So, the long awaited Lankku better known as Nokia N9 is finally official. The first round of “hands-ons” and previews has been very positive. Everybody seems to be talking about the N9 and especially its infamous operating system, MeeGo. However, this does raise a question: If MeeGo is so great why is Nokia essentially giving it the middle finger by sifting itself away from it and abandoning it over Windows Phone? Or is there something wrong with MeeGo? Maybe even something that we are not aware of? In a way yes and no. My personal opinion is that MeeGo is just as amazing as you have been let to believe.
I honestly think that it could easily compete with the big boys, in this case iOS and Android, and in many ways it is even better. MeeGo brings a lot of new innovations or features that might not be new but have been implemented way better in MeeGo than in the competing products. But, and this is a big but, the N9 is a product of the old Nokia. The Nokia that believed in devices – not in overall customer experience. And that is fundamentally what is wrong with the N9. Despite however amazing or life-altering device it might be, it’s not part of any ecosystem. It is not supported by – well – anybody who matters. And if you’re not supported you’re un-plugged from the world and cannot provide the services, apps, accessories that the consumers have grown to expect. In today’s world it isn’t enough if you can provide some of these services, consumers want all of them and more! Building this kind of offering around the N9 is just not something that Nokia (especially in its current state) would be capable of doing. Therefore Nokia needed to partner up.
I know that there are many people: Nokia fans, analysts, ex-Nokians etc. who argue that the Microsoft alliance has been the biggest mistake in Nokias history and that the company should rethink its strategy, abandon Windows Phone and adopt MeeGo, again. I am sorry to say but this is a delusion. Nokia and Microsoft are in this alliance for good. Even in practice reigniting the MeeGo (Harmattan) project would not be possible. The talent has already either left the company or been reallocated to work on new projects, namely Windows Phone. This is a permanent shift in strategy and will hopefully continue well into the future.
Yet, all bets are not solely on the Windows Phone. Remember that the new strategy has three pillars: smartphones, next billion and future disruptions. Therefore instead of viewing the N9 as the last MeeGo product in the smartphone’s category you should rather think of it as the first product in the future distruption’s category. And if the first product is any indication of what is to come, bring it on Nokia – bring it on!
[EDIT] My Nokia Blog (great site btw) seems to have picked up my article. Check out what they have to say >> My Nokia Blog
There are 28 comments on this post
The bigger “but” is: but what if the alliance fails? What is Nokia’s contingency plan? Because, I have to say that right now the success of WP7 and beyond is as speculative as anything else right now. There are no comforting numbers other than the growth rate of Microsoft’s app store.
So if WP7 fails, will Nokia elect to focus solely on S40 and “the next billion”, abandoning the high end?
The way that Nokia sees the current state of WP is that it does not exist and that it’s Nokia’s job to relaunch it. Therefore numbers do not matter. I believe in WP not just because of what Nokia is doing with it but because of its importance to Microsoft. The world is shifting towards a mobile future and without valid mobile OS Microsoft makes itself redundant. Windows Phone + Nokia is that strategy. Microsoft will not let Windows Phone fail. They have very deep pockets and will fight for their existence. Therefore, if anybody is ever going to aquire Nokia it is going to be Microsoft.
I definitely understand the need and motives, just question the probability of success. But, I still hold a LOT of Nokia stock so I want the company to succeed! And I’d still like to go back to work there… I miss it!
Well, of course everything is possible. I still think there is room and in some way even need for a third ecosystem. Which in away might help the probability of success. The entire smartphone market is still in its early days and the potential is huge. There might even be room for a fourth ecosystem who knows. It’s way too early to declare any winners.
True. Nokia and especially Nokia House is a great place to work at. A lot of very inspiring and talented people all working together. Love it! :)
I always enjoyed visiting Nokia House in Espoo. A beautiful building. I traveled to Finland 8 times on business for Nokia and really got to love your country.
As for ecosystems, I still hold out hope for an OPEN one. Based largely around HTML 5 and companion technologies. There’s a lot of pressure to make that happen… and I think most of the force against such a thing originates here in the US. : /
Thanks for your comment!
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the way Apple is building their ecosystem one bit! Apple has known early one the value of an ecosystem. It’s easy to join one as a consumer but can be almost impossible to escape form. This is essentially what iCloud will be for. It’s the ultimate guard – the gatekeeper. Once you’re tied to that thing there is no escaping.
A truly open alternative would be wonderful. One that relied heavily on open standards and HTML5. Even if you wanted to leave, you wouldn’t have to go trough the hassle of purchasing all your apps or decoding your media all over again. I root for the death of native apps long live HTML5!
(I wish that the Linux Foundation and Intel can keep MeeGo alive and do great things with it – and not just on mobile.)
I totally agree, as well, Texrat. Open is an ignored buzzword, but its also important.
