Very long Read: Operation Elop by Harri Kiljander
February 11, 2018 9:12 AM   Subscribe

The English language translation of Operation Elop is finally done! The contemporary account of the fall of Nokia is now available under Creative Commons license on Medium. (via)
posted by infini (43 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nokia might have had the market position Samsung holds now if they hadn't treated Windows Mobile's cinder block like a balloon. Looking forward to reading this.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:54 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


As head of design direction for service and UI design at Nokia headquarters during the two years immediately preceding the Elop era, I am perfectly comfortable asserting that the company was doomed in any event, regardless of any shenanigans such as the ones Harri describes.

Under Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia's senior management was completely incapable of taking the measure of Apple and the existential threat the iPhone represented to their core businesses. They spent a solid year after the iPhone's launch deriding "the fruit company from California," during which their reputation and their market share both evaporated like ice cubes on a griddle. I never did find out if there's a Finnish word for arrogant incompetence, but if there is that management team surely merited it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:58 AM on February 11 [30 favorites]


I’m curious about this. I bought a Nokia Windows Phone a couple of years ago because it was the cheapest smartphone I could find. I had just dropped my Blackberry in a swimming pool and my company didn’t offer to replace it. I loved that Nokia phone and found even Windows 8/10 perfectly usable. Over the four years since then I have bought 2 more; the first one stopped charging, I shattered the second one and I am still using the third (which I bought on eBay for a snip). But my company stopped allowing email access via Enterprise without some other software fiddle which isn’t available for WP and so I’m obliged to switch to ios or android, and chose android because it’s the cheaper handset. I’m angry about this! I liked Nokia!
posted by chavenet at 10:22 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Under Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia's senior management was completely incapable of taking the measure of Apple and the existential threat the iPhone represented to their core businesses

Yeah, no. Engineers were busily working on a response, but upper management was too busy listening to Microsoft to make it happen. The N900 evolved into the N9 which was far and away the best phone on the market at the time. By the time it was finished, the decision had already been made, sadly.

The Symbian app ecosystem was far broader than Apple's was at the time (recall it was the better part of a year before the iPhone even had apps!) even after the API break in S60v3. Besides, Symbian itself is a far better smartphone OS than any of the modern options. Still, moving to Maemo/MeeGo was necessary to get a decent touch interface going. That combined with the existing Symbian apps that could be easily rejiggered with a touch interface every bit as good as anything else at the time was a fine strategy, if a year and a half late.

At first, it was not at all obvious that the iPhone was going to be all that. No apps and twice the price of anybody else's high end hardware.
posted by wierdo at 10:35 AM on February 11 [7 favorites]


the n9 was amazing for its time - in some ways better than the offerings today (for example, contact info was indexed by people not software / communication methods)
posted by idiopath at 10:42 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


“Yeah, no”? Could you try and like, articulate whether you are actually agreeing or disagreeing, perhaps?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:55 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


At first, it was not at all obvious that the iPhone was going to be all that.
Manifestly untrue. Even in the fall of 2007 it was obvious that the iPhone was going to remake the industry from top to bottom. Everyone who saw one wanted one.

No apps and twice the price of anybody else's high end hardware.
Possibly? Empirically, nobody cared. History records the result: Apple is perennially in the top three enterprises of all time by market capitalization. Nokia barely exists anymore, and certainly does not exist in the sense that it did in June 2007.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:00 AM on February 11 [9 favorites]


Some very rose-lensed nostalgia going on in this thread.

The N9 shipped late with a headphone jack was - bafflingly - electrically incompatible with everything else on the market at the time. The Symbian marketplace was a garbage fire, as was Symbian itself when you put it on a big screen. It was a mess, and I say this as somebody who owned and loved an E7 and then N9 that I still wistfully power up now and then.

The E7, born as the N950, was supposed to ship with Meego. But it got kneecapped by internal politics and ended up shipping with Symbian, which I say again was garbage. Promised updates never came, and the ones that did come broke more than they fixed.

