Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope
"Europe lost its last global technology platform. "
Not holding out any hope for YouView then? :-)
When Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced that Nokia was abandoning its development of its own smartphone platforms and APIs, and betting the farm on somebody else's, many people asked why it was necessary. Nokia had spent 15 years trying to develop and maintain its own software, which it regarded as strategic to maintaining its …
...but you have to look quite hard:
"The Linux team, beavering away on the long-term replacement for Symbian, devised one based on Gtk. This didn't use Qt either, and was also abandoned."
This seems to be a reference to Maemo, to me. Of course, the implied timeline is I believe incorrect; Maemo with its GTK+ interface existed before Nokia bought out Trolltech and announced it was throwing all its eggs in the Qt basket, so it's not the case that the 'Linux team' was writing a GTK+-based interface at the same time as (and in internal competition with) the Qt side of things. The Qt switch essentially undermined Maemo, in fact, by forcing a perfectly decent Gtk+-based UI to be entirely redesigned and redeveloped with Qt, which was one of the major sources of delays in getting a Meego device out.
(I run an N900 too, and with the current Community SSU I pretty much love it. The only thing that really annoys me is the lack of a decent native Google Maps app, using the mobile website kinda sucks. Let's hope that running-Android-apps-on-Maemo thing that's been in the news lately shows up soon.)
I will never understand why they did not want to continue development of Maemo. Like you I own an N900 (which I bought, unlocked as soon as it came out!) as well as the older N800, which I still occasionally use. But Maemo seems to have stopped all development, other than a little maintenance of some apps by 3rd party developers, so I'm seriously thinking about sticking Android on the N900 - someone has already done the hard work.
Like you, right now, I can't see me ever buying Nokia again. Great shame.
Thanks for noticing my epic.
You've got the timeline a little wonky. Hitchcock/Alf and the Maemo 5 GTK+ based UI toolkits were both started before the acquisition of Qt. Otherwise this is quite accurate reporting for you.
Oh, and I was actually working at the Symbian Foundation (freelance writing and then contracting before going permanent) before there were any employees at all.
I think it's too early to count Qt out yet within Nokia's strategy, even if it's not on Windows Phone.
"The question as to why Nokia surrendered its independence lies in why it took so long to engineer a competitive UI, and then under new management, decided that it couldn't."
If you read the blog carefully (sorry, it's long) you'll find that Nokia hasn't decided it can't engineer a competitive UI. Indeed it still needs to do that to avoid completely nose-diving in the smartphone market this year. My speculation was that they don't feel they can compete with the likes of Apple & Google alone, their pockets are no longer deep enough.
Regarding Symbian quote on page 1: "With its mature and well-debugged phone stacks, it is better for phone calls than any other smartphone: it drops fewer calls, the calls sound better, and it uses the antenna better. Symbian's power consumption and performance on comparable hardware are also best of class, despite the baroque middleware added over the years by Nokia."
Sadly you have been quite badly misinformed, Symbian in the mobile phone architecture had very little to do with anything mentioned above other than battery life. Symbian didn't have a phone stack and it wasn't in any way responsible for call quality or reliability.
All these were the job of the device manufacturers custom or off-the-shelf radio interface devices (radio modems). In the early days these were simply controlled like any other wired modem using AT commands but then moved onto much more comprehensive interfaces as data became more prelevant in mobile devices.
The only correct part of above is that battery life was improved, that was mainly because of the nature of the Symbian (it's heritage from Psion) meant that it actively encouraged application developers to reduce waking CPU events to reduce power consumption.
Just to set the context: I owned a N95 for around 3 months - and I still own a N800; it made an excellent ebook reader for several years.
Nokia's key problem was that they seemed to focus on reproducing the "PC" experience in your pocket, as per the advertising campaign for the N95:
However, the vast majority of people don't like using a computer: computers are complex and they only use them because they have to. The stroke of genius in Apple's approach was that they effectively threw away the "PC" architecture and switched instead to a set of single-tasking, focused apps which did one thing and did it well. Meanwhile, Nokia was still badly gluing technology together (e.g. after clicking "write a new SMS", you then had to click in the "text" space to launch the virtual keyboard on the N95) and still thinking in terms of the PC UI (e.g. the UI didn't support drag-scrolling; instead, you had to use the stylus to push the narrow scrollbar at the side up and down).
.. and that's why I sold the N95 and after dabbling with a few of the cheaper touch-screen phones (e.g. LG Cookie - a surprisingly good little phone!) I ended up with a HTC Desire, running Android.
"Nokia's culture was steeped in hardware. It thought software happens magically, or in a software factory, or something like that."
Meh. Sounds like most hardware companies to me. I think it's deliberate. Flaky product can be 'fixed' by selling the next model. There's money in that. There ain't much money in rolling out a firmware patch :(
Actually it sounds like a lot of companies full stop. My own isn't much better and we actually are a software house. They give you schedules for specific things to develop but you have to fight like hell for refactoring or process streamlining. Even if you get an acknowledgement or - heaven forbid - an actual project it's still lower priority. If you don't work on marketing's Next Big Thing you get bollocked. If you don't work on an 'engineering project' no-one cares.
Nokia seems to be have been run on the concept of internal conflict - that each group would be semi-autonomous and almost in a state of perpetual war with other groups, and that somehow this would cause the best products to fight their way to the top. It didn't work for the Nazis and it didn't work for Nokia. Instead it allowed rivals with a singular vision to design compelling smart phone OSes while Nokia dithered and fought itself.
Something had to change. But they have not done themselves any favours by selling out to their enemy Microsoft. They've destroyed their R&D capability and they will suffer hugely in the long term, just another OEM churning out Windows branded phones. And if Windows fails to catch on then woe betide them. Other manufacturers like LG, HTC, Samsung have their fingers in many pies and will find it far easier to jump ship than Nokia will.