Elop didn’t take into account that alot of his influencers using his products like the open concept. For him to change direction while ignoring this and joining to fortify ANOTHER walled garden is blasphemous.
He can save himself if he either promises at least another series of Maemo/MeeGo (couple phones and a tablet?), decides Nokia WP7 devices will exclusively have Qt/QML support, or at least have one superdevice running WP7 that has official alternative MeeGo and Android ROMs with full Qt app support.
Otherwise, he’ll just be fighting Apple for consumers, while the freedom fighters will go with Android or WebOS to a lessor extent. He ignores the admitted niche, but doesn’t realize how many influencers it includes or how big its size is.
You have a valid point! I think many people are buying Android devices because they think they’re based on Linux or thus “open”, which of course they’re not. It would be silly for Nokia to ignore this niche. Especially as Nokia has long been the supporter of open movement.
Oh, and here was my most recent article about open ecosystems. A lot of good discussion! http://tabulacrypticum.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/a-tech-ecosystem-for-the-rest-of-us/
Something doesn’t smell good here. Why is it irreversible? Other companies placed their bets on MS, failed miserably and run away from such alliances, learning to avoid Microsoft the hard way. Is Nokia any worse? Smart learn on others mistakes, some at least learn on their own, but not to learn at all is just too bad. Ecosystem around N9 would grow, as well as around any decent Meego handset. All services are available out there, and most of them are already web based. Have a decent browser (and Meego will have Firefox), and you are set to get any service you want (well, almost every). Plus open nature of Meego allows producing any kind of native app for those services which are still lacking.
So I don’t agree 100% that betting on Meego is too late. It’ll be much worse for Nokia to have complete fiasco with MS and to crawl back to Meego in few years time. Oh, well…
“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the way Apple is building their ecosystem one bit!…”
And how is Microsoft’s “ecosystem” any different and better?
It isn’t or at least not significantly. Yet, I think that Apple’s ecosystem is the extreme example. Google and MS products can still mostly be used with other products as well. But, you’re right ecosystems as concepts are usually not good for consumer – IF you don’t want to sell your soul that is. Therefore I root for open environments such as MeeGo or HTML5.
I also think that the N9 is the the product of the old Nokia and is a fabulous device. In a sense, for me, it represents the high water mark of a device centric approach. Of course it’s not a simple clean division – the N9 has a lot of this ‘other’ non device stuff too. But it’s still a device centric approach at heart.
It’s not a new idea in one way – the devices are no longer enough mantra was first heard the day Ovi launched at the Go Play event in London in 2007.
But perhaps the tipping point where this is really seen, not just talked about, is approaching? Yes the mantra has been present for a while – Android and iOS have grown off the back of it… and top end smartphone users already ‘live’ the dream… but in terms of consumer awareness and typical device use… how present has it really been?
Clearly it’s not and either or situation here – rather a continuum of gradual change. Yes the future has been obvious to see, but seeing and exploiting are two different things (especially if you’re striving to serve the ‘old’ market too).
I think this is partly why there has been so much discussion on Nokia strategy. The old way is still the prevalent way most people use devices and looking just at the now you can see a continuation of that.
But when I look at the reasons Nokia – Microsoft alliance I don’t see what the situation is like now, but what it will be in two years time. It’s about the next not the now.
Thank you for your comment! I complete agree! It will be interesting to see how the N9 sales will develop. Will people be afraid to buy it because the ecosystem talks or will they just simply not care? The N9 is an amazing device and I’m really proud that Nokia has managed to come up with something as awesome as the N9.
I will not support Nokia$oft phones.
good article, thanks!
I also belive in the the 3 pilar strategy. really hope that S40, WP and Meego (+Qt and Nokia services) can form very stron offering across customer segments. for us symbian lovers it’s totally ok to let go of symbian when we get meego as a return. S40 is for the masses, WP for smart device/business masses and Meego superphone for us nerds.
a few thoughts though:
– if all meego talent has left the building, who’s there to develop future disruptive meego devices??? There just has to be hw+sw teams workimg on Meego, otherwise the 3rd pilar is just a hoax. So in theory, Nokia should be able to change focus back to meego if needed. but hopefully WP succeeds.
– to say that meego doesn’t have an ecosystem is only partially true…the consumer services (fb, 4sq, dropbox, gmail, twitter, spotify, skype….) are mostly ecosystem-independent. with Qt all these and future ones too come to Meego. the developer incentive is there because of S40 and S3 user base.
so the 3rd pilar and N9 as the first device has all the potential to be also a commercial success in addition to test platform. this doesn’t mean that it should replace WP. it has a future of its own!
You’re most welcome! ;)
Thank you for your comment. I wouldn’t say that all the MeeGo talent has left the building. There is enough people still working on MeeGo to support the N9 but not necessary enough to develop a new device. Most of the people have now been assigned to new projects within Nokia. Future destructive devices, as far as I know, don’t have to be based on MeeGo.
