Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Silicon Valley doesn't respect Nokia

In response to the article I found on, Nokia Software Problem, let me collect my remarks on the statements in a single post. The list of statements below simply follows the same order as they appeared in the original article.

"Nokia sells close to half of all smart phones worldwide"
Well, around 70% would be more accurate, but then it couldn't have been said that "close to half".

"N95's only edge was in watching video"
Hmm, let me smile at it. I think GPS, 5 megapixel camera, WiFi, etc. also come in handy every now and then. These things were all new in a Nokia device at the time when N95 was introduced and although Nokia might not have been the first in introducing them, the point is that video was not the only thing users could enjoy.

"Symbian is not dead, but it has a limited amount of time to act to capture developer mind share before it is too late,"
I don't know how many times I wrote this on various forums: developing for a Symbian-based device does NOT mean pure Symbian/C++ development. On the contrary, the range of possibilities is much wider: you can program in Flash (Lite), Java (Mobile), Python (for S60/UIQ), (Open) C, Widgets, .NET, NS Basic, etc. My question is not solely addressed to Apple: is there any other manufacturer in the world who can compete with this at this very moment? Is it the not-closed-but-not-too-open-either Apple who although enables Objective-C development, but nothing else? For example, Java, which is not only available on all other platforms, but also the primary language for 3d-party development on Android? Not as if I had heard too many good things on iPhone developer support, but are they really the ones who will save the world?

"Applications written for the iPhone, by contrast, will run on every iPhone."
Ehh, typically naive, beginner approach. I wouldn't write an article if I were such a beginner, though. How many iPhone models can we talk about at the moment? Two. There's a rumour on Apple introducing iPhone Nano still this year and I bet that that device would introduce variation both in hardware (e.g. screen size) and software. And having spent almost a decade with mobile software development, I can tell you that software development becomes exponentially more complex with the introduction of variations. I think we should get back to this question in 1-2 years time-frame and then we'll see how programs written for old models will work on new ones and vice versa.

"Carriers here have been loath to give Nokia much love over the years"
Yeah, this one is a hit on the nail. I find it very interesting how much North-American carriers favour US phone manufacturers (Palm, Microsoft, Apple) and Canadians (RIM). It is one of the root causes (if not THE) why Nokia has failed to successfully enter North-American market.

As to developing software for mobile platforms, it's worth noting that it's becoming more and more popular to rely on a thin client software responsible mainly for the User Interface, while storing data and implementing heavy business logic on a remote server. So often, the thin client is a browser or an application capable of providing "browser-like" behavior. This is something iPhone, the latest Nokia S60 phones, Windows Mobile are (and the newcomer Android will be) good at. And lots of people say that this architecture is the most suitable solution for cross-(mobile)platform software.

In my opinion, it's too early to talk about the dethronement of Nokia by Apple and RIM. Just count the number of phones sold, how many models various manufacturers have on market, how long has a manufacturer been on market, etc. and we'll have just the right amount of information ... to be silent. The author of the article fails to see that global market is not equal to American market, over-emphasizes the importance of Silicon Valley and can't think of the possibility that these platforms, devices, manufacturers can co-exist with one another.

Otherwise the article was good,

Tote :)


Richard said...

Excellent article and I'm 100% agree with you. Nokia might not the top seller in North America due to phone provider are only supporting thier brands like Motorola and Junk like Korean phone and true for Canada RIMS.

But World Domination in Europe, Asia, Africa would be Nokia all the way. With various model it make Nokia shine. Further down along come CDMA phone which also supported by Nokia.

Current technologies that already supported by Nokia is far away 10 years more advance then any other handheld in comparison. N95 is just one device not to compare the power E90 Communicator and its multimedia capability.

Anyway this will be my though.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned Symbian to a very in-tune application engineer last week & he basically said that the OS is a mess. He told me that each time a new release comes out it's almost a total re-write since there are so many fundamental problems with the structure & foundation of Symbian. I'm not an application engineer, nor do I believe that one engineer's opinion should be taken as fact. However, given all the talk that Symbian "is dead" should justify concern for companies & applications engineer looking to develop services & solutions for the mobile market. With the number of mobile operating systems opening up I wouldn't bet the farm on Symbian right now.

LonelyBob said...

One correction, the N95 was not the first Nokia device to have WiFi. But it was the first to have GPS built-in and the 5 Megapixel camera. I don't recall exactly what Nokia device was first to have WiFi but the N91, N93, and the N80 at least came out before the N95 and all had WiFi capability.

Other than that a good rebuttal to the Forbes article.

Gábor Török said...

Well, I must say that that engineer was mis-informed. Symbian and Nokia are very strict on keeping source and even binary compatibility - something that lots of other big software houses can't say about themselves. I admit that there was a big break a few years back, when Symbian introduced Platform Security in the OS and this was used to do a facelift on other APIs, too. Before that break or even after that I must disagree with that developers cannot rely on compatibility kept.

It's another thing if someone thinks the OS is a mess. Putting aside the question whether that person thinks that the OS is fundamentally flawed or it's just "simply" difficult to use its APIs as a 3rd-party developer. Because latter might be true: Symbian is well-known about its high learning-curve compared to e.g. Java, Python, Flash. But since the vast majority of smartphones are based on Symbian I definitely think it's worth "betting the farm on Symbian". :)