A very excellent point.
It may not be a bad idea to drop the software idea and go with the best hardware you can slap together. But, focusing upon an incomplete and inferior software solutions is pure nuts. And it will likely ruin the company for all time.
Six months from now Nokia may realize its mistake but it may be too late. Changes are the branches will be trimmed such that six or eight months down the way they will not have the staff to even consider going with the Android market as well.
And there will never be any differentiation with the Microsoft phones. Microsoft will not allow it.
Taking some money now and paying high license fees later is going to doom Nokia. It will never be competitive with Android devices. Not in price. Not in technology. And not in hardware either. Just look at the Atrix, Zoom and others.
Yes, there is going to be a lot of competition in the Android space but going with Microsoft does nothing to help Nokia compete. The Microsoft platform today is inferior in many ways. And Microsoft will preclude the kind of products Nokia may need in order to compete.
I can just imagine the trouble Nokia is going to have once the Android tablets get going in 2011. Not to mention Android phones, etc. Nokia will have one phone model constrained by Microsoft. And it will cost too much. Microsoft will insist upon getting a license fee for each unit sold. And Nokia will be limited in flexibility and strapped by high license costs.
If you design and develop hardware you compete against the likes of HTC, Motorola, etc. Elop thinks he must compete against Google. Google is not the competition at all. Handset makers are the competition. And all of those competitors have Microsoft too if they want it. And they can drop and run with Android if that makes sense at the moment. Nokia is strapped. Even if the Microsoft OS is successful Nokia still can not win.
Yeah I think tablets will really set the cat amongst the pigeons. Microsoft aren't even talking of tablets until 2012. In the meantime, Nokia & WP7 will be competing against iOS devices of various sizes and Android devices of various sizes.
I don't think WP7 seems like a bad phone OS from a technical standpoint. Maybe it's a little immature but nothing a point release or two wouldn't fix. The problem for Nokia is that it's not their OS and they have extremely limited opportunity to customize the experience, change the direction of development. It's not their OS, they're hardware is a slave to the OS. If they had gone with Android (for example), they could have skinned the hardware & software six ways to sunday, thrown in a QT platform, thrown in Ovi and come out with a distinctive phone offering. As it is they'll just be another WP7 OEM, up against an enormous ecosystems based around more popular phone OSes.
As much as I think a "losers' alliance" like this makes little sense, I have to say Nokia's user experience has been pretty weak for a long time.
I remember people talking up the Nokia UX (though not with those terms;-) ) back in the 90's. By 2005 blackberry was the dominant smartphone and UX had a lot to do with it. Then of course RIM too lost out as the iPhone pushed expectations to a higher level still.
By now, they are so far behind the curve, that there may be little value lost in sacrificing their ability to customize the UI. I also doubt the other phone manufacturers will persist with their custom UI's over Android, now that Google has hired an interface design team.
What Nokia really lost was their in-house development strenghts which could have been directed toward producing apps for their phones, had they chosen Android (which given their linux skills, they might have been better positioned to support).
"Nokia seems to be have been run on the concept of internal conflict - that each group would be semi-autonomous and almost in a state of perpetual war with other groups, and that somehow this would cause the best products "
Microsoft has been like that for years, especially with regard to database, indexing and search technologies, but application frameworks also come to mind. It's just as much a headache for internal Microsoft product groups to navigate these warring factions as for customers, as those groups may sink or swim based on their technology choice.
That said, the biggest competitors that Microsoft often has (NB I didn't say "always") are internal, so by the time it squeezes something out the door, it can have faced down some pretty tough alternates.
The thing with MS is that even they know when enough is enough. Look at the minor war that erupted between Kin and Windows Phone 7. Someone whipped out the axe and killed Kin dead. In an ideal company they wouldn't have gotten so far along as they did, but when it came to it, MS acted and acted decisively.
I do think there is a need for competition between groups and competing techs but when they become important enough to be of strategic importance, someone has to be able to make a decision to back one and kill the other.
Clearly, Nokia was a hardware shop at heart. Able to make tin, but not able to make a simple, cosf effective, useful o/s.
They had years to get it right and repeated attempts failed to fix it.
So in a bold move, they put all their shit o/s versions in the bin and backed a major o/s player and pocketed $1 BILLION in the process.
I think they will look back on this as a good decision.
Maybe your analysis would get you an MBA or whatever, but the point is that you can't just point to some software as an interchangeable box in an architecture diagram on a PowerPoint slide. And what Nokia's execs have just done is an extension of the "delegate it to someone and maybe they'll come up with the goods" strategy failure described in the article where "Windows Phone" has now replaced the text in that box in the diagrams, and the execs are looking smug about their supreme PowerPoint skills.
The real solution to Nokia's problems would have been to give control and influence to the people actually delivering the goods and to stop other people sniping away at those goods, insisting that only they can deliver products because they were traditionally the people tasked to do so. Pruning some of the "skunkworks" (more like "makeworks") projects would also have done some good.
A decision to focus upon hardware may be valid. But, picking just one OS to run with is a huge mistake.
Nokia's competitors are HTC, Motorola, etc. Focusing only upon Microsoft is a huge mistake. That horse is slow out of the gate and may never catch up. And even if it does, Nokia looses out on the entire Android marketplace.
When you have no idea who your competitors are, you are bound to lose. Google is not a Nokia competitor. They do not make handsets. And now Nokia does not make software. Basing a decision on trying to find competition for Google is a huge mistake.
...but not always the right thing to do. Right now, MS are busy buying apps for their platform at a terrific rate- paying developers and companies to build versions of apps for their new platform. At the very least I can see this leading to WP7 taking a lead position in the business market. If they can get into the hands of the businessmen then they'll propagate from their to normal people.
Don't forget that MS was slow into the PC market (and not the best) but they eventually managed to dominate.