As much as I loved the N9 it had no shot. Mobile-phone Nokia was doomed and Elop was correct that their software platform was on fire and sinking into the ocean.

For what it's worth, it's a mistake to say Nokia doesn't exist anymore. After ditching their burning phone platforms and focusing on large-scale networking technology, they're now doing very well, one of the biggest telecom vendors in the world. They're just out of the consumer space in all except a brand-relicensing sense.
posted by mhoye at 11:26 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


No apps and twice the price of anybody else's high end hardware.

Personally, I always thought that the iOS UI coupled with a "real" web browsing experience was the killer app. The rest could/would come later.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 11:27 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


“Yeah, no”? Could you try and like, articulate whether you are actually agreeing or disagreeing, perhaps?

Yeah is the interjection, no is the negation.
posted by cortex at 11:36 AM on February 11 [16 favorites]


I worked for Nokia in the US, then Finland, and finally in the UK while this was all transpiring, and have some pretty strong opinions on what happened and why. Nokia was in serious trouble before Elop arrived, but he was absolutely the wrong person to get us out of it. I am looking forward to reading Harri's (who I have met, but don't know well) take on things when I get a chance.
posted by incster at 11:36 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


I do find these kinds of stories fascinating, where a company is poised to dominate a market then fails to because of making bad bets or arrogance. Another example that comes to mind is Sears in the late 80s and early 90 who ought to have crushed the competition in online commerce and finance and instead pissed it all away in a series of bad moves and missed opportunities.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:43 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I'm on chapter 8. Its complicated. "When Nokia died..." I'll come back later. I had the link shoved under my nose by my Finn, and we have some old history to dig up and fix. He needs my ability to articulate and sensemake in order to release the baggage of old arrogance, and irony.
posted by infini at 11:43 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I always thought "Symbian" sounded like some sort of sex toy.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:48 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


What I don't understand is why they thought Android would mean layoffs for Nokia developers but using Windows wouldn't imply the same.
posted by infini at 1:20 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


> At first, it was not at all obvious that the iPhone was going to be all that.

You’re not using a shitty, dumbed-down phone-only version of the web built on WAP/WML, and you have Apple to thank for that, not Nokia.

The natural superiority of competing OSes at the time were irrelevant because (in the US, at least) the app and music market was moderated and monetized by the telcos. Ringtones were two bucks and crap versions of “Space Invaders” cost even more. Sales were threadbare, excepting the rare breakout like Crazy Frog (again, costing dollars per 30 second soundbite), because they were expensive, annoying to install, difficult to use, and were not portable between devices.

A robust web browser that provided access to the web in something like the same way people were used to using the web from their computers was the killer app. Google understood this almost instantly: Early prototypes of the Android phone were modeled after the Blackberry, and Google redesigned the OS and UI from scratch after the iPhone’s introduction. Nokia and Blackberry didn’t get it, and they died.
posted by ardgedee at 1:46 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


There's a cohort of Nokians here? Small world really is small. I had several friends – engineers and managers – at Nokia when I lived in Helsinki. Ghost wrote a lot of papers and presentations. At the time it was at its heyday, but even then, as an outsider the arrogance was clear. I filed it away as something to watch for; they went headlong into it. Shame since they did have so much potential.

What I don't understand is why they thought Android would mean layoffs for Nokia developers but using Windows wouldn't imply the same.

Android is open source and based on Linux; Windows is closed and requires licensing. Finland being the birthplace of Linux, Nokia was very attuned to the thinking of the time that open source posed a viable opportunity-slash-threat. I never understood how they missed out on forking a *nix to work for them (Apple did).
posted by fraula at 1:51 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


tangential arrogance story: I went to precisely one get-together at Nokia in Helsinki. Everyone was given nametags; Nokia employees had blue nametags with their position and name. Partners were given red nametags printed with "Not Nokia". I refused all other invitations after that. Two decades of a wide variety of corporate experiences later showed that, indeed, that sort of thing only ever happened at Nokia.
posted by fraula at 1:56 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


fraula, I've heard it said that half hte problems are a direct carryover of the culture prevalent in the two leading private business schools of the city (something I can attest to, having worked for one of them)
posted by infini at 2:08 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Well I have a very different opinion about what transpired. Since it goes against the common narrative, I don't expect people to find it easy to accept without thinking about it a bit.

