Ever since Nokia announced their decision to join Microsoft in their smart phone strategy numerous sites and people have been writing about the ups and downs of the agreement. However, most if not all of these people are outside the company. Adam Greenfield is a former Nokia designer who worked at the company for 2 years. Since he left, he hasn't touched on Nokia in his blog posts, but this changed a few days ago. He wrote a lengthy post on his observations and thoughts about the company.
It's a fascinating read. Not only for the fact that he has written it as a former employee, but as a designer - a perspective of development Nokia has been publicly questioned to lack when compared to other key players in the industry.
I don’t consider myself pro-Nokia in any way, maybe that’s because I am incapable of witnessing how powerful its devices could be or simply for the fact that there is just too much of Android and iPhone everywhere. While many would agree with the second reason, lets not get into this tangent of discussion.
All About Symbian's Rafe Blandford was on Sunday in Barcelona to listen to Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow talk on how Nokia plans to transition to Windows Phone over the years and what this eventually means to the developers and consumers. Naturally, many feared that no one would be interested in developing software for the platform anymore now that it has been publicly announced that its development won't be continued indefinitely.
Albeit expected, very big news regarding Nokia. It has just announced that it will partner with Microsoft in the smart phone business - Windows Phone will serve as Nokia's primary smartphone platform. Additionally, Nokia has announced that it has looked at designing a new approach to "capture volume and value growth" to connect the next billion to the internet. For startups, there are good news as well, Nokia will begin (if not continue) focused investments in new technologies in key areas. Lastly, they will shuffle some of their leadership team and organisational structure to better focus on speed, results and accountability.
Zokem is a Finnish based market leader in the next-generation mobile analytics, providing its patented products to the leading players of mobile and media industries. Earlier today Zokem released an interesting report on how the various smartphones and operating systems perform in the US market. The gist of which clearly puts the likes of older Windows Mobile phones and the Symbian devices to have lost the battle in the US. Which isn’t surprising as users in the region have migrated quite quickly towards the iPhone, Android and the BlackBerry.
One of the reasons we like working with companies such as Nexit Ventures is that they offer a ton of quality material to us that would previously be available for only the selected few. This time, we'll be taking a closer look at the M&A activity geographically on a more closer level. You should also read our articles in this series Why Being Sold To The US Is A Big Deal and So Who's Doing The Shopping In The US? The Big Eleven.
Furtiv is a Finnish mobile app developer that has just launched a photography app called Fotogram. The app is very similar to Hipstamatic, created for the iPhone. In essence, you're able to assign a set of filters for your photos. We haven't seen too many photo apps coming out from this region so Fotogram is a nice addition to the pack. The app is currently only available for the Symbian platform on Nokia phones. The company has also launched quite a few other plugins that enable users to upload their images and videos to photo sharing services online.
Despite creating more clutter with yet another trend post for this year, I think it's worth looking back at some of the most read stories and biggest trends we've covered this year on ArcticStartup. Some of the most read stories are around Rovio, Nokia and Valkee. The most read stories this year were 7 Ways Nokia Can Win Again as well as Oh, Noes! Not Another Ex-Insiders Thoughts On Nokia! (Part I). Both of the stories received a lot of traffic from Finnish national press and thus were clearly the most visited stories in terms of page view.
A few weeks ago we published an article where Fortune hinted at possible talks between Nokia and Google with regards to Android. Today Mobile-Review has written about Nokia's potential talks with Microsoft about extending their alliance. In the talks, according to Eldar Murtazin, the writer behind the Mobile-Review article, Nokia's new leadership has had talks with Microsoft for about 2 months now regarding the possibilities to further extend their partnership. The talks are not only around exchange of technology, but possibly creating an entire line of Windows phones.
Marko Ahtisaari, the director in charge of Nokia's Industrial design, was just on stage at LeWeb and talking to Loïc Le Meur at a fire side chat afterwards. Ahtisaari talked through many different aspects of Nokia's business and most importantly to us, at least, he opened up and shared his thinking on Nokia and its future. Below are our notes and key takeaways from the talk.
Ahtisaari began his talk about two issues on his mind, the state of the smartphone market as well as the collective intelligence, how platforms get better as more people use them. He's key point was, that while the smartphone market is hyped a lot in media, there is a ton of action elsewhere in the mobile space that is seldomly reported on. But he did say that Nokia is now on very impressive growth curve with its Ovi Store. Daily downloads are around 3.5 million, when they were around 3 million just 3 weeks ago and around 2 million in September. Furthermore, 250 000 people sign up each day.
While being very careful about this - as the facts are somewhat questionable, Fortune's Tech blog Google24/7 suggests that Google's Andy Rubin might know something more about Nokia and their view on the Android platform. At yesterday's AllThingsD -conference the Google VP let out a few things regarding a possible Nokia's venture into the Android platform.
