With you guys at the helm, no wonder you’re nailed: Mr Operator responds

MIR reader Sally stepped up to the plate this morning and nailed Mr Operator along with the other carriers in the marketplace with her comment below on this post:

Mr Operator finished his column thus:

I’d love to think I’m wrong here, but I can’t escape the nagging feeling that Palm Pre will arrive at the ball 6 months late, to find others with much bigger names in Europe [Nokia – Ed] are already waltzing away with the touch/QWERTY cash.

Sally took umbrage and responded:

Are you kidding? Nokia? Seriously. Have you used an S60 device lately? That OS is so long in the tooth it smells as bad as your many overwraught metaphors and similes. Pre isn’t about the 3MP and flash, dummy … it’s about Synergy, the integrated messaging, and the open architecture of the WebOS

No wonder so many carriers are about to go under, with guys like you at the helms.

Well, Mr Operator wasn’t having any of that.

Here’s his response (also contributed on the bottom of the original post).

– – – – –

Hi Sally, Yup, I use several S60 devices, all day long.

Q: walk into your local mall and ask 100 people what OS their phone uses. If more than 3 actually know, I’ll buy you lunch. I stand by my point that 90% of the sell is hardware.

S60 as it stands on Nokia is Nokia’s interpretation of how S60 should look. They decide what icons and menus go where. Other vendors have done it differently. Just as Linux/Windows depend on the UI on top, so does S60. S60 is not ‘long in the tooth’ if by that you imply irrelevant/tired. It is very well-established, stable and respected. Do you consider the internal combustion engine ‘long in the tooth’? Compare Honda and Lada. Both engines use exactly the same underlying technology, but deliver a very different driving experience based on the manufacturer’s interpretation. I’m the first to agree with Ewan that S60 by Nokia has dire usability challenges, but as has been repeated time and again, these are only because of the engineering-led UI.

Q: what made the N95 such a success? S60? no. WiFi? no. GPS? no. It was the 5MP/Carl Zeiss camera, plain and simple. Something consumers could understand in 0.5 of a second, with zero help from the salesperson. Apple lost many non-fanboi iPhone customers because of the rubbish camera. Do they care? No. But it doesn’t stop it being true.

If the Pre was 2MP with no flash, it would rule out 50% of sales offhand.

Challenge: Explain Synergy and WebOS in 15 seconds, in language a non-geek could understand. If you can come up with that, and make it sound like a must-have that trumps everything else (particularly the BlackBerry Bold), then you can claim fair rights to use ‘Synergy’ and ‘WebOS’ as a justifiable selling point. Otherwise all you will do is upset/confuse customers, and the sales staff (95% of whom, bless their cotton socks, are not employed for their technical acumen) will not even go down the geek OS pissing-contest path. Anyway, salesperson recommendation ranks among the lowest of influencing factors in phone purchasing, while brand is the strongest.

The iPhone sold completely non-tech people without a word, by being stunningly smooth and inviting further exploration by touching icons that were in your face from power-on. I don’t see the Pre doing quite the same thing, from the reviews to date. Screen too small, menus too deep. If your argument runs to Palm still having 3-6 months to put more icons in the right places, well, so can other vendors.

The Pre isn’t “about the 3MP and flash, dummy” and I never said it was. It’s a *combination* of factors – physical design, touch, QWERTY, camera – that will get customers hooked into further exploration of the device, tariff etc. If you can’t catch them in a 10-second appraisal of the spec sheet next to the shop stand dummy, then you’ll never get them. Camera spec is a hygiene factor these days, along with battery life, keypad ease-of-use for SMS and tariff.

I am impressed with the Pre, make no mistake. I used to write on paper using Palm’s Graffiti as shorthand, I knew it so well. I was Handango’s biggest customer. I really, really like Palm (WM forgiven). But on balance with what is out there and what is coming, I see Europe being a very hard sell for the Pre.

footnote: I do claim some visibility of devices / OS tweaks you’ve probably not seen, under NDA with top handset vendors, so can forgive you for thinking me an old stick-in-the-mud. Unless you have the full picture it’s hard to do a good job of analysis / forecast.