Back before the Blackberry came out, one of the most popular phones in the US was the Razr. It was a flip phone. You could do a few things other than make phone calls, but trying to do email or surf the web with it was quite tedious, to the point of almost no one even trying it. Outside the US Nokia completely dominated. Then the Blackberry came out. All of a sudden email was easy on a phone. Even surfing the web was much easier. Google bought a company Android, that was working on a Blackberry type phone, with a backup design based on a touchscreen.

Then the iPhone came out. This changed everything. It suddenly became very easy to access the internet through a phone and everyone who had one did exactly that. You can argue about phones and features that were already existing, but to me the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. In England, it was reported that their networks were just about shutting down from the increased traffic of the iPhone (and, importantly, no other phone). I knew people at Verizon who were saying the exact same thing was happening to their network. Google quickly realized what was happening and switched to their other design.

I remember arguing with someone online about Symbian, the OS used on Nokia phones. I said it was all over for Symbian. The person argued, correctly, that Symbian dominated outside the US. I showed him a chart that showed Symbian dominating exactly like he said--something like 90% for years, until the last couple of months, at the end of the curve, where it was heading straight down. He said that this was just a blip on the chart. But what was happening to the British network indicated otherwise. It wasn't enough to have a smartphone that was easy to use. It had to have a huge infrastructure behind it--music, apps, software develpment tools. And it had to be at the level of the iPhone, or it was just ignored. Nokia tried valiantly to add all this to Symbian, but the old OS really wasn't up to it. And the company really didn't put all their efforts behind their interesting smartphone developments. (There was probably enormous inertia to support Symbian).

So, instead, they did something I think is brilliant. They got Microsoft to buy the whole thing, which would probably be worthless within a few years, for over 7 billion dollars.

What isn't widely known is that right about this point the province Nokia's Indian phone manufacturing plant was in decided to change the way it calculates the taxes owed, and to make it retroactive. They decided that Nokia owed them something like $10 billion, more than Microsoft was paying for the whole division! Microsoft told Nokia, we'll take everything but that factory in India. You can keep that. Nokia told India, we aren't paything $10 billion, and we're closing down the factory (putting thousands out of work in India).

The Microsoft deal came just in the nick of time for Nokia.

Nokia pawned off the losing phone division and now, years later, they are making phones again (it is sort of a partnership with a newly created company so that if it collapses, it won't take the company with it).

I'm convinced that it was absolutely brilliant 6 dimensional chess at work.
posted by eye of newt at 3:51 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


Possibly? Empirically, nobody cared. History records the result: Apple is perennially in the top three enterprises of all time by market capitalization. Nokia barely exists anymore, and certainly does not exist in the sense that it did in June 2007.

Empirically everyone who didn't have VC money or an excess of disposable income thought of the iPhone more like a Vertu than anything they'd ever have. Everything changed with the 3G and at&t subsidizing them down to $200. But hey, why bother looking beyond the fawning tech press and checking out sales figures since everyone just knows that the iPhone was universally loved from the minute Steve Jobs started his presentation.

Sorry, that's just not true. Don't get me wrong, plenty of people wanted one, thought it was cool, whatever, but people also saw that it had no apps and didn't even have 3G at a time when public wifi was nowhere nearly as common as it is today. They rightly waited for it to get better.