Internet Apps And Native Apps: Why Neither Is Going Away, But The Coming Years Will See A Tremendous Power Shift
People love a good story, no matter what form of content it is they're consuming. Journalists, especially those who cover the technology industry, like to apply the same elements that make up an attractive narrative to their writing, so what most people get today is a tale of two or three competitors, the hurdles they have to overcome to deliver the solution they've envisioned and marketed, and then the demise of the one who couldn't execute properly. No matter how enticing it may be to remove the complexity of the battle for consumer's hearts, minds and wallets in order to make the story easily digestible, reality is often quite different. Take for instance the current obsession with mobile applications and how they're going to eclipse the internet as the delivery platform of choice for services and software.
Nokia Research Labs are testing a concept called universal inbox. With the influx of different applications and services, people have to continuously check each of them to know whether there's an update or not. Nokia's approach to this has been to create a single inbox that is able to tell updates from a variety of services. Furthermore, the inbox looks like a regular inbox you have in e-mail, but the recent messages can include content from e-mails, text messages, call logs, tweets, Facebook updates and Flickr photos among others.
Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, said in a recent interview on stage at Web 2.0 Summit that NFC technology will see 500 startups working with it in the coming years. While doing so, he gave a strong hint that Google will be very interested in the findings of this space. NFC, or near field communication, is a short range wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between objects at around 10 cm in distance. While it seems this is new technology, now that Google has begun to talk about it openly as well as RIMM, it has actually been around for quite a while. Nokia has been testing out with this technology for quite some time, but all big companies to date still lack any high scale consumer applications for the technology.
A Nokia research lab team in Tampere, Finland has built a touchscreen out of ice. While this never probably makes it into "full production", it is a nice experiment by the team to see how people behave and use the interactive device. The setup involves lots of ice, near infrared cameras, a projector and a personal computer. The cameras followed hand movements on the ice, while the projector projected whatever the program on the PC was running.
QAim, a Finnish mobile analytics and Customer Experience Management (CEM) startup, has released a new study (announcement available in Finnish) on the share of different mobile operating systems (OS) among users of mobile services in the Nordic countries. QAim's study shows strong increase in Android's popularity among the active mobile services users, and the firm estimates that Android will become the most widely used mobile operating system among the Nordic mobile service users in the summer of 2011.
In July of this year Prince released his latest album, dubbed "20TEN", in the UK using a distribution method that is quite unorthodox for the times that we're living in. He chose to bundle it, for free, with an issue of the Daily Mirror. That decision isn't wasn't what got him attention this past summer all over the internet, instead it was the interview he did with that tabloid where he offered this choice quote:
"The internet's completely over. The internet's like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."
In our last post in the Nexit Ventures supported series we covered "why being sold to the US is a big deal". This time round we cover the companis and the M&A activity in more detail. Basically, there are eleven large companies who do the majority of the buying. These companies are Apple, Cisco, Dell, EMC, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Qualcomm.
The big eleven are called the big eleven for the reason that their size and cash reserves enable them to do the majority of the acquisition activity in the States. There are a few key things that entrepreneurs should understand when looking at the M&A activity in the states.
Talouselämä has an article about Pia Erkinheimo, a newly appointed manager in Nokia, who is to put crowdsourcing matters into the core of Nokia. While this is simply an appointment to a new post, I think this is a larger step inside Nokia that will be the turn of events for things to come. Erkinheimo has been working with Nokia for the past three years planning a dialogue strategy for the company, among other things. In her new post, she's making sure consumers and developers are better listened to, for example in the development of new products.
Foodie, the mobile application to help you better manage your groceries, is expanding its offering to Nokia phones. the application has recently been available to the iPhone and also as a separate application in Facebook. Foodie isn't your ordinary shopping list app. Foodie is able to learn what you shop for over time and then suggests items based on this learning. What's better, it's able to list the items in a way that they are layed out in the store.
Foodie is currently building its service offering in FInland. Due to a long history with Nokia, it is natural to expand to this platform. Nokia's domination in Finland is still very strong and according to Foodie, the service has been frequently asked to support Nokia phones as well. Users are able to download the mobile app from the Ovi store for Nokia's most recent smart phones, such as N8, E72 and N97.
Editors Note: This post is the second part of a post we published earlier this week. Do make sure to read the first part before reading this one. The two posts together are an exciting read on some of the reasons why Nokia has ended up where it has.
Managers vs leaders
The manufacturing line mentality also shows up in who Nokia hire. In a factory, good managers control costs and manage efficiency, and workers are interchangeable.
When Nokia decided to be an “internet company”, instead of bringing in leaders and workers with experience and knowledge, Nokia put top managers (with zero Web skills or understanding) in charge (not to mention inappropriate repurposing of coders with the wrong skill-set). I’ve seen a ton of bad decisions in products and services because the division leader (a manager, of course) had no clue what the product was about (but, he was a good finance man, indeed).
