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Calling all Nokia & Symbian geniuses: Am I wrong?

I thought we’d have a bit of an interesting debate here.

I posted a note yesterday highlighting that one movie Studio had chosen to integrate ‘iPhone Apps’ into it’s marketing mix right on the front-page of their official movie site for the upcoming ‘blockbuster’, 2012.

In the headline, I said that this pointed to the ‘death’ of Nokia and Symbian applications.

The actual headline reads:

The future is dire for Nokia and Symbian applications: Dead by 2012

Now, regular readers will recognise the MacLeodism — the fact that ‘death’, 2012, you know, it’s all related. I was aiming for a Dan Brown-esque parallel in the title.

I know Nokia is dead.

I know Symbian isn’t dead.

But as far as Sony Pictures are concerned, Nokia, Symbian, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, they could all be relieving themselves up the proverbial wall. Sony Pictures doesn’t care.

It’s jumped into bed with iPhone. For a number of reasons. All of which are absolutely totally 100% dire.

Kudos to Alex Kerr who jumped into the conversation with absolute indignation. You can read the to-and-fro between us on the thread comments.

Further kudos to the always magnificient Holy Father of Symbian, Rafe Blandford (of All About Symbian). I could actually feel Rafe’s wry grin from 50 miles away as he typed his text.

Both Rafe and Alex pointed out — I’m summing up, big time — that Nokia is far from dead.

I acknowledge this.

I am *loving* the N900.

I’m sure that 40% of the Far Eastern/African marketplace is going to be loving Nokia (and Symbian) for the next decade.

But what about Sony Pictures?

The fact they CHOSE not to bother with Nokia really bugs me.

It really, really bugs me. Massively.

They simply couldn’t give a toss about Nokia.

Fundamentally that’s frustrating to me as a Nokia user.

Before you actually go ahead and stick your dagger into my apparent Nokia-hating-heart, I’d like to point out that only DAYS ago, I agreed to an 18-month contract with 3UK. I’m playing them £35/month for 18-months for the privilege of carrying around a Nokia N86. Nokia hater I am not.

Symbian hater, I am not.

But I am 100% apoplectic at the senior management of Symbian. Or Nokia. Or, frankly… do you know what, I can’t be BOTHERED to even find out who is to blame.

What the hell are you playing at? You. Yes you — the chap or lady in control — why the hell is Sony Pictures publishing an official movie website with — NO WORD OF A LIE — the menu item saying ‘iPhone Apps’.

Where’s the Nokia Apps?

Or… let’s put that to one side.

Where are the SONY ERICSSON Symbian applications? Isn’t Sony Ericsson meant to be, you know, some sort of 1/3rd Symbian lover?

While I’m at it, isn’t Sony Ericsson LOOOOOOSELY connected to Sony Pictures?

Doesn’t the Sony Pictures Chief Executive ever sit down and have breakfast with the Sony Ericsson Chief Executive?

If is TOO much to ask for them to get into bed together?

Is it TOOOOOO much to ask for Sony Pictures to hire a Symbian development firm to knock up some apps similar to the iPhone ones they’re currently showing off?

Rafe, Alex… you and I know the answer is yes.

It is too much.

Nobody can be flippin’ bothered.

Let me try a different tact.

Just to ram it home. Just to ensure that I win the argument, 110%.


You know them. They’re the British company that are reasonably well connected with the upmarket food retailer, Waitrose.

Ocado deliver Waitrose goods.

You place your order online and a very nice man in a greenish outfit arrives at the appointed time, often with a Galaxy chocolate bar in hand, with your shopping.


Guess what?

Yeah. There’s an app for that.

You don’t need me to continue, do you?

But I will.

Yes. Ocado, in their infinite wisdom, want their consumers to be able to use their mobiles to place their shopping orders whilst they’re (for example) on the train.


You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Rafe certainly does.

Ocado launched an iPhone application recently.

Here’s the website with the details.

