Tag: Ovi (Page 1 of 4)

@scobleizer or @tomiahonen? Who is Right?

Every now and again, war breaks out on the web. Or, rather, a full-on discourse of learned scholars on the world at large or, in our case, mobile in particular. This week saw one such blog fights and, no, I am not talking about Wikileaks. The formidable Robert Scoble (he of recent European ignorance but, hey, he is American after all… ;-)) and Tomi Ahonen (Rat-Hat of Forum Oxford and a certain [but not blind!] Nokia-fandom but, hey, he might live in HK but he is a Fin… ;-)) brought it on about the fall or not of Nokia.

It started with one of Tomi’s long, long posts on “Some Symbian Sanity” to which Scoble responded “Why Nokia is Still Doomed“. Because he referenced Tomi, he – if you know him, you’d say “of course” – responded with another long post defending Nokia’s smartphone strategy and execution. You should think Tomi has the harder corner to fight, right? 😉

Let me briefly summarise the warring parties’ viewpoints. I will then offer my own take on this to decide who’s right.

Scoble’s Opinion

Scoble first, he, never shy for words, delivered a swift and damning verdict on Nokia: Illustrated ventured Eastwards again to LeWeb last week and took stock of Europe’s smartphone pulse.he reckons that Nokia is dead because none of his friends has one or, if they do, they don’t like it. People pile up in Apple stores and wax lyrical about the apps they find on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Nokia is arrogant rather than cognisant of its shortfalls and he has not recently heard of a strategy. The people (and/or Scoble’s friends) love iPhone. Case closed.

Tomi’s Original and Scoble Riposte

It’s always a little more difficult to summarise Tomi’s posts as he doesn’t do quick ones. Who knows him is aware that he is a big fan of numbers, of big numbers, in fact. And this is why he hangs on to Nokia: because, you know, their numbers are big! His original post goes – very, very simplified – like this: he sets off to compare Apple with Porsche (as opposed to, say VW). He didn’t reference my recent post on this (tut, tut, Tomi) but the gist is the same: Nokia doesn’t only do Porsche, it does everything from VW Polo (or Chevy Matiz, Kia something or other) to Bentley (well, maybe that not anymore unless you count Vertu in). Its competitor is therefore not Ferrari but Toyota or – in the mobile world – not Appele but Samsung.

He then dives into Nokia’s strategy. And this is when it goes a little, well, foggy. Symbian being miles ahead (yes), Symbian kicking a** today with the N8 (erm, no), Apple’s original (sic!) iOS failing when it comes to phone features (well, yes, maybe, but who is using the “original” iOS today? Or the original Symbian for that matter?). And then he goes on to run the numbers. Now, according to him (and I didn’t check the numbers) Nokia + Japan = 45% smartphone market share for Symbian in 2009 (down a whopping 11% even by his count from 2006). Now, here’s where the questions start (more later). Then onwards to the mass market (more later). And, Tomi (being the very smart man and learned scholar he is) recognises Symbian might be a bit old and clunky and (rightly and unsurprisingly) pits MeeGo against this: new, open, Linux-based, etc. A winner, right? (more later). Therefore, Tomi heralds Nokia as being the perfect example in moving from “dumbphone” to smartphone.

Following Scoble’s burst of opinion as per above, Tomi reverted with more (as he does). I’ll skip through most of it. However, one point he raises is that the US is only 8% of the global market (true). It is though higher on smartphone consumption and (one language, one currency and all) provides a cool launchpad in a rich (yes, still) market. And Nokia is the Robbie Williams of the mobile world when it comes to the US: never managed to break it! He goes on to answer the “Nokia’s not cool” argument and refers to eco-friendly. Well, Tomi, that’s a little lame. Face it: Nokia lost its cool. Period. No argument! Apps? Yes, I know Ovi is catching up but, come on, the app store changed the bloody ecosystem (Nokia had about 4 iterations pre-Ovi who all miserably failed; Apple provided the paradigm-shift – face it).

Who is right?

The weird thing is that they both are (or, more controversially, neither is)!