"Don't forget that MS was slow into the PC market (and not the best) but they eventually managed to dominate."
I'm having trouble understanding what you mean by this statement because Microsoft was there at the inception of the "PC market".
If you are including what came before (apple ][, Commodore, CP/M etc) in your definition of "PC market" then you have to realise that MS were not even attempting to do operating systems back then. They had no intention of doing any such thing. They wrote a version of BASIC for CP/M and later copied VisiCalc with their MultiPlan spreadsheet and that was about it.
They fell into the operating system market by accident when the IBM PC was launched and have completely dominated that area since day 1 (and not through technical superiority I hasten to add).
being 44, but young at heart I'm getting more and more of these moments, where people in their 20s tell me (wrongly) "how it happened" ... I know - I was there.
There are many examples in history (some within living memory) where products have eclipsed the market, despite being technically inferior to their rivals. The reasons are myriad, but usually revolved around the fact that the purveyours of the more advanced product didn't see how they could fail.
Betamax is the absolutely textbook example - and explains Sonys behaviour from the 1980s to the present day in so many ways.
The IBM PC took off, because:
1) it was "IBM"
2) IBM licensed the bus design, allowing "PC clones" to emerge in no time
3) Supplying an almost bare-bones box allowed *other people* to design, build and market extensability ...
Actually, the original PC bus (eventually designated the Industry Standard Architecture or ISA) dominated precisely because IBM did NOT license it - but rather, didn't sue those who blatantly copied it for free. IBM later changed their mind, and introduced licensing fees to use ISA and their new 16-bit MicroChannel Architecture (MCA) bus - but rather than pay licensing fees, the clone masters created the 16-bit Extended ISA (EISA), became independent of IBM (but not Microsoft), and changed history.
Microsoft was lucky to get an initial ride on ISA, but they ruthlessly killed their competition by every means, fair and unfair, to gain OS dominance. It appears that era is ending...
"At the very least I can see this leading to WP7 taking a lead position in the business market."
Where I work, the people who are given mobile devices for business are currently ALL given Blackberries. The previous phones were all iPhone 3GS units. Nokia & Android not even in the running. I think when it comes to business, RIM have got a very solid product that gets the basics right *for business* - not as a toy, and they will not surrender that position easily - if at all. I think pressure from employees may give a reasonable share of the business market to the iPhone, but I don't think Microsoft will be able to make much impact.
I spoke with a Nokia shop which I obviously won't name. They say a large company ordered 700 Nokia E72s and switched the order to BB 9xxx series right after that idiot's speech made into bloomberg wire.
If you go to any finance site and compare RIM share graph to Nokia OVJ past 3 months, you will be amazed at verification of this story on global scale.
And I'm looking forward to reading Mark Wilcox's blog post.
I hated my last S60 phone (E65) because it was slow, buggy and inconsistent. It was so frustrating that I "downgraded" to S40 for my next phone. It was fast, sleek, lovely to use and the battery lasted for ages. When going to a smartphone I was so tempted by the N8, persuading myself that S^3 was ok really and it will only get better. The battery life and hardware were great too. I almost bought one but I'm glad I didn't. But I've gone with a BB Torch, which means I'm unfashionable and weird, so what do I know ;-).
Simple reason why Stephen Elop is Trojan Horse Inside Nokia For Microsoft
* a Trojan Horse who wants Nokia to lost his ability of independency ASAP.
* When Nokia discard all it's investment to get 20% market share(already a remarkable number) for WP7. That is extremely great for MS. But not for Nokia.
* People never miss HTC if it is closed, because they just like Android. A Trojan Horse takes advantaged of this.
* It's not partnership for every partner keeps it independency for protecting self interest. NOKIA is conquered but with respect for the current position in mobile world and the weakness of WP7.
Windows phone 7 OS? 20%? Whoever came up with this projection has lost their mind.
The only way to gain 20% on phones is time travelling to 90s taking all the rivals with you. I bet Windows phone guys trust to .NET lockdown (unlike Icaza monkeys claims) but it won't take too long before ms faces the sad reality and ships an equal, genunine .NET portable for android and rim.
Reading this about Nokia makes me just shake my head as almost the same story could be told about Infineon (which did personally affect me). Granted lots of other companies in other countries have self destructive bureaucracies (M$ being a prime US example) but continental Europe seems to nuture bureaucracy about as well as anywhere else in the world.
Stupid non-usb-based charging
Preference for ever weird voltage variants of MMC storage instead of SD.
The early tablet devices being "not a phone"
These stopped me buying Nokia devices even when I was thirsting for them - these inexplicable faults were the "dead critter" in the drinking water.
(Rather like HTC's preference for locking the bootloader so that I have to use their software - so even though HTC hardware is the best I never buy it).
Incidentally, Andrew, excellent article. Thanks for that.
PS. Is it my eyesight failing (probably) or has El Reg's esteemed banner gone a bit darker?
I still apparently can "Withdraw", "Fail" "WTF" etc in the dark (mercifully) but "Post Your Own Message*" seem a shade or two less bright.
* I won't write it in capitals, like the script to the left of "House Rules" because I understand Ms. Bee doesn't like capitals, and likes everything "Shipshape and Bri..."
nope. Dun'go there..
Is the BOFH on O/T?
The banners are darker because they've been sponsored. Anyway, another article found via YLE yielded this nugget:
"Last year, Nokia paid Elop 3.835 million euros. The sum consisted of his salary, bonuses and compensation for lost earnings from his previous employer, Microsoft."
Nice work if you can get it: your current employer pays you for the stuff you missed out on from your previous employer. And bonuses for what, might we ask? Sheesh!
I believe it was Orlowski (sorry if misspelled) who wrote "Ovi must fail" article.
He did millions of dollars worth analysis for them for free and yet I bet nobody from management read them.
