Comment: Why HP should send a huge Thank You to S. Elop

Let´s face it: Many people like the Nokia MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan / Maemo 6 presented on the Nokia N9 – if you read the negative comments, these show concerns about buying a device which is abandoned on release, they dislike the last years Hardware platform or ask the “What about apps?” question – if Nokia hadn´t discontinued the MeeGo platform, one of these negative points wouldn´t be there, and the other two would be addressed by future devices over time (I think I read once that OMAP4 is pin compatible to OMAP3).

One of too many webOS 2.1.0 bugs (Device: Palm Pre Plus)

But let´s think about to whom the the Nokia MeeGo platform would have been a strong competitor. Many of you may think Android, and while this absolutely right in the long term, in short and mid term Nokias Meego platform would have been more of a competitor to the smaller smartphone operating systems / ecosystems, such as Windows Phone 7 or HP webOS, which are chosen by their loyals because of their usability, which is less flawed than Androids (menu button, multi tasking).

Nokias MeeGo platform is as it is (in its nearly abandoned state) already a strong competitor to what HP webOS is like – both systems are all about gesture powered multitasking. Let´s look deeper. HP webOS is – and I am sorry to say that – is flawed by the web technologies it´s using – JavaScript still is not running as fast as seasoned programming languages, and besides that, there will be some work necessary to speed up system services – just compare the HP TouchPads Sun Spider benchmark scores – the TouchPad is the most advanced version of webOS and surely requires some more polishing, as this is the first public release we are dealing with here (and no, it´s not the hardware´s fault, I´ve seen benchmarks were the Qualcomm platform smoked the Tegra2 used in most Android tablets out there).

MeeGo, as being a still rather new development on top of very seasoned technologies, performs a lot better (which has a huge impact, you have to consider that these devices are mobile, and less CPU usage is automatically connected with better battery life..), and as Nokia´s MeeGo UI is more than competitive, this platform with Nokia’s experience in the mobile sector (which while HP / Palm have some too should be superior) could have easily made it to the third position on the market, with a huge gap to Android and iOS still, but better than the rest. Nokia opted against a clear MeeGo push though, so this is all theory (most likely they would have stuck to the way inferior Symbian too much, anyway) – thanks to S. Elop,HP has another chance.

Success, however, is something that requires more than just good ideas, even more than astonishing products (that HP doesn´t have yet, the TouchPad, Veer and Pre³ are in many ways inferior). An alliance with Samsung (that build smartphones with Android, Windows Phone 7, Bada and LiMo already) could help with great hardware, but possibly killed HPs own margins and besides that, it´s the software which until now still isn´t more than a set of brilliant usability concepts that is sort of usable. HP has the chance to fix their issues, which are many – as Elop gave them some more time.

N9, N950: Two Nokia MeeGo devices. Thoughts before going to bed.

The N9 was announced in Asia while I was sleeping here in Europe. Now I am about to go to bed again, but as I can´t do any serious blogging (videos, images) being online over an EDGE network which feels more like GPRS in terms of speed right now, I want to share some thoughts on the N9 and the N950.

The N950, which I didn´t really cover here yet on LINMOB, is the device that we saw on leaked images aeons ago (~ 1 year), a device much looking like the Nokia E7: An 4” HWVGA aluminum slab with a slide out, full 4 row QWERTY keyboard. Don´t get overly excited about this device if you aren´t a developer, as it will be tough to get one then. Read more on this over at thehandheldblog.com, and if you are interested in the actual differences between these two new Nokia Handsets, let me point to this post at meegonews.com

For the non Qt / Linux developing rest of us, there will be the keyboard less, polycarbonate N9, which looks different than the existing Nokia phones, it doesn´t resemble the N8 e.g. – I like it … I think I should stop repeating myself, so nothing on the specs here which I haven´t posted yet, they are decent, not breathtaking.

Pricing and availability. Not much info on that yet. There are, as I noticed earlier today, indicators that the N9 will only sell in a few countries. (->TheHandheldBlog) Considering the general excitement about this new Nokia product this would be a very sad thing, but Nokia has (from my view as a mobile linux lover) made tons of sad decisions since Steve Elop came aboard.

I already linked you to thehandheldblog.com twice, and I will do it a third time in this post, simply because I totally agree to their comment “With The N9, Nokia Shows The World Its Still Got It”.

Last but not least you should watch this video of the presentation (by netbooknews) – I can´t right now (EDGE):

Nokia N9 – Nokias last MeeGo device

Nokia unleashed what is believed to be their last MeeGo (1.2 “Harmattan”) device at CommunicAsia today – as rumored a very long time before, it will be called “N9” and appears to be aimed at everybody, not just developers. Accelerated by a TI OMAP 3630 SoC (as in the Motorola Milestone2 and the Palm Pre2) the N9 reminds us more of late last years phones, than of this years dual core packet giants of the competition. The device, which is packed with 1024MB of Ram, features a nice 854×480 AMOLED screen with a capacitive touch layer on top and an 8 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera capable of recording HD video, looks awesome and most likely wasn´t intended to be for developers only while designed – a beautiful, sleek mix of angles and curves, a piece of design, that can surely take on the iPhone in the “looks” department. Don´t believe me? Have a glimpse at Nokias promo clip for the N9:

If you can´t get enough of this buttonless beauty, make sure to check out what one can describe as a product page of the N9: swipe.nokia.com which has a name that really describes what how to use this device without buttons: Swiping. And what´s great about this: It´s a different type of swiping compared to HP webOS or other platforms that use swiping or gestures for UI use – yet it appears to be a pleasure to use.