You can even watch Dan Lane’s video on the subject here.

Ready for my point?

Where’s the Symbian Ocado application?

I’ll tell you. Nowhere.

Nobody could be bothered.

I’m willing to bet that the Ocado team — like the Sony Pictures team whom I speculatively wrote about yesterday — had a meeting about this.

I reckon smart people in very nicely shaped suits sat round a pretty looking meeting table at Ocado HQ and listed out the mobile platforms most prevalent in the UK.

I’m further willing to bet that everyone in the room did the polite business equivalent of coughing ‘bullshit’ whilst one of the chappies read through his research.

“Right, it says here that one of the biggest handset platforms in use in the UK today is Nokia?”

“:: cough :: bullshit ::”


“And, er, then it says Sony Ericsson?”

“:: cough :: bullshit ::”

“Right… er… Motorola?”

“:: cough :: bullshit-you-gotta-be-kidding-bullshit ::”

“Er… iPhone?”

At this point, the meeting room will have come alive. iPhones will have been withdrawn from pockets and proudly displayed. Smiles will have appeared. Heads will have nodded. The proposal from the Symbian development agency that was £50k higher than the iPhone proposal will have been set alight under the table.

What went wrong with Nokia and Symbian?

How could one of the UK’s retailing giants (i.e. Waitrose/Ocado) not bother to even think about the Nokia platform for it’s mobile system?

What the hell is wrong with this billion-dollar picture?

We all know.

The Emperor has no clothes. It’s too expensive, too annoying, too frustrating, too difficult to even THINK about developing for the Nokia/Symbian platform for anyone other than a few brave, brave souls.

So then Mr Symbian.

Step up.

What the hell are you doing about this?

Or is the best policy for MIR’s 250,000 readers (and, by extension, the other million or so who read after the re-tweets, forwards, emails and whatnot 90-days hence) to simply get on with developing on the iPhone — and maybe have a bit of a look at Android?

And before anyone trots out the total bollocks of ‘X hundred million Symbian handsets on the planet’, let’s take a step back. I KNOW there are — and will be — a lot more Symbian handsets on the planet than there are iPhones/Palm Pres/Androids and so on.

I know this. I don’t dispute this. I know that Nokia’s market is for the 29 quid handset in India.

But that doesn’t help me.

It doesn’t help the good 10-20 million mobile obsessed Westerners sat with a Nokia handset wondering why the Symbian Foundation is busy sitting on it’s arse (if not, SHOW ME THE 2012-tie-in movie mobile application?).

Why can’t I order my shopping via Ocado on my N86?

What’s so rubbish about my Nokia N86 that Ocado simply chose not to recognise the Nokia platform?

Help me Obi-wan-Blandford and Obi-wan-Alex… You’re my only hope.

Should I do the decent thing and get back in my box, sit in the corner and be delighted that I’ve spunked £630 on a contract with 3UK for my Nokia N86 that, at almost every corner, appears to be demonstrably useless for anything exciting that I’d like to do.

I’d like to unlock my Streetcar my with my Nokia. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to show my mates some Gym Babes working out. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to order my shopping via Ocado. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to download some 2012 movie stuff. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to manage my car insurance on my handset. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to download an entire season of The Wire to my handset. I can’t, because they (the studios) couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to access my Dropbox in a nice mobile application. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to use Jamie Oliver’s ’20 minute cooking tips’ application. I can’t, because he couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to AudioBoo on my handset. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to use Evernote on my handset. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to query my 300+ gigabytes of music with a Zumodrive mobile application. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to find my nearest London Underground tube station with a single button click. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to be able to immediately query the nearest cinema times in a purpose made mobile application that allows me to buy cinema tickets in 2 clicks. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

I’d like to use the WordPress application to manage Mobile Industry Review remotely. I can’t, because they couldn’t be bothered to invest in developing a Symbian app.

Of course, most — if not all — of these organisations/companies in question will have made a determination that the Nokia/Symbian platform (and other related platforms such as Sony Ericsson/Motorola) are simply not worth the hassle.

