The Continuum Theory

Further to a comment I made yesterday here I felt inclined to pursue the topic of continuation in more detail.

It appears to me that ever since the release of the iPhone and following it’s undoubted success, many phone manufacturers have ditched what they know best; in many cases their historical heritage, and are now blindly pursuing their piece of the ‘iPhone Apple Pie’, churning out touchscreen model after touchscreen model without much consideration or at least without building upon what they have already given us, their loyal customers, in the past.

Nokia is undoubtedly a key example here, a company who have a rich heritage of doing things in their own way and standing out from the crowd with unique designs and up until WP, their own homegrown software as well (the now defunct Symbian, Maemo, MeeGo).

I look back at Nokia 3 years ago and consider some very promising new breed of models like the N900 or the N8 which given time could have gained more and more traction in the market if Nokia had had the inclination to nurture the seeds they had already planted.    Let us consider when the first iPhone came out, there were issues with the 1st generation which were ironed out with each successive model until this day where you have the iPhone 5 which is now a finely tuned, very successful version of the original.  The point is, Apple started with something relatively small which had huge potential, but perhaps wasn’t completely perfect upon release.  Given time and investment however the iPhone is now one of the best selling, most loved smartphones on the planet.

By this token, the same could have been true for original Nokia products such as the N900 or the Symbian-based N8.   Okay, like the first iPhone, both wern’t perfect upon release, but they had very strong potential to build on and refine into something even better.  You could argue that the N900 had plenty of opportunity to prove itself with its predecessors (N710; N800; N810), but the point is none of those previous models were accessible to the mass consumer in the way the N900 was, none of those predecessors could offer the main function you need from a mobile phone: to make phone calls.   Therefore, for many the N900 was the first in its class and in my eyes you have to discount its predecessors when looking at its potential future path to success as a ‘smartphone’.

Look at the Nokia N8 – another tremendous feat of hardware engineering, all bundled into a very neatly sized package with all the extras you could think of including an amazing camera (still one of the best in class almost 3yrs later!), HDMI out, TV out, Micro SD support, USB OTG, FM transmitter etc all bundled into the most beautifully engineered anodised, machined body, which is on top of that virtually bullet proof.   Okay, the software could have been much better upon release, but Belle today shows where an N8 could be in 2012/13, and it’s a vast improvement over the original release albeit still not quite perfect.

Leaving all other features in place, consider a Nokia N8 or N900 in 2012 with an up-to-date processor (minimum dual core 1.5ghz) and enough ROM (1gb +), improved software with a decent sized app store (Nokia Belle is almost there in terms of apps) and you would have phones that would be very viable alternatives to the likes of iPhone.   I would go further and suggest Nokia should have committed to one ecosystem early on, choosing between Maemo or Symbian (IMO Maemo but more accessible in terms of apps) so they could have put all of their resources into making one of these ecosystems into a viable success.  Expending time, energy and resources on 2 half baked ecosystems was never a good idea and inevitably led to loss in confidence and internal conflict.

The point is that, given another 3 years, either of these models could have been built upon and could have been refined to be the best in class today.

As a customer, I expect just this: CONTINUATION.  I don’t always expect the 1st version to be 100% perfect, but I know that by the time the second, third or even fourth generation is ready, the manufacturer will have learned along the way and made a much better, refined product with each successive iteration.

Sadly Nokia lost it’s bottle and in the process any potential continuation on those models was ceased.

Okay, the 808 Pureview and the Nokia N9 could at least be considered as ‘almost’ successors to the N8 and N900 respectively, but with completely different aesthetics and a lack of OS continuation, there were never going to many network operators who would be willing to take the risk on these ‘stillborn’ devices, and arguably their potential success was killed off before they even left the starting blocks.

