Posts Tagged ‘nokia’

The link between Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, Nokia

Written 23 July 2012, but for some reason it never got posted. Better late than never I guess.

I tweeted (17 July 2012, 4:40am UTC+8): 

There’s an interesting link between Yahoo!, Microsoft, Bing, Facebook and Nokia. The bigger picture is competition against Google, Apple

This was literally moments after the news broke that Marissa Mayer resigned from Google to become the CEO of Yahoo!. I thought I’d expand on this link that I see.

Search is today not something that Yahoo! cares about. Its served by Bing from Microsoft. Bing is also the default on Windows Phone, the operating system that Nokia has taken a bet on (when in the USA, I use a Lumia Windows Phone and cannot complain). Search on Facebook is also powered by Bing thanks to a deal that Microsoft has with Facebook. Bing is a strong contender to Google’s search, and this space is clearly still getting investment (see how DuckDuckGo recently got VC funding too).

Yahoo! has mail that is very popular (it might still be the most popular out there). Microsoft has Hotmail. Facebook has “Facebook messages”. Nokia canned Ovi mail services. Yahoo!, Microsoft Messenger and Facebook Messenger also has instant messenger (IM) capabilities. Imagine a day when they all interconnect? It would be a straight fight against Google Chat.

Picasa is Google’s photo sharing site. Today the stream might be Google+. Yahoo! still has Flickr which is the Picasa equivalent, and for streaming? Imagine if there was a quick link to Facebook. Nokia can build in sharing to Flickr and Facebook quickly from their phones (they already have been doing this from time-to-time between phone releases including their MeeGo stint).

Videos seem to be missing from this big picture. Google has YouTube, and the rest of them have nothing with the exception of Facebook.

Maps? Nokia has got great mapping technology loaded on the Windows phone. It can supply this quite easily to everyone.

I haven’t once mentioned Apple yet. They use other search engines (and maybe the longer term strategy is something like what the Dolphin browser does: use Siri to search multiple search engines and aggregate the results so the user has no idea what search engine is being used). They have their own messenger service in iMessages. They have their own photo & video storage site – the iCloud. For maps, they are using OpenStreetMaps after having ditched Google Maps. I see Apple building their own ecosystem and going it alone.

What about developer appeal? I see many a developer hacking on a Mac OS X laptop or a Linux laptop. With the Apple ecosystem, it is obvious to develop on OSX. With the Google Android ecosystem and the rest of their toolkit, its clear you can be OS-agnostic (they support Mac, Linux, Windows). With the Microsoft/Nokia ecosystem? It seems like you need a Windows box, and that automatically turns me away quite quickly (though upcoming HTML5/CSS/JavaScript will allow more development on this platform, in an OS-agnostic sense). Facebook is OS-agnostic too.

It is an exciting time ahead. All of this is great for consumers! Ecosystems are a building and it is awesome to see alliances being built

HTC, Android, Facebook

Today HTC had some interesting announcements: it cut its revenue forecast for the fourth quarter of 2011 to no growth. This used to be in the range of 20-30%/quarter. In some markets, they realise they are losing out to Apple and Samsung.

My introduction to HTC came with the Google Nexus One. It was an awesome device, and made me fall in love with Android. I then tried the HTC Desire HD right after my Nexus One died; it made me so unhappy, I switched to an iPhone 4 within a couple of weeks.

Samsung has built the Google Nexus S, and the upcoming Google Galaxy Nexus. The future is wide open, as you might get devices from Google-Motorola. If you’re buying an Android device, only buy a Google-sanctioned device. The rest are basically outdated when released and will never make you happy (and I say this, liking the Samsung Galaxy S2 for example).

Is HTC suffering because they’re building a Facebook phone? Google would have known this, thus pushing their phone manufacturing towards Samsung. HTC already has at least two “Facebook phones”, i.e. phones that have a Facebook button on them that takes you directly to Facebook. I cannot imagine how this is a selling point, but if your life is inside Facebook, it makes absolute sense.

And it got me thinking. HTC has bet on Android and Windows Phone. Microsoft is working closely with Nokia on Windows Phone. If Windows Phone rocks, it will rock best on the Nokia’s. Where does this leave HTC?

The Nokia N9, MeeGo and you

I saw the Nokia N9 sometime in June 2011, when it was launched not by Stephen Elop but by Nokia SVP of Design, Marco Ahtisaari. I loved it — good build quality, great design, good interface, superb camera, finally usable browser. All the makings of a winning product, no?

Sometime later that week, Mr. Elop decided to say that they will ship a Windows Phone this year. It became clearer that the N9 would be sold in some markets, while the new-fangled Windows phone will be sold in certain markets. There would be no intersect.