And here’s why (hint: Tomi did get it right but then got carried away on the Finnish ticket): Tomi nailed it in his first post when he compared Apple to Porsche. Apple is not (or not yet?) competing with the Volkswagens and Toyotas of the mobile world. Now: in the automotive world, Porsche failed with the big coup (but, let’s remember, only just!). Apple might yet pull it off. The starting point is not dissimilar: super-high margins, a very comfortable lead in the luxury segment and loads of cash. Porsche over-reached (driven by a perhaps over-zealous ruler). Apple might, well…

Scoble looks at the US first and foremost. And it is – in spite of the many struggles – a formidable market still. And Apple made one of the most impressive market entries of all time! Now, will it be equally easy to capture China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, etc? I doubt it. Does Scoble see this? No.

As to Tomi: you may want to count in the likes of Foxconn in the more formidable competitors of the mighty Finns. But that aside, yes, it’s mainly Samsung today. As a matter of fact, we need to start looking at handset (and OS) segments a little differently. Symbian might be a smartphone platform in the old definition but it does not (usually) stack up against Apple’s iOS or the slicker iterations of Google’s Android in the new world. This is why Nokia keeps losing market share in the high end rapidly (and loses market capitalization equally fast) and why Apple’s market cap is at an all time high! Will it win the war? No, not necessarily. And Nokia still has a shot. But the N8 was too little too late: hardware specs don’t count, the user experience does. And Nokia lost it on that front (compared to its up-market rivals).

So, folks, just re-read my post on Volkswagen and Porsche, will you? And settle your little tiff… 😉

App Store Fragmentation: Vodafone & Android

It’s been looming and was long expected but today Vodafone announced it would embed its Vodafone 360 app store on two Android devices next to Android Market. Vodafone says their store would give partners a richer retailing experience than Android Market – but then they would say that, wouldn’t they?

But cheap puns aside, the move does have some legs: Vodafone uses Qualcomm’s Xiam personalisation engine, which provides recommendations based on user behaviour. They claim – and you may have heard that before in any number of my talks – that recommendations are a much stronger driver than promotions, stronger by a level of 4x to be exact. This ties in with my preachings: nearly 3/4 of all purchasing decisions (not only mobile, all of them!) are made on the recommendation of friends. And, alas, this is where “user behaviour” as the applicable pattern comes short: do I care how many, say, Amazon buyers of Grisham novels are also buying other authors’ crime thrillers? No. Why not? Because I don’t know these people. Do I care what my friends may think I like? You bet! Why? Because they know me and my tastes. Doh!

Anyway, back to Vodafone. They have realised (and, credit to them, admit it!) that a vertical implementation where you only get the full scope of 360 services if you have one of two phones doesn’t work. And, well, that’s somewhat obvious, isn’t it? Or is it a reasonable assumption that all my friends will all of a sudden (and at the same time) exchange their various handsets for a Samsung M1? No, I thought not either.

Vodafone did divulge a little data sniplet that must encourage them though, and that is that 360 customers have a 3x higher ARPU than others. If you look at the above (recommendations, friends, etc), that is not completely surprising. So now the next hurdle is to roll it out across their whole range of handsets. And let’s face it: a simple store won’t cut that on its own. Going cross-platform also means that – depending which handset you fancy – you may find different app stores of differing attraction competing with Vodafone’s own for attention (e.g. does Nokia’s Ovi offering seem to have more traction than, say, Blackberry App World but the latter has – from a publisher’s perspective – vastly superior price levels). All in all pretty sub-optimal, I think.

On a sideline: I will be moderating a panel on “How to Make Money as a Developer” this week at Mobile 2.0 Europe in Barcelona and I will be having the immense pleasure of having two operators on the panel (Orange and Telefonica-O2) as well as Microsoft (representing the OS side). This Vodafone announcement highlights some of the challenges the industry is facing. Interesting times!

People-centric Design Rules!

Apple’s iPhone is only a marketing fad for vain urbanites. True purists go for Android. Those who see the light in volume go for Nokia or Samsung.

All this are points often heard when one dives into the deeper echolons of most mobile tech blog or forum. Engineers throw up their hands because those “American-centric media types” “don’t get it” and only wave their flag for whatever Steve Jobs, turtle neck and all may put up onto the big screens of his church.