The big frustration, here for me, is that when I consider buying a Nokia today, there is but one viable option for the high end: Lumia.   I was as excited as the next person when I started seeing the 2nd gen WP8 lovely colourful fabula designs which stemmed from the original N9 look, but then I started hearing more of the capabilities (or the lack thereof) of these devices and found there were some serious downgrades in terms of hardware when compared with eg. N8/N900 – so what’s going on here?   Okay, they may be acceptable to the average consumer, but where is the continuation that we expected from investing in products like N8/N900 ?   Is it Microsoft who are holding things up by not having the appropriate drivers to match Nokia hardware that was running fine on Symbian or Maemo OS 3 years ago or have Nokia just decided to drop key features in the interest of increasing their profit margins ?

The point is, with Maemo, like Apple, Nokia had planted seeds in fertile soils and just needed to be patient and water them in order for them to organically grow into beautiful trees bearing the fruits of their work, but with Windows Phone, they have taken a half grown stunted sapling and expect it to thrive in a desert where it will need a heck of a lot more watering and fertiliser in order to survive.

I promise I’m not trying to Nokia bash here because I dearly love Nokia and I really want desperately for them to succeed, but this post is really born out of an absolute frustration for what ‘could have been’ in 2013.

Let’s hope that Nokia can continue building on the Lumia series and one day (hopefully soon) can bloom and offer similar hardware features in their Lumia devices comparable to my 3yr old Nokia N8 and N900…from a personal POV all I would like to see in a Lumia today on top of what they have already delivered, with this continuation in mind, is: TV out, decent multitasking, an FM transmitter (or equivalent), possibly a QWERTY slide-out option and of course solid software to match but sadly for now, 3 years later, I’m still waiting.

With all of this in mind. the best thing Jolla can do IMO is learn from these mistakes, and release a product that offers perhaps even a little continuation from products they themselves worked on at Nokia.   We won’t necessarily expect the first iteration to be 100% perfect, but at least promise us continuation (both software and hardware) in future devices so we don’t lose all hope for the second time around.

Wiseman says: Nurture your seeds and they will continue to grow into strong trees bearing the fruit of your labour year after year.

Thanks for making it to the end and as ever, I would love to hear your thoughts.  :-)

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  1. Hopefully jolla will not disappoint us with the hardware! I’m less concerned about the sw since I’m sure that they ll do a gud job…

  2. Is marc drillon expert in choosing hardware? I mean in nokia is that marc drillons former job description more on hardware expertise? I know jussi hurmola is a software engineer but ehat about marc drillon?

    • ‘Dillon’s background includes working in a variety of senior engineering roles at Nokia across Symbian, S40 and MeeGo.’ He was Nokia’s Chief Operating Engineer and the principal engineer for the MeeGo project FYI. :-)

      • Ok thanks for the info just wanted to know. Cause everyone is excited about Jolla. And if Marc has a part in doing the N9 then Marc will be a very good CEO. Love using the N9!

        • I would be more conserned with the designers that they have inhouse vs their (potential) suppliers. Almost all of the people in LinkedIn are software experts. How much does Jolla need design and hw expertise or does most of it come from the supplier? To what extent do they have possibilities to impact what comes out of the manufacturing line? With their financial background Id expect them to have limited possibilities to invest in both internals, screen and body.
          Im fine with rather standard chipset as long as the UX is smooth and certain games run ok. The screen does not have to be out-of-this-world, good enough is again sufficient. Also with the camera, I dont need OIS or 41mpix as long as the video does not stutter, camera launches fast and UI us perfected. The body has to be solid, not cheapo plastic feel to it and scratch resistant.

  3. i always have chosen Nokia for quality “phone”! Cause a phone its need for make calls and send sms, other fuctions are surplus. Nokia have got in the past good phone in terms of signal and compactness. I trown my old 3330 from more 10meters and still alive.
    in a bunker my N9 take signale aniway. So when i red of future N9 i was exited cause Nokia makes a new competitive object versus Apple.
    Apple have no experience on mobile market and for this the first iPhone generation haven’t good mobile services.. So only for this reason i ever chosen Nokia… but now with WP8 for me it is only a way to discard nokia.. I hate microsoft i hate Win NT..