Nokia also announced a set of accessoires to go with the NFC enabled N9, and you should check out the classic product page (which suggests that the N9 will only be sold in certain parts of Europe and Asia, excluding the US (which has never been Nokias turf) and Germany) and spec and UI informations too, if you are interested into this kind of information.

Last, but not least there seems to be another MeeGo device, only aimed at developers,packed with a QWERTY keyboard and thus immensly exiciting for me. Check out what MeeGoExperts.com have on this device.

I will be back for more thoughts on these announcements this evening (Berlin time).

The Nokia WP7 announcement: A late comment.

While everybody else is preparing for CeBIT, which I will attend, too (though just for one day) I want to spend some time on pointing out my opinion on Nokia´s WP7 deal.

Knowing not too much about Symbian (I actually never head a Symbian cell phone / smart phone), but having watched the evolvement of mobile platforms during the past years, this announcement saddened me when I heard of it. Not just because I dislike Microsoft (I admire them for their success, but believe that their market domination is not a good thing), much more because I am supportive of open source software.

While Nokia´s previous MeeGo / Symbian strategy had a common factor (Qt) and, as now leaked out, were to get about the same user interface / UX, which meant a huge commitment to opensource software due to the opensourced nature of Symbian and the fact that MeeGo is Linux based and Qt is an opensource toolkit, originally developed by a company called Trolltech, this announcement put an end to this, as Nokia officials stated that Qt wouldn´t be ported over to WP7 and as Microsoft doesn´t allow GPLv3 (or similar) licensed software on its relatively new (and thus relatively immature) mobile platform, this meant a slap in the face of the open source community. Nokia will release a developer aimed follow up to the Maemo5 running N900 this year though, most likely this phone will be called N950 and be a keyboardless, touchscreen only device, running MeeGo – probably on silicon by Intel (Medfield).

The move towards WP7, including the dumping of Symbian and making MeeGo a “playground for future research”, didn’t come as too much of a surprise. Nokia´s smartphone smartphone sales continued to drop down, and a while ago the MeeGo lead at Nokia, Ari Jaaski, left after a new CEO was in charge: Steven Elop, who had worked at Microsoft before. Then, only a few days before Nokia announced its new partnership, Symbian^4 was canceled with Nokia saying, that they would stop the versioning of Symbian (which isn´t the worst idea ever, especially if you failed to fulfill reviewers expectations before, as major releases raise expectations) – it all sounded strange, and the WP7 rumors became more and more powerful.

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Eldar Murtazin, editor in chief of mobile-review.com, a russia-based website which has been reviewing mobile phones (smartphone and “normal ones”) for ages (in a very good and detailed way, better than all german magazines on this very topic I ever sneaked a look at), has written a few very interesting articles about this move (which he doesn´t consider a wise one) which features data that is quite interesting: The numbers of employees at Nokia and what they are assigned to.  Looking at these numbers, 6200 people working on Symbian (kernel + UI / UX) in comparison to what reviewers voices were makes you think: Now what do all these girls and guys do?

Actually, it might just be a slow release schedule that makes all these employees seem so lazy, as there will be one more mayor UI/UX overhaul for Symbian later this year – if you wonder, why Nokia does this, just look at the scheduled release of their first WP7 phone: It won´t be on the market that soon (christmas?), so Nokia has to keep Symbian alive to sell at least some handsets – and they do so without too many tears and crying, as Symbian development is being generously supported by the European Union (when I read about this for the first time, I only thought: What the h***?).

Many people have been asking what will happen to Qt when Nokia has killed (the previously tax payer funded) Symbian in 2013 or 2014 and MeeGo just remains a playground for R&D and a few others at Nokia – I don´t know the answer, but as this is a widely successful technology, I doubt that Nokia will dump it to the trash bin – they´ll much rather try to sell it, as this transition will be a costly process – and I am sure they will find a buyer, maybe Intel, as MeeGo relies on Qt quite heavily. 

All in all, this seems to be a sad move away from what sounded to be a promising idea: Symbian and MeeGo based smartphones with alike Qt based UI/UX – it´ s a move that happens before delivery. Nokia will face hard times with WP7 just as it would have with MeeGo/Symbian, it´s doubtable whether this move helps Nokia to bring down cost as they will have to pay a few US$ for each and every license. The winner of this move is Microsoft, as Nokia becomes the most committed WP7 handset manufacturer, and they gain access to Nokia´s OviMaps (some people bought Symbian phones just because of the free offline navigation Nokia offers) – Nokia remains struggling, just as it has been before.