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.
It's great time to take the first step with your New Year's resolution to exercise more, before you give up and forget it like you did last year. At least I did. Moozement, a Finnish startup offering a simplified training log for sharing your activities with friends, has rebranded itself and become HeiaHeia (see my previous interview with one of the founders here). "Heia! Heia!", pronounced similarly to "Hey ya, Hey ya", is a Norwegian sports chant.
The company states that the key driver for the development of the service has been to create a sports service which anybody could use with her or his friends - not just the devotees of a particular sport or the users of certain technical gear or the fans of a given brand.
The founders, Ivan Kuznetsov and Olli Oksanen, are both ex-Nokiates who took the infamous 'package' when Nokia started offering it to its employees to slim down the organization. HeiaHeia is one of the first startups that emerge from stealth mode, which has its roots in the Nokia package. I know there's other startups coming with a similar origin. I have even heard some people say that with the package, Nokia has done more to the Finnish startup scene than Tekes. I'm not sure about that, but it has certainly given a possibility for many people with long careers in Nokia of a runway of a year to year and a half to play around with their ideas before the reality hits and they need to start thinking about salary.
The year has just turned to 2010 and it's time to do some predicting into the future on the most likely trends this year. While they may not be accurate nor hold true in the end, it's nice to get a feel for what people are predicting. I've got 6 predictions, some not so spectacular, others slightly more outside the possible reach.
The first one is a pretty obvious one based on the recent developments in the media world as well as the startups involved in this industry as well: online video will become a mainstream alternative for advertisers. This does not mean that online video itself will be watched in equally large amounts to regular television, but it will become an alternative and a possibility for advertisers. This essentially means that the industry itself will grow as a business and become an attractive platform for doing business.
Nokia has sent out some of its new flagship phones, the N900s, to some of the tech and gadget bloggers around the world. Tracy and Matt's blog received one and have posted a great video on unboxing the phone and taking it into use as well as running through the basic functionalities of the phone. What makes this unboxing a bit more interesting is the fact that, to open the package - you have to plug in a USB cable and "hack" it.
We just recently reported that all high-end N series multimedia devices will be running the Linux OS by 2012, even though X series and E series devices will continue to run Symbian OS. We also predicted that Nokia will dumb Symbian altogether before long.
Now it seems like that's happening sooner than we thought or Nokia wants to admit. Our source tells us that a contact at Nokia's legal department unofficially affirmed that Nokia will also drop Symbian for the E Series enterprise range. This is no doubt a rumor, but we are pretty confident this could be true. Here's why.
Nokia, just as the rest as us, are seeing increasingly that the smart phone is not only for the early adopter or the affluent consumer, but is actually becoming 'the people's phone' in the developed world. Nothing tells this story better than seeing iPhone coming to Tesco in UK (via TechCrunch). At the same time, even though N900 might be hyped, it is very geeky even compared to the Android phones coming out, let alone the intuitive bliss of iPhone (see the video below by Engadget).
Spotify announced yesterday that is has added support for Symbian smartphones. Symbian is used by Nokia, SonyEricsson and Samsung. This has been a long awaited release as Symbian is still the most widespread phone OS around, thus dramatically increasing the potential for new Spotify users. While being a nice update and all, there might be something else in the makes regarding these application platforms. While many companies port their software to multiple platforms, not many are able to take advantage of them to the extent Spotify does. Earlier this month Spotify announced that it has signed a deal with 3 UK to distribute HTC phones with Spotify premium included. This may be the route Spotify is more eagerly going to take in the near future regarding other operators in Europe as well.
Until today the Finnish Sisu and some rather big sunk costs has prevented the world biggest mobile phone manufacturer Nokia to admit they have been going down a wrong path already for a while. This wrong path is called Symbian. It seems that Nokia has started to use their own Nokia Maps and turned finally around.
Ben Smith of TheReallyMobileProject reports that Nokia will let Symbian go in 2012 and focus on Maemo. All high-end N series multimedia devices will be running the Linux OS by 2012, even though X series and E series devices will continue to run Symbian OS. That is, until Nokia will decides Symbian should be banned altogether.
TechCrunch has heard that Nokia is looking to sell off Dopplr, a company they acquired less than a month ago. If this is indeed true, I wouldn't want to be a Nokia shareholder. In essence, Nokia paid for recruiting Marko Ahtisaari, Dopplr CEO (former Nokia) as well as Matt Biddulph, Dopplr CTO. The reason I wouldn't want to be a shareholder is that paying for these kind of recruitment fees isn't the smartest path down the road to gather a winning team of professionals.
We also heard that there isn't a lot of synergies regarding the product roadmaps of Ovi and Dopplr, as they were mainly after the team behind Dopplr. This again raises an interesting point, would you as an entrepreneur sell your company at any cost and whatever the future may look like for your beloved one?
We have heard from inside Nokia that the ex-CEO of Dopplr, Marko Ahtisaari has been appointed to head Nokia's Design department. This comes just after Nokia acquired Dopplr for undisclosed sum and a long silence that preceded the official announcement yesterday (see our story here).
At the same time Nokia has announced that it has appointed John Martin, a former Apple Vice President, to head a unit that focuses on Linux based devices running Maemo operating system like the latest N900. (via Finnish Taloussanomat)
It will be interesting to see how Ahtisaari will shape Nokia this time and how long he will stay there. Last time he stayed almost two years with the Finnish mobile phone giant pulling the Design unit from individual separate pieces into a well functioning shop before leaving in August 2006 to Blyk as a Head of Brand & Design. What goes around comes around.
Marko Ahtisaari, the CEO of Dopplr, has just posted a blog post on the Dopplr Blog that Nokia indeed has acquired the company. Furthermore, Nokia has confirmed this with their own press release. Last week we quoted on ArcticStartup a rumour originating from Techcrunch that Nokia has acquired them. This stirred up a lot of publicity and since no party confirmed the rumour and one of the co-founders stated the deal was fabricated - we were under mixed messages and were unable to decide which side is right.