    Love MeeGo and Love Jolla
    loving continuos open source things

    • I agree with you. The FIRST thing that a smartphone should do is: to CALL. I have had a lot of different devices, but almost everyone has not been as good as Nokia/Motorola (And even as Philips with its Xenium series).
      If I have to give you a feedback about the article, I’m sorry for Nokia. I will love Nokia forever (I still remember the awesome Communicator series [until the 9500]) and all their awesome Symbian devices).

      I hope to see a new generation of devices that can became the new milestones.

      I wish the best for you Jolla, and I will help you as much as I can, also if the first device will not be sold in Italy, or if you will need some different kind of help, I will be ready!

      I WANT YOU ;)

  4. had Nokia followed the continuation we would not seen the kind of slump of rank as seen today. The jolla must work to support the existing meego devices. A large road map is required to reach the goal that is projected at the JOLLA . N8 and other maemo and meego devices were examples of uniqueness of Nokia. But where is resides today is complete chaos. Save Nokia.

  5. I still have an N8, running fine. Superb photos and rock solid for everyday tasks.
    The first thing I did when I purchased it, though, was install Swype and SPB mobile shell.

    • +1 here and agree SWYPE is a must for a better inputting experience. Really tempted by the 808 pureview for updated processor/ROM, but the lack of developer interest since they dropped symbian is what is holding me back ATM.

  6. Waiting anxiously for a new Jolla-phone. My N900 is badly broken (almost impossible to recharge now), but I would not want to buy a temporary (smart)phone while waiting the first Jolla release. The other phones in the market just won’t cut it after what I used to do with N900. Equal to that is what I want from my “handheld computer-phone”

    • My N900 is in the same situation – it can still recharge but sometimes I find it in the morning with no charge because of a loose USB connection which is frustrating since I’ve always taken great care with it. I have the N8 now as my main phone which I find incredibly versatile but the ROM is too small (256mb) and the speed of the old processor makes it lag sometimes. Aside from that it is perfectly functional and symbian is very power efficient and works pretty well on a slow processor. I also have an N9, but find I use the N8 more due to a better stocked app store and the FM transmitter which I am totally reliant on it seems. I also find the main problem where we live the N8 or N900 always picks up 1-2 bars of reception, but the N9 often struggles to get any bars at all. It’s a crying shame because I absolutely love the N9 and would to use it as my main device but with no reception where we live it is unusable. I got the N9 2nd hand so maybe the antenna is slightly faulty? Actually I’d be really interested to know if anyone else finds the N9 antenna to be inferior to the N900 or N8 or other Nokia models ?

  7. I do agree on CONTINUATION… I had iPhone 4 & I upgraded the IOS to version 6!!! Here is the trust… My device hardware still support the upgrades… Although, iPhone 5 (the 2nd edition after mine) on shelf now.
    My wife holding N8, it is just a wonderful phone with great ecosystem… But it is dying because of lack of apps… We still need major OS upgrade to make it live again…

    Jolla wants to work on this point, we don’t want to buy a device & put it on shelf after two years… Here is you can build creditability a long leasing relationship with customers…

    • That’s right if you as a customer receive a good aftercare continuity you are more likely to buy the successors a few years later and tell your friends about it – Apple has the best model here. Mobile phones aka Smartphones have become like PC’s, you use them for X amount of time until the hardware becomes outdated with the latest software and then you replace when you can afford to. The problem with Nokia is I was happy with eg. N8/N900 (even though the aftercare for N900 was mainly through the Maemo community), but now 3 years later there are no viable successors to those models.