I am not American and I am not a media type. And I don’t wear turtle necks (well, not since c. 1989 at least). And yet, I do prefer my iPhone (3G) over my Nexus One. And this despite obvious advantages of the Nexus: better screen, quicker, haptic feedback (yes, Mr Jobs, I do like that), the concept of open source, etc, etc. So why do I stick to the iPhone? Fanboy? Marketing fad? Vain urbanite?

Here’s why: I have been trying to set up my Nexus so it will do what my iPhone does, and I am not talking of playing a fancy game or running some other app that is not (yet) available on Android. I am talking about the two key things I need a phone for (41-year-old non-techie I am), and that is phone calls and e-mail; calendar (with sync) is important, too. For the former I need my address book, and I need it to sync properly. For the latter, I need my (admittedly too many) e-mail accounts set up on my device and syncing properly. As to calendar, wait for it below. Alas, two very different experiences:

  • On the iPhone, you do the following: 1) plug the phone into your computer, 2) answer “yes, please” when iTunes asks you if it should sync contacts and e-mail addresses, 3) get yourself a cup of coffee, 4) walk off.
  • On the Nexus, you’re OK (-ish) if your life evolves around Google. With a Gmail account and associated contacts (and/or calendars), you’re sort of OK. It does all that. Now – shock, horror – I do not actually send all my mail from Gmail and my contacts are mainly dealt with in my address book (take Outlook or whatever you want if you’re a Windows user). And I use iCal and not Google Calendar. And so it starts: there is no desktop application that would help me do this. On a Mac, the phone is not even recognised when you plug it in (and that is a rare thing on a Mac; is this another piece of Apple vs. Google? I don’t know but I doubt it). So you are finding yourself setting everything up by hand! Entering the POP3 and SMTP (or IMAP) server addresses, user names, passwords, etc, etc for seven e-mail accounts is no fun. And (remember I am not a techie) invariably leads to some box checked wrongly here or a typo in a password there and, kawoom, nothing works. I can set up a Google Calendar/iCal sync BUT that will only sync the specific Google Calendar bit between the two, and not any of my other (work, home) calendars. I can sync my address book with Google, so that works. The whole procedure took me the better part of 45 minutes, including lots of corrections and swearing and led to me abandoning a half-configured beauty of an Android phone. Great result.

So why is that?

My answer is: because they design it with engineer-centric design. And that is wrong! Why? Well, because most people are not engineers! An engineer thinks something along the following: I am Google and we love the cloud. Therefore, I will design everything so that it will adhere to that principle and will – in a purist kind of way – design everything in a way that you can beautifully and seamlessly set everything up – if and as long as you use all the wonderful Google services we have. And if you don’t get that, you’re not worthy.

The same works with Nokia: we’re Nokia and we have the best hardware, the best distribution and an incredibly good and powerful plethora of services around it (we did spend time, resource and money after all to become mighty competitors in maps [Navteq], music [Comes with Music], apps [Ovi – and the many iterations before it], etc). I will therefore design everything in a way that I can let this hardware shine as best I can; I mean: we had video calls since 2005, for elk’s sake! And if you are too dumb to configure everything in a proper way and cannot find the destination to where your downloads were stored, you’re not worthy.

Apple looks at things a little differently (and it is not only for the better although, for most people, it is): they provide a tool that brings everything I need over to my phone just like that. Job done. Easy! They will look at whatever tools they need for this. And if it means extending iTunes (which, yes, I know, they had already) to accommodate syncing data other than music and video to something other than a computer, than so be it. In that, they follow their own philosophy as slavishly as the other guys do but they do design it from a people-centric rather than an engineer-centric point of view. And that is why it works so well for people that are not (also) engineers.

They key point is this: Apple does not try (or at least not in your face) to change what people do. If I want to run my e-mail off 5 different domains, then so be it. If I prefer my contacts to sit on my disk rather than in the cloud, that’s fine. They’ll give me tools to facilitate doing what I do already and don’t lecture me on what I have to do to make it work. That this brings about subtle changes in user behaviour is fine: if you convince me gradually that things work better one way rather than another, I might be converted. But to tell me “my way or the highway” does not work! Ever!