It wouldn't have taken nearly as much as most people believe to shift things in a different direction. Remember, Nokia was by far the largest seller of cell phones, period. They also had more smartphones in people's hands than anyone else, including RIM. What they did not have was a management team that understood what they had and what needed to be done. They thought shit like the 5800XM would do the trick while the engineering team realized that Maemo could work, but only with a huge UI rejigger that they sadly were not allowed to iterate on.
posted by wierdo at 4:04 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Here's an article about the Nokia plant in India that I mentioned, which is now finally being re-opened.
posted by eye of newt at 4:07 PM on February 11


That's an interesting insight, but "Nokia getting bought out by Microsoft was the best possible move" and "Nokia severely bungled their response to the iPhone launch" are not mutually exclusive. It may be a 6-dimensional chess game, but it's one where a player stupidly loses their queen then manages to play to a draw.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:07 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


The Symbian app ecosystem was far broader than Apple's was at the time (recall it was the better part of a year before the iPhone even had apps!)

So was Palm's. How'd that work out for them? (No one has even mentioned Palm in this thread so far.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:25 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Nokia sued Qualcomm in like half the countries in the world and multiple jurisdictions. Their main case theory (outside of the patent litigation) was just awful. Usually, if you work on a case long enough and you're conscientious enough, you really start to worry about whether your client might actually be wrong. Not this time. But it paid off a big chunk of my student loans.
posted by praemunire at 10:24 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


You’re not using a shitty, dumbed-down phone-only version of the web built on WAP/WML, and you have Apple to thank for that, not Nokia.

It is precisely this sort of rewriting of history that really gets my goat. Nokia had a full HTML browser, based on the same code base as Safari (KHTML), incidentally, literally years before the iPhone was released. Before the ROKR, even.

If you said they failed to get with the times as JavaScript performance became more of an issue, you'd be completely correct. Even pointing out how much better a touch screen makes the experience would be reasonable. Saying Apple brought standards compliant web browsers to smartphones is just factually incorrect. Literally tens of millions of people were using them pre-iPhone.

Also Opera was a thing, but I'll assume for the sake of this conversation we are only talking about the browser that ships with the device.

Hell, I had early 2000s dumbphones with HTML browsers. WAP was better for that form factor given the processor and memory limitations, though. Google worked really well, not so much "normal" websites, though we all seem to accept mobile specific layouts these days..
posted by wierdo at 12:32 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


The focus on Elop is narrowminded. I am NOT a fan of his, but Nokia's fall was assured in 2003 when I sat in an auditorium and the CEO of the time (Jorma, even before OPK) told the American office that Nokia would "never make a flip phone", as I regaled in a previous comment.

As I'm reading the comments from fellow ex-Nokians I do not understand the rose tinted defence of Symbian and their 'app ecosystem'. Are y'all kidding me? Do you not remember Ovi? LOL yeah, no one does.
posted by like_neon at 1:58 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


There are two facets at play here.

The long run up to Nokia's splitting themselves far too wide in attempting to aim at the top of the pyramid (where the iPhone sat) and their broad global base in feature phones. Fwiw, in India a cellphone is still called a nokia and in Africa their brand equity is still in the 60% range. There's a place in the world where they changed everything, and this aspect was overlooked and forgotten in the rush to top.

The other is the focus of this book. The finnish psyche needed a book like this. Management and product development are two different segments. Engineering and industrial design had a long complicated history in Finland post WW2 and far too many hopes and dreams were tied up in Nokia. What happened between 2011 and 2013 was a shock that ran through academia, business, government, and families up and down the country. There's only 5 million people and at its peak Nokia was contributing double digits to the GDP and the tax base.

"When Nokia died..." has daily impact and influence in the subsequent ecosystem that we're building and are part of - startups, services, employment, even a viable dream for the future for young innovators.

The book calls Nokia an innovation factory, and you have to see and know its R&D impact on the Otaniemi campus to understand what happens when that entire edifice crumbled. Silicon Valley sneers at the GSM standard as obsolete - to quote the book - but GSM is what runs across the developing world and emerging markets. More than half the planet uses GSM and probably learnt to send an sms on a Nokia.

I remember standing in the design area in Nokia house in September 2007 watching a couple of guys excitedly talking about having broken into the iPhone. They knew what it was but it wasn't all that either.

