is a good combination.

N8 is fast, something I haven't been able to say about other Nokia phones lately. You touch the screen and there is an immediate response. Screen orientation changes without shaking the phone. Virtual keyboard is fast and easy to use. Music player with album art performs just as it shoud do. And so on...

N8 looks good. To whoever I have shown N8, comments have been somewhere between "Wow!" and "Oooh!". What's most interesting is that young people, those digital natives, have been very excited about the device and its looks.

N8 is stable. It hasn't crashed.

N8 has new homescreen that has three configurable views. If you don't like old S60 application menu, you won't need to use it as everyday tasks can be launched directly from homescreen. If you can't live without old S60 menu, it is still there.

By the way, I have been using N8 with pre-commercial softare, that has probably tons of testing and debugging features still built in. When commercial software is released, I expect N8 to become even better.

Nokia is back in the high-end smartphone competition.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

All these different devices are the same

While smartphone competition is heating up, many analysts have asked when Nokia will start using Android in its devices, instead of Symbian. Most of the answers to this question have been the same, how Nokia would then differentiate itself from all the other manufacturers who use Android? In general, how could a manufacturer differentiate from all the other competitors using the same platform? Here are two ways to do it, both of them I would highly appreciate as a customer.

Superior hardware quality
Thinking about Nokia, their hardware quality is still unbeatable. Take an E-series device and hold it in your hand, it feels rock solid and durable. Then repeat the test with - let's say - HTC Hero and you feel the difference. You might not want to do this, but drop both devices to concrete floor - which one is still working?

OK, I have had HTC Hero and touchscreen has now broken three times in a year and device is again getting repaired. That's why HTC Hero is used as an example here. And yes, I haven't dropped it to the floor.

How do you differentiate from competitors if all are using the same platform?

Make sure your device has better and more durable hardware!

Give an unbeatable support statement
No matter which platform the device is running, there will be new platform versions and sooner or later the device becomes outdated. New applications will benefit from new platform services and you are missing all those. When will your device get an update - or will it ever? Has the manufacturer forgotten its old customers? Here is again a good way for manufacturers to differentiate: make a bold promise to customers that they will not be forgotten and they receive new platform versions in a timely and expectable way. What this would mean? Here is a sentence that you are free to use: "If you buy this device, we will provide you new platform software within three months after the release or give you an immediate information if such an upgdare cannot be made because of a major hardware incompatibility."

How do you differentiate from competitors if all are using the same platform?

Make a statement that your device will be kept up-to-date, also in the future!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Smartphone is like a car

When you buy a car, you are not only bying the actual vehicle, but also taking for granted you are able and allowed to access the whole travelling ecosystem with roads, gas stations, repair shops and so on. The car is your key to these services and if car for any reason is not able to access the ecosystem, it is not fulfilling it's purpose. Imagine a beutiful car that is not able to use normal road network; some enthusiasts won't care but for rest of us it doesn't sound like a good deal. At least it doesn't solve the problem of transportation.

When you buy a smartphone, you are not only buying the actual device, but also taking for granted you have access to networks, application stores, interesting media content, easy payment services and so on. Smartphone is the key to these services and smartphone without these services is like a car without the road. Some enthusiasts would love a great smartphone even if it is unable to communicate with the ecosystem, but that doesn't make a business case.

The magic equation is in this sense is:
hardware quality * software quality * services * price = terminal success

Nokia's recent problems have been in software and services, Apple's problem is the price and my recent Android experiences show that their problem is in hardware quality.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Marketing with Ovi Store error page

Although Nokia during latest quarter sold more smartphones than before, they are loosing faithful Symbian customers to other platforms. Time to do something?

Some days ago I received from Ovi Store an SMS that promoted a local application

Well, I wasn't using anymore the S60 device, but HTC Hero instead. When I clicked the link from the message, it opened the browser and displayed a message

I'm not a marketing guy, but wouldn't this be a great place for trying to get a customer back? After all, this page is displayed to somebody who has previously owned and actively used a Nokia device but who has swithched to other manufacturer's phone. Opportunity to tell about latest news and improvements and make an offer for new Nokia phone?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wishlist to Mr. Sports Tracker

Dear Mr. Sports Tracker, I’ve used your application many years already; this is what I’d like to get for next Xmas.

Fix the constant application crash. Checked statistics for my latest 10 exercises and only one of the recordings has finished successfully. For the other 9 recording Sports Tracker has restarted the phone and thus stopped recording; I have a couple of times observed how phone suddenly restarts when Sports Tracker is running. It was quite easy to reproduce before I disabled the automatic phone lock after 30 minutes. When locking after 30 minutes was enabled, Sports Tracker sessions used to stop exactly at 30:02 or 1:00:04.

Add a “power guard” feature. Sports Tracker is very battery hungry application and even though I unplug my phone from charger just before I start Sports Tracker, battery will drain before I return home. I’d like to enable setting that closes Sports Tracker before battery has dried completely - that is also a security feature that would keep my phone usable if something nasty happens while I’m out.

Add reminders. For long and concentrated training sessions I’d like to get reminders that alert according to my wishes. For example on a hot summer day I’d like to get a small alert every 15 minutes that reminds me it is time to get some drink and an hourly alert that reminds to get some carbohydrate.

Allow preplanned routes. Allow users to plan their routes (with Sports Tracker website, Google Maps, whatever) and upload the route to application. During exercise Sports Tracker application can give to user simple routing instructions or warn if he is no longer following the route.