I remember that particular article since I submitted it to Slashdot and got rejected ;)
The terrible product (N97) was bad, but the after sales really nailed their coffin shut.
Obviously there were things the N97 could never do, so no firmware update would ever give it multitouch or anything like that, but basic faults like a GPS which couldn't hold a lock at more than walking speed when Nokia were giving away free turn by turn satnav was just ridiculous.
Delays in firmware updates as Nokia let carriers decide when/if their customers were allowed updates just left people stuck with old firmware, and old bugs that were fixed months ago. Not that Joe Public knew any of this, he just knew his Nokia was a lemon and bought something else next time round.
The latter issue could be worked round by changing the model ID of the phone to a generic Euro one, guess what, you couldn't mention this to anyone suffering a problem which was already fixed on the Nokia forums! If you did one of the pocket Hitler mods would pull the post and tell you off. I even tried to explain that if Joe Public thinks his Nokia is crap he won't buy one next time, and eventually you won't have anyone to moderate in the forum, but have to give up in the face stubborn stupidity.
After over 10 years of loyal Nokia (and Symbian) ownership I finally jumped last month. I was so fed up with my N97 which I'm still stuck in a contract for, I went out and paid real money for an Android based HTC Desire Z, and do you know what, it's fan-bloody-tastic! I've had it for a month and it's just worked, perfectly, no weird errors, loads of great free apps. I've even got round to starting to write some apps for it, something I did try to do with Symbian a couple of times, but on both occasions the development environment wouldn't even compile their own example code, so I gave up on that idea!
As you say, Nokia's navigation of their randomly changing road map would make for a good depressing film, but I doubt anyone would believe it!
As has been said in the article and these comments, some of the UI was clunky and unintuitive such as the aforementioned tapping inside the text block which brings up a full-screen keyboard with small text input box when writing, erm, anything, for instance.
That said, as an owner of an N97 before the hardware died of fatal first-batch bugginess and now a 5230, I could have forgiven the UI foibles a lot more if the bloody touch screens had been responsive. I don't mind so much if I have to make an extra press somewhere if that press is handled quickly and accurately but it's the exception rather than the rule that this is the case and it is that lack of sensitivity and control, in my opinion, that does the most to ruin the UX by compounding the clunkiness of the UI.
I've played with a mate's N8 in the pub and, certainly, the screen feels a lot snappier so even the UI that's not been tweaked in S^3 seems so much better to use than the N97 or 5230 (and so likely the 5800, too). Ironically for a company that is described here many times over (and by other commentards) as a hardware specialist it seems to me to be the touchscreen handset hardware that caused the most user misery and this, surely, would have been a simpler quick fix that could have saved much of Nokia's touchscreen market-share.
Ah well. I get my Desire Z in a month or so.
The competing Symbian UI's infighting dates right back to the early days, even as far back as when the EPOC OS was turning into the Symbian OS. I was dismayed when we got to Symbian 6 with Crystal & Quartz UI's. Which was even worse under the surface with work on Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald which morphed into Pearl and then into Series 60 UI!
Anyone would think they like (re)writing UI code!
All of which not only wasted a lot of development time and money, but worse still it helped to fragment and complicate the lives of early Symbian developers. This in turn slowed the early growth of Symbian smart phones, as no unified market could grow around this constant fragmenting infighting.
Personally I still think the Psion Series 5 was very impressive for its time and another UK computer company!, so I think its very sad to think what might have been. :(
"US and Japanese companies now dictate the market."
What Japanese companies? Apple, Google, Microsoft, HP/Palm and Motorola are American. HTC are Taiwanese. Samsung and LG are Korean.
The only Japanese company I can think of that has a presence in the market is Sony Ericsson, and a) it's a joint venture between Sony and Swedish Ericsson, and b) they hardly have the market penetration at the moment necessary for them to start 'dictating the market'.
There is a hidden giant Japanese company which Europeans and Americans unfortunately seen only one product, the junk PSP browser which Sony messed up.
When I saw their products and videos digging their website, man Sony is a real image killer. I really wonder how they could mess up that companies product that much.
I also think FOMA guys won't give up their working and liked (in Japan) OS (based on symbian kernel) anytime soon.
Completely agree, Japan has more and more become irrelevant in most technology areas. They don't produce ICs or decent hardware or even software for that matter, except maybe for game consoles.
When's the last time you saw a moder SoC designed in Japan? And a top of the line smartphone? And an OS?
Japan is not what it used to be... South Korea and maybe China on the other hand...
How deeply ironic that Nokia would be slayed by their inability to get an OS out of the door whilst Apple and Google are sitting pretty. Especially Apple: echoes of MacOS here. Remember the struggles they had with Taligent, Pink and so on before settling on a UNIX core. And didn't that turn out nicely?
They had balls to take a radical decision, after the consultant said "both projects have no hope".
They trashed entire OS, added a compatibility layer that will make developers and users happy during transtition and went with UNIX/NeXT and Mach kernel along with various *BSD. Describing it since people doesn't get what kind of a freaky thing OS X behind scenes. You put it instead of your slngle user, corparative multitasking (!) OS.
Nokia's action could be comparable to Apple telling MS to wipe the dust from Windows NT for powerpc. It COULD happen if they had someone who couldn't decide radically.
As Nokia E71 owner, I spoke with a leading KDE developer who really cares about UI. I told him about Qt switch, why wouldn't he ship his app to Nokia and so on.
Guy told me there isn't a single UI for Qt on Symbian/Maemo and gave the list of mess on the article. That was before Elop and we Symbian users didn't have a clue about it. As he gave the list, I really lost 80% of hope in future of Symbian.
I just grabbed an N8 to tide me over, great hardware as usual, and I can put up with the OS quirks for another year while the Android stuff matures a bit more and they get rid of some of the remaining bugs out of the OS.
There might even be a half decent way to get apps without your device getting raped by then as well.