The downside is Apple’s control mania, which blocks things (sometimes fairly questionably) because they are (or only might) be out of their control. And this is where Google, Nokia and all the others could score: try to combine things! If you would look at how Apple does things, and then – at the very end – you provide a door (doesn’t have to be a trap door, can be a flashy entry portal) to the innards and machine room of your device, so you can show off whatever you want and open the marvels of technology to those who can and want to handle it – so they can turn their super-smartphone into an uber-super-smartphone. But do leave normal people alone.

In the post-iPhone era, things have changed already (a little): you now get hidden installers (that do not ask you 100 questions on where you want to do what and where and under what penalties and with which risks), you get better interfaces, etc. BUT the default is still engineer-centric and not people-centric. Improve this, and the iPhone killer can be yours!

Image credit: http://www.ntamco.com/main/images/stories/design-is-a-behaviour.jpg

Conference: Mobile 2.0 Europe, Barcelona

On 17 June, a wonderful conference opens its doors: organized by the formidable Rudy de Waele and his team, the beautiful city of Barcelona (but without the usual Mobile World Congress stress and with better weather than in February!) is host to Mobile 2.0 Europe.

You will find a great line-up of speakers from across the mobile ecosystem, which should allow for a wonderfully balanced overview of what’s going on. The organizers have lined up senior guys from the giants of the industry, such as:

  • Nokia
  • RIM
  • Vodafone
  • Opera
  • Telefonica
  • Orange
  • PayPal Mobile
  • Microsoft

But they then coupled them with the nimble and agile guys like us, so you will also find:

  • Distimo (analytics)
  • Scoreloop (yes, I will be speaking)
  • The Astonishing Tribe (UI experts)
  • W3C
  • Future Platforms
  • and more…

As if this wasn’t enough, the AppCircus will also stop at the event with an on-stage show of the best and brightest apps around.

Join us, it should be tremendous fun! The registration page is here.

Mobile + Social: Show me the Money / Presentation

Here is the presentation I delivered at Casual Connect Europe in Hamburg.

Nokia Maps for free: signs of life on Ovi

Nokia recently shook the world by starting to provide its Ovi Maps app including turn-by-turn navigation for free. And only just under 2 weeks later, it announced that users have downloaded the app more than 1.4m times. Good stuff.

The numbers led some people (Nokia’s Vanjoki as well as various industry pundits) to claim the dawn of Ovi downloads had arrived. I beg to differ, and here’s why:

1.    A mapping application with turn-by-turn navigation cost, until very recently, anywhere between $30-80 a pop. And all of a sudden it is free. It is a little akin selling a Porsche Cayman for the price of a VW Polo: people will jump through any number of hoops for that. This is not proof that the download boom has finally also arrived with proud owners of Nokia phones; it merely shows that this is too good an offer to decline.

2.    1.4m downloads across the Symbian install base of c. 300m is not actually that impressive a number. To put it into context: a simple ad-funded game, Waterslide Extreme by German high-end development house Fishlabs, which is also a free download, clocked on the iPhone more than 10m downloads. As far as I am aware, the developer still sees around 40,000 downloads per day. And this is a long time after its release and for an app that fills significantly less of a need than satellite navigation. But even if one leaves aside this last bit (which is taking a very favourable view – no ceteris paribus here), Ovi Maps would need to hit roughly 100m downloads before it could say it was, pound for pound, as successful as Waterslide Extreme (NB: this is not exactly true because Nokia only supports some 20m devices to date).

3.    It is not actually proof that the Ovi Store works as users can also download the app via the Nokia Website or via the “SW Update” application on the phone. At a time when the store still needs 90 seconds (measured on an N97 running on a Vodafone UK 3G network) and more to even load the opening screen, I struggle to believe that the store will see an uptake across the band.

4.    It is likely being a bit of a one-off: Nokia also announced that, from March, every Nokia will come pre-loaded with the app.