– – – – –

Don’t cross Mr Operator… unless you think he’s totally wrong?

14 Responses to With you guys at the helm, no wonder you’re nailed: Mr Operator responds

  1. dumb customer March 6, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    Mr. Operator seems to be quite on the game, for a dumb pipe … I have a dream: when the operators will be reduced to the role played by the internet providers today: nohing to say on what PC I use at home, how much I pay for it and what applications I run on them. Too bad Google didn't get a 3G license in US …

  2. norcalbarney March 6, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Here's my 15 second pitch on why the Pre rocks :

    “It can pull in your work stuff from Exchange, your fun stuff from Facebook, and your real life stuff from Google. You'll be IM'ing, Emailing, and fully connected within minutes of opening the box.”

    Sounds pretty good to me. In March.

  3. mr. anonymous March 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    Sounds like Mr. Operator has knowledge of Nokia's full touch E-series thats coming out before the nest iphone rehash and palm pre. 😉

    Also, having seen where nokia, or symbian is going with their software with things like screenplay and widgets, plus the ovi store launching soon, I think Nokia will make it hard for the pre to gain a strong following.

  4. mr. anonymous March 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm #

    Sounds like Mr. Operator has knowledge of Nokia’s full touch E-series thats coming out before the nest iphone rehash and palm pre. 😉

    Also, having seen where nokia, or symbian is going with their software with things like screenplay and widgets, plus the ovi store launching soon, I think Nokia will make it hard for the pre to gain a strong following.

  5. Soon-ex-Nokia-lover March 6, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

    http://hot100.t3.com/1/

    I’m afraid Mr Op will soon have to eat his words and pants. The senseless rush iCool brought is gone, and the Pre is coming at the right time to win the next wave. It will be a winner because it will have a marketing campaign that does not need to explain synergy (same way nobody explains S60) and because it is simply a damn good device. Same way Watchmen is winning although it is a move about a comicbook few will understand, it is simply just damn good.

    It is not too late, it is ready to come in at the right time to dazzle.

  6. Alex Kerr March 7, 2009 at 6:56 am #

    Wow, sounds like an incomplete description of any Nokia Nseries or ESeries to me 😉

  7. norcalbarney March 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    “With an S60 device, You'll be creating content, Jaiku'ing, and Mobile Blogging mere days after opening the box! If you study.”

    I do love the Nokias, mind you. I'm just watching the devices that might convert NorMobs into smartphone users. I've only seen the Pre in videos, but mobilistas I trust are excited about it, so I know there's something there.

  8. matthew bennett March 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    “With an S60 device, You'll be creating content, Jaiku'ing, and Mobile Blogging mere days after opening the box! If you study.”

    I do love the Nokias, mind you. I'm just watching the devices that might convert NorMobs into smartphone users. I've only seen the Pre in videos, but mobilistas I trust are excited about it, so I know there's something there.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ewan @ MIR - March 6, 2009

    With you guys at the helm, no wonder you’re nailed: Mr Operator responds: http://s3nt.com/dnhh

  2. Mr Operator - March 6, 2009

    I’ve slapped down Sally’s response here: http://s3nt.com/dnhh Any more unbelievers need a reality check?

  3. Ewan @ MIR - March 6, 2009

    With you guys at the helm, no wonder you’re nailed: Mr Operator responds: http://s3nt.com/dnhh

  4. Mr Operator - March 6, 2009

    I’ve slapped down Sally’s response here: http://s3nt.com/dnhh Any more unbelievers need a reality check?

  5. Oren - March 6, 2009

    MIR on Palm Pre’s chances in Europe. Tough love for Nokia, but a tougher challenge for Palm. http://tinyurl.com/c8obud

  6. Oren - March 6, 2009

    MIR on Palm Pre’s chances in Europe. Tough love for Nokia, but a tougher challenge for Palm. http://tinyurl.com/c8obud

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