Having seen the Symbian (and not S60) code base, I do have to disagree with the idea that the only problem was the UI, the lower layers were perfectly competitive. Symbian is, was and will alway be, a dated OS. It still lacked incredibly important features such as SMP support just a couple years back, and those are features that are very hard to get right, look at the amount of iterations that Linux or FreeBSD had to go through to master all of the quirks and details. Also, being a microkernel doesn't help in terms of performance, and with the demise of Symbian, one of the last examples of this type of kernel dies with it. All of the rest of relevant kernels (except QNX) are monolithic, and this seems the way to go in the future. Other aspects, such as IPSec support and a proper multithreaded IP stack were also lacking or poorly implemented in Symbian. All in all, in my opinion the UI was the nail in the coffin, but the whole client/server, active object, message passing, single threaded, cleanup stack architecture was dated and didn't have a future.
I don't know about rest of your comment but I do know most of hate against Symbian from developers came from the fact that it forced you to write professional/good/efficent code. Anyway, not a developer...
Micro kernels run on some bastardised form on OS X.
Blackberry/RIM switched to microkernel, so tiny that some call it nanokernel just recently. That is QNX. So, nothing goes away, it is just Symbian and it was wasted by Nokia and incompetent "hello world" developers.
OS X has only very vague remains of a microkernel inside, all drivers and filesystems run in kernel space, you cannot by any means call OS X a microkernel IMHO.
QNX is an example, but until RIM succeeds in actually selling any devices with QNX, all other smartphones and tablets are based on monolithic kernels.
You can write proper code on any platform, and you can write bad code on Symbian as well. That's not an argument.
Yah, I'll second the contention that Nokia had the best voice-quality coupled with crappy User Interfaces that were a nightmare to use. My experiences with them go back to before there were smart phones.
One Nokia I had couldn't display my own number without me burrowing down into the "reconfigure the phone" basement. Another (different carrier) required seven key operations in order to select a built-in ringtone. So non-intuitive was the process I used to bet people actual money they couldn't do it. The only good thing to come of that phone UI was the few quid I won from it.
Motorola, on the other hand, had an very usable UI, a delight to use, but Hayzoos what crappy reception! 5 bars meant nothing on every Motorola I ever owned.
I used to wonder why no-one in either organization ever used their own products, or asked their family members to do so, so they could "sanity check" the bloody things.
Now I have a Samsung Smartphone (AT&T contract) and once again it is proving to be sub-optimal, from the slide out texting keyboard that stopped working reliably after a month and stopped working completely after two (with less than 40 text messages composed), to the crappy voice quality kneecapped even further by an automatic gain control that makes me feel seasick when listening to people speak to me over the bloody thing, to the GUI that immediately upon my accepting a call covers fully half the screen with a message instructing me to press a button on the side of the case to make the screen display useful in-call things like - oooh I dunno - A KEYPAD so I can navigate a voicemail system or reorder my Lipitor from the pharmacy. By the time I've figured out what needs doing the phonebot at the other end has either hung up on me or started speaking Spanish.
No designer could possibly have used this effing thing to make a call in a realistic situation. The only explanation is they gave the entire QA department two weeks notice a fortnight before the product launch.
You should use the S80 and S90 devices (Nokia 9500, 9300 & 7710) to see what Nokia achieved in 2004/5. It was remarkable, especially the Nokia 7710 (high res and fast). Nokia has lacked vision and strong management since the great period to 2005 and this has allowed it to make a series of poor decisions. And now with Win Phone 7 it will die. So sad.
FSF to the rescue, I really think open source community and even companies like Skype and Google earth team should enter "panic mode" and save qt from Nokia.
Seriously, it is a big deal, even if you are a wlndows user/developer who doesn't give a damn to open source.
There are qt apps I use on OS X and Windows where their developers doesn't even have access to these operating systems, writing on Linux and rely to user feedback and bug reports.
Are you really thinking that MS puppet&trojan will actually let such an amazing multlplatform framework live?
I am hoping for Intel or IBM, seriously if not FSF.
Well that explains some things.
Where is the "RIP N95" icon ?? It remains the last great Nokia phone. I never understood how they turned out the seemingly similar N96 & N76 as such unreliable POS by comparison. Looking back its clear something had already gone very wrong.
Chances are if you refer to it as UI then you're behind the curve. A good OS requires functionality to be defined User Experience back and then engineers to concentrate on what the do best, making things work smoothly, quickly and without bugs. A good UX person will make things easier because often they'll slash all the needless functionality that engineers love to add. Engineers should implement but never design or even set the functionality for the user experience. That's the problem many tech companies still have - they are letting programmers slap on a 'UI" and wondering why their products don't sell as well those of Apple.
"Chances are if you refer to it as UI then you're behind the curve."
Oh right: we all have to update our vocabulary and then we're with it again. "UX" is the fad buzzword of the moment, regardless of whether it has noble origins within human computer interaction and ergonomics, or whatever those disciplines are supposed to be called these days. Consequently, you have a load of people talking about the "UX" while inflicting their poorly thought through "usability experiences" on everyone else and claiming that they've done experiments with all the right use-cases, or whatever you call them now - "user stories", perhaps.
I predict that "UX" will be another badge of shame within a couple of years as everyone tries to put as much distance between it and themselves as possible. Of course, there'll be another buzzword along at that point and people like you will be telling everyone how "behind the curve" they are once again (while stripping functionality out of products and telling people that they aren't using them as they were meant to be used, or something).
Yes, coming up with a usable user interface isn't easy. No, calling it "UX" instead of "UI" does nothing to solve the underlying problem. It's just another buzzword, meaning the thinking on the details is about to change. This'll happen a couple times until something becomes entrenched, until something "disruptive" comes along. It's somewhat like memetics. In fact, in its way, it is memetics.