On the upside, Nokia's end has woken up the systems engineering, industrial engineering and product development communities to the need for nimble, flexible, adaptable, and perhaps, a memory of the humble Finnish engineer who just seeks to make the best product design in the world, instead of being the best designer in the world. Its a nuance, but its been a lesson.

Let's hope the management and business side remember these lessons. I've done work for a couple of exNokia startups and their management teams have a long way to go in changing their thinking. They aren't a giant anymore with the power to influence a country's future and global standing.
posted by infini at 4:52 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I’m (not so charitably, I guess) darkly amused by folks here and elsewhere holding up the N96, the N8 or, barely more plausibly, the N9 as potential iPhone killers, especially when they point at raw capabilities. It is true, for example, that these Nokia devices had touchscreens. What they never had was the suppleness or elegance of multitouch interaction that Apple lavished attention on, and that I would argue was key to the immediate sense of recognition and delight nongeek users observably had in picking up a launch-generation iPhone and playing with it for the first time.

Apple sweated the details of interaction physics, of smooth transitions, of ultralow-latency multitouch responsiveness. Nokia’s engineers, while hugely talented at things like antenna design, never in my experience stopped regarding such details as somehow effete, less important than a laundry list of specs, or simply beneath them. Indeed, people in this very thread are continuing to miss the importance of these factors in engaging the mass audience, even here in 2018 when the triumph of the UI design paradigm they were part and parcel of is so complete and hegemonic that I find it oppressive.

Ask me about Nokia’s engineering- (as opposed to UX-)led approach to NFC and payments sometime if you want another example of how this mindset squandered a trillion-dollar market opportunity.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:52 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I was going to write a snarky reply but instead decided to leave it at don't slag things you never actually used. I may have rose colored glasses (don't really think so given I was saying the same thing back then), but one must also keep in mind the shit colored glasses that hindsight tends to produce.
posted by wierdo at 6:24 AM on February 12


What they never had was the suppleness or elegance of multitouch interaction that Apple lavished attention on, and that I would argue was key to the immediate sense of recognition and delight nongeek users observably had in picking up a launch-generation iPhone and playing with it for the first time.

That is the opposite of the case. The N9 not only had a smooth elegance around gestures and multitasking to it that the iPhone still mostly lacks, but the physical shape of the device itself informed the actions of the UI in a way that iOS and Android have never even attempted.

The "immediate recognition and delight" you're describing was brought on by a very well-engineered marketing campaign - the iPhone wasn't so much "intuitive" as "people spent months before the release date watching instructional videos about how to operate it disguised as commercials".
posted by mhoye at 6:58 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


From Chapter 25

Nokia’s phones were not killed off by a murderer from Canada. What killed them was the arrogance born in Nokia’s own country, concentrating on costs, unclear responsibilities, and bad decisions made by the company’s board.

My Finn has never worked for Nokia directly but for a variety of reasons has had long standing arrangements with various departments up and down the country since the early 1990s. These factors described here have been seen in other institutions or even stand alone projects. The trouble with Finnish culture, especially masculine one, is that the lessons aren't something that will be discussed openly nor efforts made to transfer this experience. Those who designed the world's most efficient production systems are rightly proud of them and continue to teach those lessons of systems design without regard to the way manufacturing and production are transforming rapidly and globally.

The book innocently puts forth the innate "we are best, foreigners aren't" attitudes in so many different sentences that I'm still shocked by one of them - the finnish industry going out to market their IT services by saying Finnish employees would be more loyal to their employers than Indian engineers. Really, Finland? Yet at the same time they praise the efforts of Indian Rajeev Suri who is CEO of Nokia.

Will they recognize their attitudes and unquestioned beliefs need to change? Is a Nokia enough of a shock to the system? Or is this a reflection of a larger global inflection point and Finland and Nokia simply the frontrunners of a greater upheaval to come?
posted by infini at 7:25 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I was going to write a snarky reply but instead decided to leave it at don't slag things you never actually used.

...