Nokia Malaysia invited a bunch of folk to launch the Nokia N9 in Malaysia yesterday (13/09). Folk were treated to a ninja parkour at the launch, and the theme clearly is “perfect fluidity”. The key takeaways from the event:

  • It didn’t go for sale immediately at launch. It is expected to do so sometime early October 2011. This is too late.
  • 16GB model costs RM1,799. 64GB model costs RM2,088.
  • Asked whether there will be more MeeGo devices the answers were very shift. Simply the innovation from the device will live on. They are experimenting with the consumer experience and looking for feedback. They are focusing on the apps people actually use — i.e. quality over quantity. No one wants to speculate if there will be another MeeGo device or not. To me, that translates to no more MeeGo devices. But the amazing things like NFC pairing with headsets (over Bluetooth), fluid swipes from edge-to-edge, these are things we may see in the next Windows phones.

There were not enough devices for all to play with. I’ve been told that the Nokia N9 will cost 599 and 699 euros respectively for 16gb and 64gb models. Some regions aren’t even getting the phone. So Malaysians can start a little eBay business and start exporting phones :)

Malaysians tend to change phones every 12-18 months on average (at least in the city, from what I can see). Will this device be a hit? Who knows. I don’t know how much more goodwill Nokia can get. The price points are a bit costly, but well below the iPhone (starts at RM2,190).

Looking for a device for the next 12 months, you’ll probably have all the apps you need –  it after all runs all Qt native apps.

However if you’re starting to sync with the cloud, and use web-based apps (say Dropbox, TripIt, 1Password, etc.) you may be better off with an iOS or Android powered device. WhatsApp will work, for example, but the challenge is for Nokia to ensure that what people use regularly will be on the phones. Web apps are becoming very important, and I applaud the FT for giving up the whole AppStore idea to focus on a HTML5 app. That in itself will be N9-ready.

Am I going to buy it? I’m having mixed-feelings at the moment. I’ll wait till the launch to actually decide.

The Nokia N8 has HDMI out. Will you use it? How?

Nokia World 2010 is happening today, and I got to watch snippets of the keynote via their live stream. I saw the demo from Anssi Vanjoki where he played a video, in full HD on all their screens. He was especially proud it did not happen via a computer in the back – it was live via the Nokia N8. It comes with a HDMI port. Note that many laptops don’t even come with a HDMI out (yet). So this is revolutionary right?

So I quickly asked on Twitter: Do you really watch movies out of your smartphone? If you do, isn’t the use case on it, rather than output to a TV?

I got some interesting answers, and lots of points to discuss. First, how I might use my smartphone to watch a movie:

  • Watching movies on my phone is something I envision doing when I commute. If I’m on a train or in a crowded LRT/MRT, I might whip out my phone and watch a movie. I might do this on a plane too, but the moment I get to a place with a TV its quite unlikely that I’d be interested in watching anything on my mobile phone.
  • I should not forget about video podcasts – I subscribe to quite a lot of them, but I tend not to watch it on my mobile phones. I presume my usage might increase if I carried an iPhone (because my podcatcher of choice is iTunes), but the moment I could whip out my laptop or iPad, thats probably where I’d watch the video. Plus quality is an issue – HDMI out is great and all, but if the content is lacking (as most video podcasts are – you want to ensure you get quicker downloads), it’s not going to look pretty on a TV.
  • I might want to watch videos I create on my mobile device. This is where it might shine – watching user generated content on the big screen. To be fair, the Nokia N8 includes a very basic video editor, and this might be where HDMI out might make sense.

Now, for the rather interesting answers.

Matt Armitage tells me that he watches movies and TV on his smartphone while he is at the gym. He usually does it via a video cable to the treadmill monitor. Furthermore he tells me that some treadmill monitors allow you to plug it in via an AV lead in, and others give you an iPod adapter (compatible with all iOS devices) and you can now use the touch screen interface on the treadmill. Advanced!

Carolyn Chan tells me that she watches Futurama on her iPhone. But when pressed if she would watch it on TV via her smartphone, she says no, largely because getting movies on the phone is already a painful experience, and poor battery life is not going to help the cause.

Asrial Baker and I had a rather interesting conversation. He watches full length movies on his smartphone, with proper earphones/headsets. Asrial does this on his long commutes, and he notes that others do it on buses and trains too. Asrial’s daily commute is probably over one hour but less than two hours, one way, everyday. He can get quite a bit done while he’s on the train. He goes further to tell me that its useful when you are at a hotel, and the hotel TV is not that entertaining, its best to have the N8 + HDMI out to enjoy your movies.