Designers are not engineers and engineers are not designers. As one of those vaunted generalist multidisciplinary people that nobody wants to hire --I'm really just a decent troubleshooter but can do anything from coding to design, if perhaps not quite as proficiently as the real experts-- I can tell you that even the most hard-core engineering tools could stand some designing, and vice versa. Engineers will put up with steep learning curves for clunky interfaces that can do everything, and designers will put up with inferior implementations that look nice even if they lack the most basic (to an engineer) capabilities, and the rest of us get to enjoy the fall-out.
Apple is currently making waves with their excuisitely designed products based around very focused choices, but they have a history of very good engineering too. This synthesis is hard, and if the rest of the manufacturers want to keep up, they better learn. Regardless of what buzzword is /de rigeur/ at any point in time.
Nokia obviously aren't stopping their internal development efforts. They must have had an option to see the QT licences to Digia, yet they didn't. As of QT 4.7.0, released September 2010, QML is a stable API ready for prime time. MeeGo hasn't been canned, Symbian development continues. These aren't the acts of a company that has decided to abandon its burning platforms just yet.
If I were MS, I'd be nervous. How long have they got to pull Nokia out of the shit, I wonder? I'm guessing it will be set by rate of progress of Nokia's "not yet canned" software projects. If WinPhone 7 isn't outselling Symbian in 2 years, my guess is Nokia's next U-Turn will be just as fast as this last one.
I guess it all hinges on whether QML is as good as it appears to be. I am hoping it will be showcased on the N950. They didn't meet their Q4 2010 deadline with the N9, so they have plenty of time to polish it now. If they end up with underlying graphics engine that is a smooth as the N900's, but with a user friendly shell, and a nice QT Declarative SDK we will have something that is incomplete but looks promising. Right now that is about where WinPhone 7 is too. If WinPhone 7 doesn't mature fast things could get real interesting real quickly.
Nokia, along with quite a few other companies, simply did not have the skill set to produce a decent smartphone on their own. It is *entirely* about the GUI and the user experience.
I tried an N97 Mini and on a lot of occasions I felt like throwing it against a brick wall. It was unintuitive, confusing, unreliable and extremely prone to crashing/freezing or behaving oddly.
The touch screen was totally insensitive to touch and required endless fiddling to get it to work and it was just dated and generally not pleasant to use.
Back in the days when phones were still "stupid"phones and before the iPhone, Motorola was having the floor wiped with itself by Nokia and Sony Ericsson as they were producing very intuitive basic 2G/3G phones with nice menu systems. While Motorola's menu systems often felt like you were trying to interact with a 1970s mainframe with a teletype keyboard.
However, when the iPhone and then Android came along, Nokia was simply unable to come up with anything competitive at that end of the market.
Remember, Nokia's smartphone business is only a small % of it's overall business. Apple on the other hand only has 1 current model of phone at anytime i.e. the iPhone and the android manufacturers have a major focus on smartphones i.e. HTC.
The developer community and the IT media all salavate over smartphones, but Nokia's bread and butter is still 'dumbphones' and it churns out a vast amount of these.
It also holds vast numbers of patents on networking technologies and churns out a huge amount of network equipment through Nokia-Siemens Networks, it's joint venture company.
So, I wouldn't write Nokia off completely.
Also, they may occupy a certain niche with their smart phone windows phone offering i.e. dull business people who will see Nokia and Microsoft as two sensible trusted brands.
That being said, it could equally be a marriage made in hell with two slow corporate giants who can't innovate.
Crashes all the time in the browser. Very annoying after spending a very large number of minutes using a very poor text input system to write a long reply to important company emails.
I've owned and used other smart phones although currently just putting up with this corporate standard handset for the moment and really getting so see this OS in all its un-glory.
Using Symbian was like trying to draw a picture with an Etch-a-sketch. Possible, but takes a lot of patience. Lots of moving up a bit, down, left and right. Cursor keys and menus are rather annoying to say the least.
Compare music keyboards from the 1980s to those now and you'll see much better user interfaces, 80s keyboards were largely all buttons and one slider. Keyboards now have touch screens, sliders, wheels, XY controllers and lots of knobs. Nokia was comparable to those clunky 80s keyboards, lots of potential but you were trying to access it through a very narrow letterbox of an interface.
Modern touch screen OSes are like using a pen, your hand is in full control and you can instantly touch or select something on the screen.
Nokia failed to grasp touch screens until it was too late. I seem to remember them announcing S60 touch and it still had support for a stylus, they completely blew it!
I think you mean "using S60".
The very first Symbian device, the Psion Series 5, had an excellent touch screen UI... in 1998.
And you seem to be forgetting the Symbian-derived UIQ, a competent (if not perfect) touch screen UI which predates iOS et al by several years.
Symbian was an excellent OS, killed by Nokia and S60 (I'm wondering how many years it'll be before a Windows Phone has all the capabilities of the N8...)
Spot on - I seem to remember that my Moto StarTAC didn't allow an SMS to be sent to an address book entry (you had to key in the phone number!). In many ways I still miss my Nokia 6310i now - great sound quality, good size and weight, easy to use and had some great features that they later inexplicably dropped (timed profiles - how useful was the ability to set your phone to silent for 60 minutes and then switch back to loud?).
They never equalled the ease of use of that age of phone - the N95 was awkward and even later candybars were poor.
There's no way they could get a 'good' smartphone OS of their own in time to be competitive so taking the M$ dollar makes some sense. They're still going to run their own OS's for not so smart phones so still UI work to do in house.
"Europe lost its last global technology platform. "
Perhaps it will take the endgame of the long term demise of NOKIA to bring everyone to recognise; that the real failure in Europe, is the idea that all long term development, (and by association, government grant support), for new technology; must always be into existing large companies.