That is the opposite of the case. The N9 not only had a smooth elegance around gestures and multitasking to it that the iPhone still mostly lacks, but the physical shape of the device itself informed the actions of the UI in a way that iOS and Android have never even attempted.

The "immediate recognition and delight" you're describing was brought on by a very well-engineered marketing campaign


Wow, the elitism inherent in these remarks--"it was too better, Apple just had, ugh, marketing." It's of a piece with this infamous comment that signaled nothing more or less than Rob Malda's own irrelevance.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:33 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


The N9 not only had a smooth elegance around gestures and multitasking to it that the iPhone still mostly lacks, but the physical shape of the device itself informed the actions of the UI in a way that iOS and Android have never even attempted.

Without getting too much into specifics, I was actually on a team that objectively measured the subjective user experience of Nokia devices against competitor devices the market. The methodology was rigorous and thorough and Nokia devices very regularly performed worse across the unboxing, first use, UI and hardware experiences compared to the iPhone (we also compared against Blackberry, Palm, Windows and Android devices). The physical shape you mention, are you referring to what our evaluation participants referred to as the "unpleasantly sharp corners"? And the edge to edge glass was acknowledged to have good potential, but never fully utilised despite detailed recommendations on how to push its innovation (and which was later copied by the Samsung Galaxy Edge). I'm sorry but your view of the N9 is disconnected from market perception and consumer reception.

I'm not saying the iPhone was perfect, but whatever specs are cited for the N9 never broke through consumer consciousness or delight. And that's why the iPhone was so powerful. You can call it manipulative, but they tapped into human emotion with that phone. When the first 3g version came out, our evaluation dinged it hard for not supporting picture messaging. But people didn't care! That is some major juju.

the iPhone wasn't so much "intuitive" as "people spent months before the release date watching instructional videos about how to operate it disguised as commercials".

You say it like it's a bad thing... and even if it was a marketing ploy, it worked and Nokia didn't have that kind of savvy to make up for its own deficiencies in product design.
posted by like_neon at 7:40 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


What they did not have was a management team that understood what they had and what needed to be done.

... which is exactly what the poster you Yeah, no'd said, right?
posted by bonaldi at 8:01 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


The "immediate recognition and delight" you're describing was brought on by a very well-engineered marketing campaign.

I'm sorry, but in addition to being — as Halloween Jack points out — extraordinarily disrespectful, this is simply not true.

On the day after Launch Day, June 30th, 2007, I brought my brand-new iPhone to a room that was for the most part populated by mid-level analysts working for various agencies of the US intelligence community. These were the kind of people, in other words, both far too overworked to pay attention to much of anything not directly related to the performance of their jobs, and sort of professionally jaundiced — inclined to think of themselves as above and apart from the audience most marketing is aimed at, even. I would guess that no more than half of them even had the slightest notion that Apple had a "Jesus phone" coming.

They passed that phone around the room in overt, cackling wonder. I didn't get it back for something like half an hour. People would sit there and play with the lock screen, for godsake, giggling like second-graders.

By the end of the next day no fewer than four of them had gotten themselves to an Apple store and bought an iPhone to call their own. That may be "marketing," fine — but if it is, it's the kind of marketing based on a genuine leap forward in the design of a complex technical system. And the leap involved was precisely the sort that neither Nokia's management nor, for the most part, even their most talented engineers could understand, because it was based on a set of experiences and states of affect they simply did not value.

I doubt many enterprises have ever been quite as good as Nokia circa 2008 in terms of finessing the supply chain, understanding the physics and engineering requirements of a robust, battery-powered, handheld radio telecommunication device, and bringing that device to market globally at a price point affordable to the greater part of the human species. That accomplishment deserves great praise, and if I were the one who got to write history I'd make sure it received due recognition.

But by 2008, Nokia was no longer in the handheld radio telecommunication device industry. It had passed, without ever quite realizing it, into a realm where high-quality user experience and service design were table stakes...and on that terrain it was eaten alive. Harri was there. I was there. It sounds like some of you were there. And anyone who was there ought to be able to put their professional pride to one side, and reckon with the clear verdict of history.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:17 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Empirically everyone who didn't have VC money or an excess of disposable income thought of the iPhone more like a Vertu than anything they'd ever have.