So who’s made the wrong choice?



Was it my fault?

The market is telling me that I’m an idiot for owning a Nokia.

I access the Nokia Ovi Store and I — when it’s working — I’m presented with some third-rate scrabble games or a 6-month old movie trailer.

What am I missing?

Who’s the arse?

Is it me?

Am I wrong for wanting what others have got?

Obviously I don’t suffer.

I don’t suffer because I went out and bought an iPhone a long time ago. I can’t quite bring myself to only use a Nokia. It’s far too painful.

But please do put me out of my misery.

Is it me?

Am I wrong?

is the right position to stoically stand by Nokia and Symbian whilst they deliver me — in summary — a totally shit service by comparison? All I want to do is cool shit via my phone.

I’ve got past the fact that my Nokia lets me do stuff like send text messages and take really nice pictures. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I’m way beyond taking nice pictures. What’s next? Why is the chap on the tube opposite me getting a better mobile experience than I am, from my Nokia?

How come he get’s to order his shopping on his phone, on the train, in the morning, whilst I check my empty text messaging folder for the 12th time that minute?

Should my policy be to deploy a fake smile at every opportunity?

Is the best way ahead to simply ignore the staggering iPhone application innovation and put it down to ‘a fad’?

Or should my policy be patience.

That’s it!

Patience my dear friend!

Do I need Robin Williams from Good Will Hunting to come and rescue me? Do I need him — in a very proper manly way — to put his arm around me and guide me off to the sidelines gently whispering, “Ewan, calm down, calm down. Good things come to those who wait.”

Even though I protest, do I need Robin to placate me?

“But,” I complain, “That guy over there has an iPhone and he gets to order his shopping ON THE TRAIN! ON THE FLIPPIN’ TRAIN!”

“You’re only kidding yourself, Ewan,” comes the reply, “Those iPhone users,” he says, glaring at them, “It’s only fleeting. It’s not true mobile. It’s not proper, Ewan.”

What do I do?

Sit and wait for the Nokia-Symbian enlightenment in a few years?

Maybe QT will fix it, er? I won’t even mention the 20-stage install process on Symbian.

Woops. I already did!

Here’s the video:

Save me.

Somebody save me…


  1. Speaking as a developer, and a Nokia user… I can't be bothered. It's obvious that Nokia do not give a flying crap about people like me. The networks have made up their mind about the sort of person uses Nokia Phones (people who do not expect much from their phones), and the development community seems to have overwhelmingly decided that the future is Android.

  2. I love my Nokia phone. I do lots of really cool things with it that really do make my life easier. I’d never buy an iPhone, because it can’t do most of these things. However…


    I love my Nokia because I’m a rare breed of mobile user. I’m a geek. I like to tinker with the device and I don’t have a problem navigating through menues and cryptic error messages. I know that different Nokia phones have different OS even if they look mostly the same. But most people don’t.

    I bought my mom a phone last week. If money had been no object, I would have gotten her an iPhone. It’s a dream to use for someone who doesn’t know what an OS is or care about it (instead I got her a low end Samsung – oh my god, whoever designed the UI on that thing deserves very, very bad things). That makes up for a high percentage of the mobile users.

    The iPhone has many flaws, yes. But it was conceived with the user in mind, and it shows. And that’s why people love it, and that’s why marketing people love it.

  3. It’s not just the apps. What about the mobile websites? I’m so frustrated that my n97, just as capable as the f@$%ing iphone can’t access the beautifully formatted mobile websites created for iphone and android.

    My phone can do it! But lazy/clueless web developers lock me out because my browser has the wrong user agent. I end up with some miserable mobile website formatted for a dumbphone with a screen 1/3 the size of mine.