This saga is a classic demonstration of what you get, in the end, from a lack of competition. Instead of many new, small businesses, snapping at the heels of the likes of NOKIA, (and, moreover, in the right place to immediately take up the running as a market leader), you get stagnated management, unable to see the potential from their magnificent gold plated "offices".
Europe desperately needs a functioning system to feed new, free enterprise based, equity capital; into new small businesses, right at the grass roots of every nation. Until the EU recognises that need, all we are going to see is the same story, again and again.........
"Perhaps it will take the endgame of the long term demise of NOKIA to bring everyone to recognise; that the real failure in Europe, is the idea that all long term development, (and by association, government grant support), for new technology; must always be into existing large companies."
Yes, and the executives of those companies, including Nokia, continue to lobby the EU for broad patentability, not to encourage innovation as they claim, but to shore up their own position, locking out smaller competitors who would be discouraged from attempting completely independent research and development because the incompetent incumbents could just haul such smaller players into court and effectively insist that only they (and their cartel buddies) can decide who is allowed to do a particular kind of work.
It doesn't help that the European Commission are a bunch of empire builders who think that "big is best" in every area, wanting to leave as big a legacy (or mess, as it may well turn out) as possible.
The distinct impression I got about the touchscreen S60 devices that came as a kind of Cargo Cult to the iPhone was that they were hamstrung by a need to be backwards / cross-compatible with non-touch S60. I imagined a conversation in Espoo between product management wonks:
"look at the iPhone! We have to build a touchscreen UI" <murmurs of agreement>
"but what about the S60 developer ecosystem and the applications they've built?"
"Good point. Make the new UI work with all the old non-touch applications"
The disastrous result is a touchscreen UI with softkeys! Softkeys are a brilliant solution to non-touch hardware but wholly unsuited to touchscreen. All the benefits of a screen full of possible controls, all immediately visible and quickly accessed, are thrown away. I'm certain Nokia's army of UI designers complained vocally about this but were shouted down by the product wonks.
An odd definition of "failure", if they're still market leader in phones and smartphones. It is absurd to say it's a waste - Symbian has sold millions, and made plenty of money for Nokia. The fact that they change to something new in future doesn't make it a waste! By that logic, we might as well moan about the endless man hours that Microsoft spent on XP, or Apple spent on classic MacOS!
If you mean failed in terms of writing their own OS - companies change technology all the time, and plenty use products from other companies.
Is it a failure, because Apple have to use an ARM processor instead of their own? I don't think so. And Apple ditched their own OS once themselves, resorting to building a new one on top of NEXT... Indeed, Apple themselves looked at several "dead ends" (Copeland, Rhapsody) in their search for a new OS.
Qt was also not a dead end - it will provide the SDK for the number one smartphone platform for a period of years, before the switch to Windows. Yes, it's a shame it won't be used by them for a longer period, but that doesn't make it a dead end. By that logic, PowerPC was a dead end for Apple, becaues they switched to x86.
The idea that Symbian is poor is also just point of view:
"Nokia's user experience was inconsistent, unforgiving and hostile"
Yawn, here comes the trolling. My Nokia 5800 works fine, and I'd take it over an Iphone that couldn't copy/paste or multitask, any day. And judging by market sales, most people still prefer Nokia. Maybe it was worse in the past, but then that goes for all phones too. If the best you can say about the Iphone is having flashy transitions via an expensive 3D chip that most people won't use, then that says it all - that's the kind of bloat that some people (ironically usually Apple fans) criticise Microsoft for!
It's a shame that Symbian and Qt won't be around. But let's not conflate that with the tired Nokia bashing. I mean, which is it? If you hate Symbian, you can't be sad that it won't be around anymore...
I also don't see why we get this flood of troll articles just because of a deal with Microsoft. Apple made a deal with them too, if you remember.
* Those who like Nokia and Symbian, but are now sad that Symbian is to be replaced with Windows, and fear undue influence of Microsoft on a company that has been doing fine.
* Those who hate Nokia, and use this as another opportunity to bash them.
The result is, it looks like a whole load of people criticising Nokia, but it's important to note that these two camps are arguing from entirely opposite viewpoints. (I seem to fall into a small category of liking Nokia and Symbian, but being openmided to see what Windows brings them.)
Then we have people like Stevie above, who reel out their story about how their 5+ year old Nokia phone was a nightmare, as if that has any relevance today, or is fair to compare against much newer phones. (My old Motorola phone had an awful UI.)
Ilgaz: A good thing too they ignored him, since Ovi is doing just fine. Why on earth would they listen to someone who clearly has an agenda against their products?
(I don't like the Iphones, but if I wrote an article claiming "Iphone 5 is doomed", I wouldn't expect Apple to go "Oh look, someone says it's doomed - good point, let's scrap the product".)
"Guy told me there isn't a single UI for Qt on Symbian/Maemo and gave the list of mess on the article."
As a Qt developer, your "guy" is talking rubbish. There is one Qt UI. I'm not even sure what he could possibly be talking about.
"As he gave the list, I really lost 80% of hope in future of Symbian."
So you're fully supporting of Nokia moving to Windows, right? You can't have it both ways.
Steve Evans: My 5800 is the lower model of the N97, but it has no trouble with GPS lock.
"If you did one of the pocket Hitler mods would pull the post and tell you off."
I think this is more a trouble of "forum mods are idiots", than a problem with Nokia. The same is true of any product/forum.
"Android based HTC Desire Z, and do you know what, it's fan-bloody-tastic!"
A much newer phone is better than your several year-old phone? Well, amazing.
My Nokia 5800 is better than the original Iphone; and it beats my old Motorola hands down. But that's progress.
"As you say, Nokia's navigation of their randomly changing road map would make for a good depressing film, but I doubt anyone would believe it!"
Hardly - Apple would be a far better example of a randomly changing road map.
Dazzz: So Symbian has "quirks", while you acknowledge that Android has "bugs", but this is a reason to move to the latter, on the assumption that they'll be fixed? Why won't the quirks be fixed, also?