Add weather information. For every outdoor exercise I’d like to get automatically current weather information stored.

Get training accessories to your online store. First thing I’d like to buy is a reliable bike mount that would allow me to use my heart rate belt with Sports Tracker application. Using HR belt while cycling doesn’t work if phone is in jersey’s rear pocket; I guess bluetooth signal is just too weak to go through my body.

Final wish: get the new website running.

Just in case you didn’t notice: I didn’t write these features should be free. I’d happily pay a small monthly fee for the new SportsTracker application.

FYI: I use Sports Tracker (version 3.05) with N96 (firmware 30.033).


Thursday, May 20, 2010

I hope mobile identity won’t fail in Finland

Later this year - maybe - there will be mobile identity infrastructure setup to Finland, operators are ready to issue certificates to users and service providers are starting to offer the benefits of this ecosystem to the end users.

This all sounds similar to the situation that was in Finland at late 90’s when PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) was setup with high hopes. Later this system has been documented as a failure. I hope mobile identity project will not become yet another failed technology driven infrastructure project in Finland, but I can see some dark clouds.

User expectations will not be met
During last six months I’ve heard a handful of presentations about the new mobile identification system and all have included an idea that users will love the system because they no longer must remember tens of passwords to access their accounts in numerous systems. Passwords will be replaced by “secure and easy” mobile login. Unfortunately I’m afraid that it will not happen and users will be disappointed. Reason for my doubt is that MobileID transactions will cost for service providers and they can’t see the reason why they should pay for operators for every single login event. Instead of password replacement, MobileID will be used during registration to ensure user’s identity and after registration user will be authenticated with username and password, just like before. Also for special cases like password recovery MobileID can be used, but user who has hoped that passwords will not be required anymore, will feel fooled.

About user expectations: does somebody really think that most of the services will start using MobileID and developers for example in Silicon Valley are just waiting to get their hands-on experiences about MobileID? No, MobileID is a domestic system that will (or will not) be used by domestic solutions. Don’t expect to get rid of passwords anytime soon!

No exact information available
The system should be available next fall, but technical and economical information is not yet available. Operators cowardly refuse to say anything about the cost of joining and using the system, they only agree that using the solution will of course cost something. In Finland the price will most probably compare to Tupas-pricing, that is approx. 0.20€ per request.

Only for individual users with good income
In presentation slides the certificate issuing process looks nice, but that is only the case if you are a person who has signed a direct contract with the operator. If you are a business user and contract is made by your employer, what will happen? Nobody seems to know.

What if you are using a prepaid account and don’t have an agreement with the operator? Nobody seems to know.

Future proof until...?
When personal identification number was launched in Finland nobody was paying much attention to how it was used and stored - after all it’s just your birthday and some additional bytes. That was the case until it was understood that personal identification number identifies person in almost every system and that information can be abused.

Now with MobileID we are no longer talking about personal identification code but about FINUID (Finnish Unique Identifier) that is “just a piece of data that identifies the user, so nothing very confidential and it can be stored in systems everywhere to identify the user” (and also mapped to personal ID). Someday the same happens as with personal identification and the use of FINUID will be strictly governed and hence the use of MobileID authentication will require careful reasoning and so on... So please, don’t come saying that this infrastructure manages “only” FINUIDs that are stored to multiple transactions logs during the identification process.

My humble request for MobileID providers is: please, don’t create a WAP-like expectation gap between the hype and reality, publish pricing information ASAP, make system available for business and prepaid users and be more exact right from the beginning about allowed FINUID handling.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Living with an eBook reader

For people who have used Kindle or other eBook reader my notes might not be very interesting, but I have to confess that I haven’t used an eBook reader before. Thanks to our local public library, I have been able to try BeBook reader for a week. For quite some time I have wanted to get a reader, but paying hundreds of euros for test hasn’t felt like a good idea.

First impression from BeBook is that you don’t need a manual to read a traditional book.

Next challenge was to find something to read. Reader can show pdf-files but screen isn’t good in handling graphics, lines are broken and page breaks jump to strange places. Line breaks are also a problem for a plain text file downloaded from reader homepage, text becomes like an artsy poem.

I’m afraid eBooks will remain geeky toys as long as book discovery, downloading and reading cannot be done using the same device. For a short test it is doable to browse content with desktop, connect cable and copy files to an external drive. However, I wouldn’t do that any longer, especially if I would read newspapers or else often updated material. Remember how mobile applications were geeky until Apple productized discovery and installation to a consumer solution.

Just by reading about eBook I haven’t understood how an ePaper display really feels. At least I assume it is because of display’s nature that page slowly flickers from white to black and back to white before new page is readable. Not nice.

After the one week test I still think that eBook is a nice idea (having a whole library in a small device, as marketing department puts it, you know) but needs user experience design. Put the engineers to vacation and design the service ecosystem so that it works as nicely as iTunes, for example. Too much effort is wasted on thinking what device could do, but I’d like an eReader that does the primary thing well, from end to end.

After all, blank paper sheet is the ultimate open platform for endless opportunities but printing makes the book. Pile of blank paper is not the best book (“you can write your own story”), nor is supports-everything-‘cos-we-can’t-decide reader the best reader (“you can customize the reading experience as you like”).

Next thing would be to test Kindle, but it's unclear if it works wirelessly in Finland and I will not pay $500 to check that.