Now, I never thought of this use case. When I’m at a hotel, I’m usually beat from the day and I rarely have time to watch television, let alone a feature length film. But I do spend a lot of time at hotels, and recently during my vacation, I stayed in six hotels over 3+ weeks. I am writing this while in a hotel room.

Not all hotels have a HDMI input. Asrial says every hotel he’s been to had one. Thinking back, during those six visits, only 50% of the hotels had flat screen TVs. The rest were all CRT based, and would not have had any HDMI inputs. The one I’m in now, has 3 HDMI ports, but you’ve got to get to it via the TV. No chance of plugging your phone in to get it charged (otherwise, you’d have a flat battery in no time).

IMG00079-20100827-1225

What you see above was taken in the Four Points by Sheraton in Kuching, Malaysia. That’s two power sockets, a 5 volt USB charger, computer VGA in, HDMI in, iPod in, and regular AV in. In recent times, I can only remember one other hotel that does this: Intercontinental Bangkok. What is common in hotels though is an iPod dock. This commonly connects to the TV as well, so you can enjoy music & videos from your iOS device.

David Lian tells me that the idea behind this is: everyone carries their personal content/media wherever they go. Of course, now which manufacturer/hotel ends up “getting it“?

On an airplane, for example a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, you will get a USB port, an Ethernet port, and a video AV in port. No HDMI.

In conclusion, do you watch movies on your smartphone? How will you use HDMI out?

Nokia N900 gets a firmware update – PR1.2 for Maemo 5

Nokia N900 I’ve been using the Nokia N900 since March 2010, when Nokia decided to give one to every person that attended the launch. Its mostly been my roaming phone so far, and its been places ;)

Naturally, I found some problems which I very quickly wrote to Glen, who heads Product Management at Nokia Singapore/Malaysia/Brunei. I’m happy to state that these problems have been fixed in v10.2010.19-1 (PR 1.2) – see the changelog for a more complete list! This was released May 25/26 2010, worldwide, and I’m only now getting to update it. Let’s go through some of them…

Short codes (USSD) leading to “incorrect number”
I could not dial numbers that are formatted like *131#. The error message thrown at me: “incorrect number”. These codes are known as Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) codes.

I discovered this immediately within 24-hours of using the phone, largely because I had a Starhub prepaid card in it, and pretty much everything related to account management could not be done. DiGi in Malaysia uses this for checking your balance, and so on as well. Naturally, this was not something only I found – it was quite a problem on the forums too.

Pleased to report it has been fixed in PR 1.2.

Web browsing – landscape only?!?
Nokia N900Web browsing only works in landscape mode, and not portrait mode. I understand Nokia is pushing this connected device mantra, and its like your mini-computer replacement, but clearly, sometimes I want one-handed operations.

Today, it works. Not automatically – go to the web browser, look under Options – Settings, and make sure you select Enable Rotation. It takes a little over 1.5 seconds to rotate between landscape/portrait, and to be honest this seems a little slow, but it is at least fixed in PR 1.2.

Improved communications
You can now have video calls in Skype and Google Talk. You can also start using Facebook IM chat. Ovi Chat still remains. A killer? BBM chat integration!

Some things were however, not fixed, and I guess we might wait a few months before the next update happens.

  1. Copy via selecting text on the screen works in the Notes application. In the Messages application (Conversations), you can’t select using the screen, you have to use the keyboard (shift [uppercase] + up/down/left/right). This is still an inconsistent UI bug, and the messages app needs fixing
  2. More in what I consider inconsistent UI: the +/- hardware buttons are reversed when it comes to volume and zoom using the camera application. I know there is no +/- button per se, but I’d still regard this as a bug.
  3. Not a large bug in my book, but there is still no Multimedia Messaging Support (MMS).

The upgrade for me happened over the air. Half way through the upgrade I was a little worried about what might happen to my pictures. But it seems there is User Data Preservation (UDP), so I’m not complaining. Everything remained after the update – photos, contacts, text messages and more.

From a developer perspective, you’ll find that Qt 4.6.2 is now pre-installed. What does this mean to you? Check out the Qt Labs blog post on Qt 4.6.2 for Maemo 5. Kinetic scrolling is one of the things that excites me, with this change.

Anyway, if you’re a Nokia N900 user, get this firmware update. While it was non-destructive for me, your mileage may vary, so you might want to make backups.

MeeGo: Quick thoughts on the Moblin and Maemo marriage

I’ve been excited with the Maemo platform for a few years now. I after all, had the Nokia N770, their first tablet that had Maemo on it. But as soon as they released the N800, things weren’t backward compatible, and due to frustration I gave up on the platform (the devices themselves were very difficult to find). All this changed sometime in January when I walked into the Maemo Lounge of the Nokia Store in London – the Nokia N900 was impressive. But it wasn’t for sale internationally.

