Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Chasing Rainbows

I admire Nokia. It is not so much the phones, though I am a real convert to the N95. It is more to do with the power of the corporate and the good sense of their strategy.

For years Nokia has maintained an incredible leadership position in Europe and been far sighted enough to secure sensational market share in the developing world.

More recently, it has read the signs correctly and re-oriented itself (or rather in the process of doing so) into a web company, executing on quite the most awe inspiring internal messaging to keep everybody on message and along for the journey.

It has also exquisitely judged this time - though not in the US and only after prior mistakes - when to launch its own content and media plays to rival and surpass those of the operators.

So, I think they are smart.

Today's announcement on buying out the remainder of Symbian and making it openly available to all is also smart. I'd like to say it is exactly what I would have done if I were Nokia but the truth is I did not see it coming (this time). Despite this long term admiration and applauding this recent move as the right decision I still think it is doomed.

I can see why Nokia has done it (or at least I think I understand some of the reasons) - it is partly in response to Android. Nokia can either promote its preferred platform for all and help embrace external development and interest, or it can watch as the world passes it by and Android and others gather momentum with Nokia forced eventually to pick a winner not-of-its own-choosing and run with it.

The strategy is sound but ultimately I cannot see the catalyst which helps Nokia achieve its goals in this regard. Symbian is still hampered by its complexity - rumours of Nokia being deployed to Siemens to help them launch its Symbian variant were apparently not exaggerated - and, dare I say it, a lack of glamour. Which developer would own up to getting out of bed excited to be developing something for Symbian when he can develop for Google's Android or the iPhone despite the lack of volume. Bragging rights definitely come into the community mentality here. And besides that Symbian (and its Series60 offshoot) is just more complicated - arguably so much so that Nokia needs it to be open source so it can help remove the monopoly it has on any meaningful innovation in the platform.

I am interested to see how Nokia seeks to make this a success. It is the right call with no reasonable alternative but it might just end up chasing rainbows nonetheless.

Updated: A more thorough analysis along the same lines here.

Updated II: Rafe has the definitive guide over on All About Symbian - as you might hope from the title!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Shooting yourself in the foot...

I have been experimenting at home by migrating entirely to my mobile phone rather than use the fixed line at all.

Generally it works well in the terms of call quality - really not discernable difference to my ear.

I actually use an old and separate SIM so that there is a "family line" - so there is no real actual saving as the line rental of one is equal to the line rental of the other - but it is a first step.

I have noticed two issues:

- first, a number of people and it tends to be the older generation or those that are still nervous about mobile phones, call less or ask you to call them because they are concerned about the cost of calling a mobile. This will gradually disappear but it is certainly a factor at the moment.

- second, I am caught out by the increasing use of 0870, 0845 etc etc numbers by businesses.

On my fixed line account these often had local number status and if not had costs clearly signalled. I had to send my PC away for repair recently and had to use an 0870 line for the initial inevitable trouble shooting and then the subsequent repair arrangements, including another call when things went wrong. This line was flagged as being 35p a minute (which will provoke another rant) but on my mobile of course was going to be higher. In the event, three calls of modest length has cost me over £30 or the equivalent of three month's line rental for a fixed line.

This is unfortunately not something which is going to go away. Indeed, it may get worse as this article suggests. These kind of misjudgements by the operators really make me mad. I know a lot of people working in the operators and they are bright, intelligent people and yet as a mass they operate in such a non-customer focused way. If they were to ensure that the cost to me of these lines would be the same as a fixed line phone they would have even more of my business. By insisting that they are out of bundle and therefore liable for the Dick Turpin treatment, they lose not just my spending on that SIM but also my loyalty and the benefit of my recommendation of them to others. It is appallingly short-sighted. WAKE UP!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


Some of the recent coverage about increasingly desperate moves by Yahoo! not to be absorbed by Microsoft has been very good indeed.

I think TechCrunch has been on the money with their sceptical view of the tie up with Google and general lack of patience with the Yahoo! management team's increasingly bizarre turns to avoid Microsoft. In the link above, TechCrunch references a New York Times article which delivers a stinging attack on Jerry Yang and his dis-respect for his shareholders.

The main premise is that this stopped being Yang's company when it went public in 1996 and this is a fundamental truth which for over ten years has not mattered as, by and large, Yang's approach has chimed with the majority of his independent shareholders.

There is an interesting schism in Yahoo! between the Engineers who would rather cut their heart out with a rusty teaspoon than be bought by Microsoft and the rest, who could not wait for the payoff that the price represented. This latter group were also representative of the shareholding class for whom the Microsoft deal represented a pretty good out.

I was reflecting the other day on which companies that are household names would still be around in ten or fifteen years when my sons begin to think about the working place - I honestly believe that if I were to mention Yahoo! I would have been flipped a "Ya-who?". All Yang has done has opted for a slower death and a less reumunerative deal for his shareholders.

Being the top dog is a tough job but in this matter heart has ruled the head and he'll come to regret it I think.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

A wonderful riposte

I have a feeling Twitter is like Marmite in that you love it or hate it without a lot in between.... perhaps a few that hate loving it.

The service has been having troubles recently with repeated outtages which in a less addictive service would already see it in many a user's deadpool.

The level of frustration has been high amongst users and among some industry commentators. One example of this was a post on Techcrunch which was a little disdainful and could easily lead to viral panning of the service.

I think the Twitter response was fantastic - playful yet serious, humble yet confident. Well done guys. A wonderful use of your company blog to reassure your users and get people onside again.