  8. I agree completely with everything written in this post. It’s like it would have come out of my own mouth. The continuity was Nokias biggest problem, and probably will be. The Nokia N8 is actually still fantastic. My wife has one and it takes absolutely fantastic photos. Ok, N8 has some other quality issues, but it really has Symbian on a totally different level. The same goes with the total sadness of the N9. Its probably the best ever made this far (ok, as a regular smartphone, maybe not the as something more tablet-like N900). Execs at Nokia never realized they were so close to the goal. They jumped on the wrong wagon, least to say, they also abandoned long and hard investments, in ALL fields, customers, products, engineering, employees, software, hardware everything. All this just because of this brainless chase and fear of the iPhone.
    I am though, unlike the writer here not as keen on seeing Nokia in success together with M$. As I see it, they can have it. Take a real bite of that strategic move and take it to the grave. And also, I don’t want to see them as a possible future competitor to Jolla.

    • Thanks for comment and nice to know someone else is on the same wavelength. :-)
      Just to clarify, of course I would far rather step back in time when a Nokia/MS partnership did not exist and for things to be different now, but as it stands presently, I still want Nokia to succeed as without them, we would never have even experienced the benefits of a company trying something outside the box (aka maemo/meego etc). The hope is that if Nokia can be successful once again, they may well adopt Sailfish into their own smartphone range. Jolla amongst other pursuits, as you probably know, are very actively looking for partner manufacturers to license Sailfish to.

  9. Yes, I’ve heard that Nokia somewhat give their blessing to Jolla, so hopefully they at least won’t hold an aggressive competitive attitude towards them, or maybe even better, cooperate with them, expanding their product range beyond W8. But what about Microsoft, we know them all too well, my guess is they’ll protect their W8 with tooth and nails, prioritize their new look and feel for all their platforms over anything (anyone can see they wan’t to blend everything together, desktop, tablets, xbox, phones into one concept to cover it all). I’m wondering who’s turning the wheels when it comes to stepping outside of that, Nokia or Microsoft.

  10. Yes, you raise a good point – I’m not sure how ‘controlled’ Nokia are by MS are at this stage. But I have to think that Nokia are still fully independent being that they are still able to work on the Asha S40 line. I know Nokia have been receiving payouts from MS on a quarterly basis, and assume that is specifically to market Windows Phone. I also don’t think we would have seen the Symbian based 808 Pureview come to market if Nokia were restricted in this way. As we have seen, Nokia have gone back to basics and are focussing on a 1 OS strategy in hope that it will revitalise the company. My hope is that WP is a success for Nokia so they can afford to start investing in a new partnership with Jolla and the Sailfish OS whereby continuing from where they left off with MeeGo. This strategy would not be in direct competition with Jolla, but instead would actually benefit Jolla on all levels.

    • I didn’t know about that, about the Asha S40 and 808 Pureview. Well that’s a few good signs indeed, that Nokia still is a company of its own, with its own strategies and that MS is still on some sort of partnership level.
      What I got to understand about Nokia is that many employees (I’d guess mostly developers) are very open source minded with everything that culture/ideology brings. I hope some of that mentality is still living within Nokia these days. Or did all these guys go away at the same time Nokia dropped MeeGo/Qt? I remember the protest day at Nokia, where employees took a day off using their overtime hours. People leaving office during work days earlier than before, just “doing their time”, nothing more. It felt like the company soul was lost.
      But in that case, I also give my hopes to Nokia investing in Jolla. It would be like a comeback, and people with the open source ideology would have the conditions and decisions on their side. Lets keep our fingers crossed. Phew, 13 days left until the announcement of the OS!

  11. the most important thing that you wrote, imo, is “a decent sized app store and you would have phones that would be very viable alternatives to the likes of iPhone”
    People now buy smartphones mainly to have Facebook,Viber,Whatsapp apps. So a good step for Jolla is to make a deal with this sofware houses to have this apps developed for Jolla/Meego phones, regularly updated. Hardware should not be an issue, as long as the battery last more then the BL-5J…and is removable ;)

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