  4. I sat (well, skipped) through that demo. At the end–after all that time–I thought the phone would at least do something cool, like levitate or shoot lasers or something. I can't believe that's the install process for an app. My startup is finishing developing its iphone app now. Next up is blackberry, in tandem with Android. I'm praying the market won't dictate a need for us to develop on platforms like the one demoed above. I'll lose sleep.

  5. Ewan, this rant is epic and spot on. The Symbian platform, as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and others have put out, is fragmeted. Operator variants make this problem worse.

    While the iPhone has it's own faults from a development point of view, namely Apple's position as gatekeeper, the end user experience is fantastic. Normobs actually WANT an iPhone versus settling for the latest free-with-contract Nokia.

  6. I think we may be forgetting some thing here.

    A few years ago, almost all the business people making these decisions were using Nokia's. To be specific, they were using the 6310i. Every businessperson had one.

    The thing is, that after the 6310i, they all got given Blackberry's. Their last experience of using a Nokia phone was in c2004, apart from the £20 PAYG shitter that they bought their kid for Christmas last year.

    Do they think Nokia phones have changed? No.

    Do they see adverts on telly showing them what 'cool' stuff a Nokia can do? No.

    Do they know you can even get apps on a Nokia? Of course not.

    The iPhone is perceived as the defacto standard in the world of 'cool'. If a big business develops an iPhone app, the Top Knobs think that it will propel their brand into being 'cool'. If their app is successful, maybe they are hoping they will get to meet Steve Jobs, and then they will be 'Uber cool'.

    Until Nokia claw back some 'cool' points, they can have the easiest route to market for apps in the world, but still no-one would develop for them.

    On an aside, my 10 year old sister in law saw my N97 for the first time last night. She popped out the keyboard, and her words? “Wow, thats cool”………..

  7. The problem is that Mr Ocado, and Mr Sony Pictures makes a rational choice.

    Let's look at the UK market as an example.

    Develop for iPhone? Build and test on a single platform release and there are 1m iPhones + 1m iPod Touch devices in market. It's reasonable to assume that 75% of these are running the same OS, which also happens to be the OS that Apple released in the last month, and that anyone who really wants your app will upgrade to that same OS.

    So potentially 2m people can get your app in the UK.

    Symbian app? Well… There are more Symbian devices, but the biggest selling is the N95 8Gb, of which there are about 650k in the UK market.

    Oh, there are multiple firmware versions of that, and most people don't know how to upgrade.

    Runs OK on the N95 too? Apart from there are multiple firmware versions of that too.

    All in all? Massive test & support problem.

    Conclusion? Deliver an iPhone app, if that sells really well, then maybe, just maybe, port to another device.

  8. What happened to Mac PC's. Surely its amazing but how many people use that. almost everyone uses Microsoft.
    The same will apply to smart phones as well. Nokia will do to Apple what Microsoft did to the Mac. Right now the picture does not look very clear. Its all about iPhone and Android . But check out Nokia's OVI and how its expanding everyday. And most important thing, the pricing factor. Apple's always been exclusive and i believe will remain exclusive for the elite few. Nokia's market is vast and diverse. Wait for some revolutionary handsets from nokia. Its will be all about convergence and nokia is up to it.

  9. Thanks Ewan, this has been needed to be said for some time. I made the move from Symbian to iPhone earlier this year, I did debate going Android but think that it’s still too early in its life right now. I have been a huge promoter of all things Nokia over the years, I have attended their conferences and developer days, I have worked with huge number of companies over the past two years helping them to try and get their apps developed on the Symbian platform and generally promoted the hell out of all things Nokia / Symbian. But the whole iPhone experience is so exciting and easy which is why most companies choose it as their de-facto platform for development.

    My two year old can pick up my phone, unlock it, find the photos app and flip through photos clicking on videos to watch them play, it’s that easy, I give her my wife’s N79 and she pretends to talk into it – that’s the difference, Nokia’s are phones pure and simple, if you want to talk and text then great, perfect – guaranteed success every time, my iPhone is a handheld computer that allows me to do so much, the phone functionality is an add-on, and one that’s not great, yes I get a lot more dropped or unconnected calls but I will live with that because of everything else it allows me to do – order shopping, check train times, view movie trailers, book tickets etc etc etc..