Now, to clarify things: it is great news for boosting awareness of mobile phones as location-aware devices, and the pre-install on future phones will help that. It is likely that this will contribute to the fall of the dedicated satnav sector in much the same way Nokia’s landmark deal with Carl Zeiss lenses (and the resulting higher image quality of photos taken with your phone’s camera) was a doomsday scenario for the lower end of the digital camera market.

Also: Ovi Maps looks like a VERY good app: it covers more than 180 countries (car & pedestrian navigation: 74; traffic: 10), it is available in a whopping 46 (!) languages. It includes 3D landmarks for 200 cities around the world and incorporates Lonely Planet and Guide Michelin city guides. It is good, no doubt!

Finally, Nokia started early with the mantra of location-awareness. It was just that it had not executed particularly well to date. I know there is probably much more in the works than is visible to the untrained eye (or any other eye not from within the company) but the company does need to ramp up here since its hard-earned (and well-deserved) fame is/was beginning to fade quickly.

It would be fantastic if the world market leader would see uptake of applications rise sharply. I would very much like to ask them though not to fool themselves into believing that the store is not so bad after all only because of one successful application on it. There is a lot of work to do. The Ovi Maps case simply shows that one does not have to be a crazy Apple fan boy to be craving cool and useful apps. So, dear Nokia, continue to study the app store and try solve the shortfalls of the Ovi Store. It’ll be good for everyone!

The Beginning: Ovi Clocking 1m Downloads a Day

Today seems to be the day of “the others”, huh? 😉 First Android, now Symbian. But the news are too significant to ignore:

Nokia’s app store Ovi is now clocking 1m downloads a day. Make that 300m p.a. Compare this to Apple’s, what, 5.7m per day. That was c. 1 year ago though, so let’s double that, shall we? So, 1/10 then shall we say?

However, Nokia and its much maligned Ovi Store shows that it can actually starts flexing its muscle (what the law of numbers can mean, I showed on the example of Vodafone: its app store is bound to deliver – even on the abysmal uptake of legacy J2ME devices – some 200,000 downloads a day).

Nokia says it is growing 100% month-on-month, and with this pace would overtake Apple in the near future. Doable? Almost certainly! Why? Because of the law of big numbers. Nokia has about 5x as many smartphones out there as there are Apple iPhone and iPod Touch devices combined, which of course means that Nokia would overtake Apple in terms of total app downloads when each Nokia smartphone user would only download 1/5 of what iPhone/iPod Touch users download. Same fun? Arguable… 😉

I do not know how many devices come preloaded with the Ovi Store but this has always been a huge driver: embed and prosper. Nokia confirmed as much, too. But let’s only assume that it is a tiny fraction (none of the legacy devices out there had it embedded, that’s for sure). And it shows you the potential: Nokia has a whopping 1.3bn phones out there (yes, you heard correctly), and let only a fraction of these use the Ovi Store, you are looking at a massive number, outstripping Apple immediately. Now, I doubt that they will outstrip the App Store in terms of apps per user but there is no team that plays football as well as FC Barcelona, and the others don’t give up either…

Nokia has made a lot of mistakes recently, with its stores, and others: to come out with something that was thought to be “good enough” is bad: strive to be the best at least, will you? Incidentally, it might have avoided the scrambling it finds itself in since the Apple app store launched. Hah, who would have thought? But let’s be fair: Nokia went about its business better in the past, it has unprecedented scale. Examples? What is the best-selling consumer electronics device of all time? The Nokia 1100 with more than 200m sold devices). Does anyone remember sub-10 Megapixel digital cameras? Well, there are few left, you see. Nokia killed that market by putting out camera phones with Carl Zeiss lenses: good, good stuff. I was in the room of the hotel in Zell am See when they laid the growth curve of camera phones over the shrinking sales curve of digital cameras. Impressive! Stand-alone PDAs? Gone. GPS devices? Hardly existing outside phones anymore (even Tom Tom satnav devices are offered with 50% discounts this Christmas).

It’s not over yet, it is only the beginning! Oh, and then there will be the mobile web to come, huh? Just wait for it!!! It’s bigger than the “other” Internet already (warning: this is one of Tomi’s monster posts… ;-)!

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