Last week, I found out that Nokia will sell the device in Malaysia, Singapore and probably many other regions. I also had the opportunity to use the device for a couple of hours, and while I had a bunch of suggestions, I did like it. Maemo 5 is a clear win, and there’s going to be a lot more work to make Maemo 6 rock even harder. Simply put: the N770 was relegated to sitting by my bedside table after a while, but the N900 is something I would definitely carry in my pocket.

But that’s not the big news of the day. MoSync currently supports writing mobile software, that runs on Java ME, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile and Moblin platforms. If you notice, the coming soon is clearly: Android (I’m told it will appear real soon now), iPhone (a lot more difficult than you think), and Maemo. After playing with a Maemo 5 capable device last week, I was almost certain that this is a good future platform to bet on – I know, today it seems all the cool apps only run on the iPhone and the Android, with maybe the BlackBerry thrown is an afterthought, but I think Maemo will help Nokia rebuild/rebrand itself.

What better news, than to see Jim Zemlin announce to the world, that Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo projects are being embraced by the Linux Foundation, to create a new “uber-platform”, called MeeGo?

Now, to crystallise some quick thoughts on this:

  1. When the N770 came out (and subsequently the N800, and the N810 – both devices I did not purchase), I would ask – where was the GSM chip? You create a fancy tablet, but you leave out the GSM chip. If I wanted to do voice, I’d have to use Gizmo Project (now Gizmo5, which has since been acquired by Google). Skype came later, only to the more modern devices. So, while the N900 is welcome, its been about 4 years since the first tablet was launched – what took Nokia so long to pop a GSM chip in?
  2. The promise of Linux on the phone has been met – Google unleashed Android to the world. From the G1, to the Nexus One, and the market of folk building against their devices, like HTC, Motorola, etc. And people have been happy with it – look at the endorsement Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, gives to the Nexus One. A part of me asks – is this too little too late from Nokia?
  3. Moblin didn’t quite excite me, and I never took a look at the platform till I became involved in MoSync. But I can see where Nokia is headed – they are providing stuff in the “one connected device” mantra, and the N900 is their first take with truly mobile computing.
  4. From a developer’s perspective, you better be brushing up on your C++. Its quite clear that this will largely be driven by Qt. I forsee heavy investment in rich-applications provided by the Web Runtime widgets (WRT). You will also be able to build applications cross-platform (no need for a Microsoft Windows-based host, to create Symbian applications for example), and you’ll probably be creating some sort of cross-compiling development environment (Maemo has largely been ARM, Moblin is largely X86) to get apps going.
  5. MeeGo while it has been announced, is not completely concrete yet. You can see that there are no prepared downloads, but you can whet your appetite on their architecture documentation (note: GTK/Clutter left behind just for application compatibility – I’ve been away from the Maemo community for a while, but from what I gather, Qt has become the hype du jour these days), some information on Qt Creator (which runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux), and a quick introduction to creating your first MeeGo application.
  6. If you want to follow further resources, check out Quim Gil’s blog, as well as Ari Jaaksi’s blog. It probably wouldn’t hurt following Planet Maemo either.
  7. If Intel, Nokia, and the Linux Foundation get their act together, and gather buy-in to create all the cross-devices, it can be really useful for application developers – its going to get more reach. I don’t see why we won’t see an iPad competitor anytime soon, for example. Imagine running the Bloomberg application on your television, on demand. The possibilities are endless as we get more connected.
  8. Currently, while no devices support MeeGo, I expect the Maemo 6 platform to be MeeGo compatible. Will Nokia update the Maemo 5 software on the N900 for free? I hope this is true – otherwise the N900 owners aren’t going to be too happy, that they’ve got an outdated phone on their hands. Keep in perspective the leap from N770 to N800, and the OS differences (being bitten once, I’ll be just this more cautious the next time around).
  9. From a MoSync perspective, it looks that we may already support the new MeeGo platform to some extent. Once more developer SDKs come out, we’ll be able to update the community on this. And as a developer, supporting Moblin/Maemo (MeeGo), and other platforms, can be a real win for your application.

All I can say is: exciting times ahead. I’m glad to see Nokia isn’t just supporting Symbian based devices any longer, and are moving with the times. There’s an uphill battle to build interest amongst the developer community to be developing against their platforms – only a lot of evangelism and love is going to make this happen. Today’s web services completely ignore S60, but maybe they’ll jump on Maemo or MeeGo. And maybe we at MoSync can help them too (I bet once we get Android + iPhone support, it will look a lot more compelling).


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