Does Nokia matter to us?
So, Nokia will not use Windows 7, nor will it use Android. This has been a source of debate between Tomi T Ahonen and Robert Scoble Which basically tries to undestand what, if any, is Nokias software development policy. While MeeGo seems be the future, Symbian is not dead yet, and it seems QT is the stopgap between the two.
Should we, as consumers, care? There is the iPhone and the Android platforms with all the shiny new touch and tons of apps. Windows 7 and WebOS seem to be advancing more rapidly, with better built in social networking capabilities then Symbian. It would seem that in this time of the consumer oriented smart phones, RIM and Nokia are yesterdays news. Sure, they have excellent quality hardware, but they don't seem to get it one the software, or rather on the platform side.
From the Nokia point of view, I would imagine that they look at LG, Motorola, HTC and Samsung on one hand and Apple on the other, and realize that the only way to maintain and enhance their position is to control both the hardware and the software. Since they are not a software company, like Google and Microsoft, the Apple path seems to be the more viable and profitable course. Herein lies a major problem, apple is a one trick pony. A very fancy trick pony, but only one. Hardware keyboard? Nope. SD expansion? Nope. Direct application installation? Nope. Nokia is catering to a market which has a longer legacy and a much more diverse set of requirements and wants.
Both Apple and Google had the advantage of starting from a clean slate1. For Microsoft to reach the same type of platform, they had to dump all backwards compatibility with older windows phone. Both RIM and Nokia have chosen to try and remain loyal to their existing client base while providing more "modern" platforms.
I think loyalty matters. RIM have failed in that area in allowing access to their infrastructure, which raises another issue I find important, and that is the dependency of phone OS on services. Nokia phones can be used without any Nokia service. While the same holds true of Android, I haven't seen any major phone make which uses Android and does not make extensive use of Google services. This is, arguably, a nice feature, but not really a requirement. I think LG, Motorola, HTC, Sony Erricson and Samsung dropped Symbian as they wanted to avoid having to develop those services themselves, depending on a competitors services infrastructure - OVI, or develop a layer which would allow the consumer to select the services they would like.
I hope MeeGo will follow Meamo in that respect. Nokia joining forces with Intel is a double edged sword in that respect. On one hand, Intel has an inherent interest in its chips, and cares little for the ARM platform, which is the current king in smartphones. On the other hand, Intel has little interest in software and services, which is good for creating a service agnostic smartphone.
As we see smartphones and other connected devices take on more of the role and task we currently attribute to computers, we need to look back on the PC and take some lessons from there. Open and cross platform systems are the ones which prevailed. TCP/IP is the networking protocol used by all, all proprietary protocols from IBM, Novel, IBM and Apple are gone. The X86 platform rules in the desktop and server marketplace. Proprietary Unix systems are all but gone. Windows success was due mainly to the easiness in which you could develop, and more importantly, deploy application. Apple has gone up with OS/X for the same reason. Android offers similar platform, but so far, it does not seem the makers and providers are using this more to lock the users into their platform in a way Microsoft and apple would have loved to do ten years ago.
So, it is not so much about Nokia, Symbian, MeeGo or QT. It's more about whether the smartphones will be a renewal of the PC revolution of the mid 1980's, or back to a multitouch VT100 terminals. As far as Nokia is concerned, I am not worried about them. Compared to all other technology companies, I think they are the one who truly knew how to reinvent itself.
- 1. haha