    Nokia / SEMC / Moto have had 2 years to play catch up, the Symbian Foundation fiasco a year ago has only put things back even further, with SEMC and Moto cancelling all their Symbian devices last year (yes I know they were UIQ not S60 but still…). What Symbian devices have we had released in the past two years?, a couple of 5th edition devices (finally touch screen from Symbian), and a raft of 3rd edition FP1 & FP2 phones, great devices, but please, 3rd edition is old hat now. I just hope that the first Symbian Foundation phones are spectacular, but deep down I know we will all be disappointed.

    I still hope that people high up in Nokia are listening and taking action, it’s not too late for them, but they do need to remember that companies as big and a successful have failed over time.

  10. have you seen any of Sony Error-son's ads recently. They had a full screen ad in the movies
    yesterday before my flick for the 995 with INCLUDED FREE CLIP ON SHITE SPEAKERS.. in bright ORANGE. They harped strangely “the music mobile for your mobile life” complete and utter shit.
    I guess grandma or NORMOB DAD will see this buy it for their kids, and their poor kids will think my dad is such a looser.

    The OEM's want to sell mobiles that it. if 80% of the population wants to carry 2004 in their pockets, then thats what the OEMS will make for them. Sad for us.

    In my dev bookings for the next year I have IPHONE, PRE, ANDROID. Thats it. I have completely forsaken ANY other platforms as economic suicide, and NOKIA/SE/SAMDUNG as LUDDITE FATFORMS that dont give a FUCK about their developers. Apple sucks, pre is free sort of sucks, android well sort of works. At least I MAKE MONEY and can crap out an application for free (which I do)

    Finally BLACKBERRY…last gen platform for last gen people. They try to be hip, but its failblog mobile city. BB Browser = 2005 wibblematic.

    rant off time for a tea.

  11. So many things wrong with this article, I won't mention them all (I read the piece of crap that you wrote yesterday that you called an 'article') Here's a big one:

    “Maybe QT will fix it, er? I won’t even mention the 20-stage install process on Symbian.”

    And then the video…

    This shows your complete lack of anything approaching technical knowledge. These steps are required because the S60 5th edition platform as it stands at the moment does not contain the Qt dependencies. This is obviously not going to be the case when Qt is the standard framework for app development in Symbian.

    Anyway, this conversation is dominated by developers who are under the delusion that the VAST majority of phone users couldn't give a squeaky crap about them and their shitty little 'apps'. Get a life, all of you…

  12. Name, it's always good when you get stuck in — and I very much appreciate your contributions. So if we remove the video (which I just put in as a crazy illustration of the next-next-next-next Symbian install process), what else is wrong?

    Why am I punished? Why can't I use an Ocado app on my N86?

  13. No, you're not wrong at all. It's hideously depressing. I love Nokia. But the Ovi Store is a horrid vile joke. It hardly works, and when it does it just looks so amateur.

  14. It's called 'focus on the user', it's what Apple does, sells users a complete, and pretty good, service. Hardware manufacturers sell, well, hardware. They're too focused on product functionality. Consumers en mass don't want a bazzilion gig pixel camera, they want to take reasonable pictures of their mates/family and be able to share them. They want easy to get at apps that have some utility or fun element, something that they feel adds in someway to their lives.

    Lexus knows this too. As a product, their cars are not discernably better than their high-end competition (well, maybe an edge in reliability, but that's a Japanese thing), but the overall proposition, including the customer service, is second to none, leading to high-consumer ratings all round. I'll wager that the buyers have little idea of what's going on 'under the hood' (save some vague notion of engine + transmission) and guess what, they don't care. Where therefore is there still any sort of debate about iPhone-vs-Symbian-vs-Android? Notice that from Apple's perspective, no-one talks about the proposition from an OS perspective.