As you all know, it’s been an interesting few weeks at Nokia - a new CEO, top executives leaving, the company stock wallowing at absurdly low values. When Ville Vesterinen asked me what I thought of the changes and the cultural and organizational challenges Nokia has to deal with to move forward, I knew I had a lot to say.
I worked for Nokia for a long time mostly in marketing and product development, leaving in the Great Exodus of talent in the summer of 09. My time at Nokia was marked by MS Stinger and our response with S60 and the 7650; the (slow) rise of 3G; iTunes and offspring (iPhone); and the rise of Web 2.0, Google, and Facebook.
Mindtrek, being one of the most interesting internet oriented conferences in Finland, is again this year offering a lot of prize money for the winner of the Launchpad competition as well as for the runners up. Mindtrek is organised in Tampere, Finland between the 6th and 8th of October. The event has attracted more and more startups each year as it has began to profile itself as a good doer with huge sums of prize money. Last year Multitouch, a maker of modular touch screens, took home the prize money.
Mindtrek's Launchpad competition has attracted a lot of good talent this year as well. Furthermore, Mindtrek has extended the deadline for the applications until 3rd of September. According to Mindtrek's website; The MindTrek LaunchPad competition awards innovative new Finnish digital media products or demos – and the people behind it, who have the urge to make it big. If you feel like applying, do so here before September 3rd.
In Finland, we think he’s a fool who thinks he’s better than everyone else, disrespects the rules and is probably Finnish-Swedish.
Entrepreneurs are the same. They are opportunists and idealists. In its original French, the word means: somebody who will attempt to create something.
On one hand it’s a risky, lonely and difficult endeavor. But on the other hand, it’s thrilling, challenging and potentially offers great returns (value, jobs). I believe we Europeans, and especially in Finland, spend too much time focusing on the former and not enough on the latter.
In the eyes of the developers and the startup community, Nokia went from hero to zero in less than 3 years. Despite its still 44% strong market share, the company is losing more and more every day to Apple and Google, both of which had no previous mobile experience.
The company is about to introduce the N8 to a mostly indifferent community. Here is a list of 7 things they can do to win the hearts of app developers and startups again.
Almost a year ago we reported on a Nokia, Tekes and Technopolis backed venture where startups would be able to reap the ideas and R&D results from Nokia's patent portfolio. Not all patents, but specific ones that Nokia has put aside for the program. At this stage of the program, 12 startups have been formed, with 120 employees together with over 5 million euros in venture financing and angel funding. Tekes is the Finnish development fund for technology and Technopolis is a public company working with growth companies in many different ways.
In the first phase of the program, Nokia and Technopolis have gone through thousands of ideas from which about a hundred made it into the program itself. All three parties have commited quite a bit, to make all this happen. Tekes for example has been able to make financing decisions in a week for the companies involved in a program - something regular entrepreneurs can only dream in their wettest day dreams.
Janne Jalkanen, sometimes referred to as the Godfather of NFC, leaves Nokia after 8 years to join the Finnish startup Thinglink. Thinglink is a catalogue type site where users can share images, thoughts and ideas regarding products on the web. The company is founded and run by Ulla-Maaria Engeström. See our previous coverage of Thinglink.
While there have been doubts whether Nokia seems to be able to get their act together in 2010 with their business, I am confident that at least one part of their company they're kicking butt with their products. The N900, running a totally different operating system compared to other Symbian based phones, has been the subject of good talk in the press recently. Most recently, a Finnish developer, Toni Nikkanen, managed to dualboot Apple's OSX 10.3 on the phone, albeit taking close to 2 hours to the "About My Mac" screen. Nikkanen used PearPC emulator to boot the Mac OSX.
Massively multiplayer online games and Wii Sports are so last season, it seems. Uplause is a new Finnish gaming startup with quite an interesting a concept -- “Crowd Games” or Massively Multiplayer Crowd Playing Game (MMCPG) as the firm calls them. Uplause’s crowd games are developed for large events, where the audience can collectively participate in playing the interactive mini-games, real time, on location. See a quick overview of the concept in the video below.
Some ten years back I was fascinated about the stories Nokia told about the upcoming technological evolution of mobile phones. As a Finn, I was of course proud of Nokia's success, and almost religiously believed in Anssi Vanjoki's preaches. He said that in a few years, most of the cellphones would contain a camera, and a significant portion will also have a GPS receiver. Nokia would be shaping the markets dramatically. Now we can see that it was true.
In parallel with the device evolution, irreversible changes have emerged in business, communication, information, personal and social life and wherever you can imagine, along with the internet era. We have changed our behavior, thinking, expectations and so on because of so many internet-enabled services. We have learned to want services and tools that work. No more can we tolerate applications the setup or use of which requires a technical expert. And frankly, we want it and often get it for free. A great range of software applications, services, hosting, disk space, whatever - in practice for free. Just select what you like most.