"Yeah, no", that's blatantly wrong, unless you're just trying to sleight of hand "the entire western world" into some unimportant bucket of "an excess of disposable income".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:19 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I spent the early part of the 2000s using a couple different Nokia phones (the 6600, mostly, but also the N73) and it was interesting how the entire ecosystem of smartphones, how they were sold, how they were used, and the infrastructure supporting them was slowly pushing forward until Apple dropped the bomb that was the iPhone on to the ecosystem.

Sitting in the midwestern USA, carrier coverage immediately knocked out a lot of options unless you were willing to accept T-Mobile's anemic coverage or.. what was AT&T at that point, Cingular? In any case, a carrier that wasn't quite there yet compared to the regional carriers or Verizon. Plans that didn't bake in a carrier subsidy were incredibly rare, so in the case you actually were able to buy a phone off-plan, you were still stuck paying the subsidy.

Nokia was barely carried by US carriers except on the lower tier, so off-plan it was. By that point, my friends had the Motorola phone du jour or a Danger Hiptop, aka the T-Mobile Sidekick. The Sidekick was sold like a youth-oriented Blackberry, with limited apps that had to be pushed from the carrier, email and web browsing that was proxied and reformatted, but it was usable and people liked them.

I liked the form factor, the nice camera, and the ability to install my own handful of apps on my N73 but it was the last moment Nokia had my attention. After pushing things forward within a limited ecosystem in the US (Europe had all kinds of random features, but faster data was the main difference), I suddenly had a much freer environment.

The post-iPhone mobile ecosystem is so insanely different from the carrier-specific, custom software, phone subsidy plan, intermittent data connectivity world a decade ago that anyone not anticipating a next move was blown away.
posted by mikeh at 3:14 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Always enjoyed the performance of my Nokia phone, and as one who reacts to touch screen interfaces with visceral loathing rather than a childlike sense of wonder I'm annoyed that I can't buy another phone with a radio that good. But there is one thing Nokia engineering definitely deserves a kick up the arse for, and that's designing a charger plug that's (a) different from everybody else's phones and (b) even more fragile than bloody micro USB.
posted by flabdablet at 3:55 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying the iPhone was perfect, but whatever specs are cited for the N9 never broke through consumer consciousness or delight.

It was never intended to do that. It only existed to shut me and a few hundred very vocal people on the Internet who were fucking irate that they were shelving the project and some whiny engineers they wanted to keep for a while longer. It was stuck in limbo for nearly a year after it was finished before they finally released it, only produced a single run of something like 20,000 units, and didn't release it in the US. Also basically zero marketing support.

Imagine how it would have played out had the iPhone been created by what may as well have been a rogue team in concert with some community members while Steve Jobs insisted they should just stick to iPods and it only ended up hitting the market in tiny numbers just to shut up some vocal Apple fanboys. That was the N9 in a nutshell.
posted by wierdo at 12:32 PM on February 13


Wow, the elitism inherent in these remarks--"it was too better, Apple just had, ugh, marketing."

I didn't intend this to be any sort of snobbery - I thought it was brilliant, and low-key probably one of the best marketing campaigns in tech history. It demonstrated the value of the device at the same time as it quietly and subtly showed people how to get that value from the device, so that people's expectations about how to navigate a largely new user interface were established before they ever held one in their hands. It took a rare understanding of people to know that was even necessary, much less to accomplish it elegantly and almost invisibly.
posted by mhoye at 7:09 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]




The company has launched a ‘strategic review’ after writing down $164 million on its purchase of health startup Withings

...aaaaand they're still managed by geniuses in the OPK mold, evidently, even after all the changes. I mean, they've just launched an ad campaign on the sides of London buses, apparently to promote a business line they're about to sunset. That truly takes a special kind of stupid.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:55 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


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