Giles Jones: "Nokia failed to grasp touch screens until it was too late. I seem to remember them announcing S60 touch and it still had support for a stylus, they completely blew it!"
This makes no sense. Firstly, stylus isn't a question of OS support, it's simply whether you have resistive or capacitive. Secondly, being able to use a stylus is a good thing - I like the option. But there is no requirement to use one.
And too late for what? They're still the market leader. They had touch screens for years before Apple. It was odd that they went through a phase of dropping them with the likes of the N95, but they've been back for years now. Apple were late to grasp all kinds of features, until it was too late.
Actually, I think I might be type #3...
I liked Symbian, used if from the 7650, 6600, N70, N95 and last the N97... But now I "dislike" Nokia. They used to have a reputation like IBM... i.e. "Nobody ever got sacked for buying a Nokia". It would work. The N95 showed some initial signs of problems, but they were quickly fixed via firmware... I should have taken that as a warning. the N97 was diabolical. Glad you 5800 GPS worked, but plenty of N97 owners aren't so lucky. Google "N97 GPS hack" and see! Yes I did try that, and it was still unfit for directing a car moving faster than walking pace.
You learn a lot about a company over how it handles a faulty product (any company can look good if its products just work), and after the N97 I felt I had been mugged. In no way was it the phone from the TV advert.
I tried various support routes, I got nowhere. Nokia's customers are the networks, they don't give a damn about Joe Public, just as long as the networks keep pre-ordering their handsets. Trouble is the networks now have plenty more manufacturers they can sell, and Joe Public remembers his buggy Nokia and won't buy another.
Sure my Desire Z is newer than the N97, but the N97 is newer than the original iphone, but the iphone was still far nicer to use.
My N97 is now consigned to the draw of history (I might attack the GPS antenna again out of boredom and see if anything can be fixed), my back up phone will remain my trusty old original N95 (Euro hacked model code with V30 firmware).
Windows Mobile proved that resistive screens and styluses were not the way to the mass market. The fact that Android and iOS have taken off big time since the stylus was dropped suggests that was the main obstacle to touch screens becoming mainstream.
Nobody wanted styluses, they were just a symptom of a poor design. Resistive touch screens do have their uses, like if you need the screen to respond when you are wearing gloves (outdoor GPS).
Apple late to grasp what features exactly? have a look at the Apple Newton, they had mobile touch screen devices years before Nokia had anything comparable. On iOS they were lacking features at first, but that's due to proper prioritisation of features.
I am on E71 and every time I launch Ovi, I remember Download! which it tried to replace and basic fact that it STILL doesn't even have update checking mechanism and allocates 30% of precious device RAM.
Why? Because some idiot decided it is a cool show off for WRT and coded damn thing in web runtime.
The Symbian Foundation effort cost our team a significant amount of time and effort and was a huge distract from our ongoing development efforts. And then after it started up we burned more time trying to coordinate with it's dysfunctional activities.
The role of the Qt team is also more nuanced: while bringing in a lot of UI expertise and a great framework they also came with a lot of disruptive behaviors: an insular almost cult-like culture, a desire to remain focused on the linux desktop while regarding Nokia/Symbian/Mobile as an annoying distraction, the ability to bamboozle Rich Green, the view that anything not written in Qt, by Trolls, or at least in C++ needed to be burned down, rewritten, or banished. Nokia badly needed mature experienced software leadership but in this case got more kids at the food fight. As one experienced mobile developer put it "It's a great framework, but those guys are crazy!"
Nokia also never connected their failure to attract developers with their failure in the North American market. The view was that if you sell enough phones developers will see a business opportunity and come to the platform. But developers are not always economically rational and like it or not the center of gravity for software development isn't in Northern Europe, but in Northern California. Many developers were not going to write apps for a phone they had never seen and that none of their friends owned.
Also misguided was the belief that a new technology (Qt, QML, Meego…) was going to come along and save the day. Those are important tools that make building a compelling product easier, but they don't do it for you. Would the people and processes that produced the N97 have created something great if they had all the new stuff to work with?
"The role of the Qt team is also more nuanced: while bringing in a lot of UI expertise and a great framework they also came with a lot of disruptive behaviors: an insular almost cult-like culture, a desire to remain focused on the linux desktop while regarding Nokia/Symbian/Mobile as an annoying distraction..."
This doesn't square at all with what various people in the KDE community are saying. In fact, a number of people in that community were already worried by the change in focus as Nokia demanded that Qt be shaped by mobile usage - that's how QML and stuff came about - and how the desktop side of Qt has seen less and less action over time. Those people aren't entirely placated by observations that you can use QML for desktop applications, too, although some of them may not see any other choice for various stuff over time, if the emphasis remains weighted towards mobile devices.
In fact, it's laughable to say that Qt development hasn't been diverted considerably by Nokia's strategic demands at the expense of the traditional focus pre-Nokia. Were the trolls still independent, they'd probably have delivered a port for Android themselves already, rather than such a port emerging from an independent Romanian developer. Indeed, I imagine that the trolls were warned off such work by the presumably considerable Nokia bureaucracy.
The pendulum is swinging in the other direction now, however. If Nokia is too rigid/incompetent to take advantage of their "disruptive" divisions, everyone else will quite happily benefit. Starting with Android, I guess.
Symbian 3 may not be polished but I have the N8 and it is a fantastic phone. I'm prob the only one here that has something GOOD to say! :) but so be it. I'm sure it is better than the windows offering,I am ALLOWED to use memory cards for a start! I like the android, the wife has it, the big niggle for me was how when I flicked through pics on her HTC I had to wait for them to load! I see them as I flick through on my N8. I think Nokia should have bared with the Sybian, given the option for android as an alternative O/S for those that want it, and avoided newbie Windows.
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