“There is enough people still working on MeeGo to support the N9 but not necessary enough to develop a new device.”
“Future destructive devices, as far as I know, don’t have to be based on MeeGo.”
But keeping Meego alive (and developing migration from Harmattan to real Meego?) would a) enable Nokia to develop other disruptive devices with existing developer community and b) be a safe bet should something go wrong with MS or WP.
Anyway, even if N9 is a real superphone (I really like my N950!), in the near future Meego and N9 will only have marginal commercial relevance for Nokia. As said, its “only” a disruptive demo of what Nokia can do. But thanks to Qt, all the relevant apps will be available. Hoping to get my N9 asap!
Can’t see how the N9 can disrupt the main markets if it isn’t released in them. I would definitely buy the N9 or N950, but they won’t be sold in the UK
Elop is nuts – first get WP7 ready for launch THEN say Symbian is dead
I personally believe that the Nokia N9 actually could disrupt a great deal, and it seems Stephen Elop believes that to.
The must be a reason that the major markets where Nokia’s WP7 devices will be released to, is the same markets the Nokia N9 will NOT be released to.
Seems both Microsoft and Elop realizes that for the Nokia Microcrap devices to succeed they cant have the N9 to compete with. If Nokia N9 and a Nokia M$ device is released in the same market MeeGo and N9 will possibly win. ….Microsoft and Elop does not like that thought one bit it seems.
Not releasing Nokia N9 to Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Spain and other was a decision that seems to have been taken quite recently .. Nokia was a bout to disrupt them selves, and Microsoft is risking to fail yet again with their Windows phone OS.
Still don’t understand how the board of directors could first of all hire Elop, and now how they can keep him around.
The winning strategy seems to be.. Keep Nokia OS in lower end markets, Keep Symbian for the smartphone market for now, developing S^3 further. then slowly move Smartphones to MeeGo … then its tottaly fine to also adopt Windows Os as well to get a foot into the american market. but you don’t have to kill everything that was making money by publicly calling it worthless, ….and before you have anything else to sell!
Nokia’s sales have dropped…. well sure.. you don’t have to be a genius to understand why.
Stephen Elop trashes Symbian and Nokia as a whole….then he starts talking about Windows devices…. but where are they??
He should have announced a new Windows device right on the spot where he announced the alliance with Microsoft.
Going to sale max 2 weeks after the statement…
.but now its an epic fail… and every time Elop opens his mouth the stock drops.
It will be interesting to see how the N9 sales compare to Nokia Windows Phone sales in markets where both devices are launched – most interestingly in Finland.
“but they won’t be sold in the UK”.
Buy unlocked N9 online?
Even if it could have been the Nokia high-end platform, that role is now reserved for WP. Because of that N9 will be fairly rare device for people who know. And they can get it online.
I am not sure nobody really knows already where N9 will and will not become available yet.
Interesting article, one could therefore also say that the failure of the “old” Nokia was that in it’s approach to open devices through and open platform, that they could not or just didn’t have the ability to plug it into any ecosystem. In a sense, the N9 remarks that even with the right platform and device, the “community” just doesn’t have the means to make a device that is independent of ecosystems yet works with all of them equally well. That would be the failure Elop saw most probably.
The disruption bet is is that eventually open devices on open(er) platforms can work throughout politically and economically independent ecosystems. To do that, you need to be much faster than the N800-N900-N9 transition has been. Maybe this is Nokia’s diet to become just that kind of disruption.
Thanks for this, made me consider something different.
I wish Nokia would keep making MeeGo devices, even one per year would be fine. Nokia could for example team up with HP to create a some sort of joined ecosystem with WebOS and maybe later try to get Android to become part of this as well. Qt would be the key here. Sadly this will never happen.
It’s too bad that Elop didn’t consult with me before his big decision. ;)
Sorry, but why is Meego “infamous”? Can you elaborate on that?…
MeeGo just rocks. It is rock-star famous, period.
What I don’t understand is why it was necessary for Elop to burn all Nokia’s bridges, so to speak. Other companies seem to operate with fingers in all the pies, so I don’t see why Nokia can’t do the same, or at least more than just the one.
I don’t think there was any kind of contractual reason (with Microsoft), so the only reason I can think of is if Elop needed to make some kind of splash as a show of strength/leadership.
I can’t argue with his reasoning for deciding to team up with Microsoft – it is bound to be successful to some degree – but I don’t see why he had to abandon everything else.
That’s pretty simple IMO. Microsoft doesn’t like you to have many pies :) They only allow MS approved ones. So Nokia making a deal with MS had to “remove fingers from other pies”. Notably from Meego. Sad as it is.