    Nokia don't do propositions, SE don't do propositions – no matter how good or bad their products may be.

    Apple DOES do propositions.

  15. There are two poles here: software world and telco world, a fair degree apart. Apple is from the former, Nokia the latter. Nokia deals with operator customers who want to lock experiences, meddle with software, flog increasingly tired and often overpriced telco tat, dream about a view of customer service which involves calling someone who uses a web browser on your behalf… and so on. Hence the root leading to the Symbian experiences you articulate.
    Apple understands users and marketing to them. It's a company that is acutely aware of the demands to make its brand succeed, and it has been very successful in its niche doing just that. Developing on Symbian and dealing with fragmented platforms and, frankly, rubbish tools is not appealing to begin with. Add the pain of having no effective route to market and all the nonsense associated with permissions, test, certification (carrier-induced stuff) and it's no wonder they gravitate to the (unfragmented) iPhone and ready made near-global distribution channels.
    Symbian is a rather ugly pig in the modern world which is being redefined by the Apples and Googles – and no amount of lipstick changes that. So – yes: you are indeed asking too much!

  16. I think this article is also another good reason why Nokia is fighting an uphill battle.

    We are the people our friends and family look to when it comes to choosing a new mobile. We are the people who chat on social networking sites about this stuff. We are the people who want to develop mobile sites and apps. Its not a good idea to piss us off.

  17. I think the likes of Sony Pictures and Waitrose take one look at mobile browsing stats and say, right, there's our audience. The barriers to getting and using iPhone and Android apps are negligible. If Nokia had ever provided a decent browsing experience in the first place, they probably could have figured out how to deliver apps. I am at a loss as to why they continue to deliver such a poor user experience.

  18. > Kudos to Alex Kerr who jumped into the conversation with absolute indignation.

    Ha ha, it's what I do best 😉

    Well, yes, I have to agree with your point in *this* article about the *current* state of play. But I would say, again, that you are seeing merely the ebb and flow of competition, of natural selection in a competitive market. You CANNOT make prophecies of doom on the basis of the current situation. You don't know the future. And by that I mean your prophecies make the assumption that Nokia cannot and/or will not respond, or respond effectively. And that is the Achilles Heal of your argument and your prophecies.

    You are seeing a temporary moment in time right now – a snapshot. A snapshot, where like in a road race, one car is ahead of the other at that moment in time. CLEARLY Apple have pulled ahead in SOME aspects (mainly getting people to develop apps and others to use them) of Nokia. Cool. Agreed. How could I not agree – it's the snapshot of the present time.

    Now, I disagree with some of the arguments, or at least the strength of the arguments, against Nokia/S60 (e.g. it's slow, hard to develop for, or whatever). But say they are all completely correct. Why, exactly, does that mean that we all suddenly know the future? Why does that make everyone think that Nokia are simply a house of cards that fall down at the slightest puff of wind? At the slightest competition?

    Shocking proposal for all you doom-mongers and naysayers: Maybe, just maybe, Nokia will see the current state of play, read articles like this, see the drop in market share, etc. and RESPOND. Shocking notion eh? Maybe they'll re-organise, re-shuffle, re-motivate, and fight back.

    You see, a company like Microsoft really are doomed in mobile. They really, really are. They're a company that only understands yesterday's 'personal computers' – you know the big beige boxes sitting under your desk. They absolutely 100% categorically do not understand mobile (as for the latest version of WinMo – don't make me laugh).

    Nokia are utterly different to this. They have been ahead of the curve, and have defined the present market of 'personal computers' (or what many people currently call mobile phones). They initimately know and understand it, and iPhone is but a small yappy terrier nipping around their ankles. Nokia are kings of the hill. Now, sure, utlimately that could all be lost. But I wish people would stop assuming the future is one where Nokia lie down and die. It's just bonkers. And it shows people's RADICAL ignorance.
    Nokia have been stung, and they will respond. And maybe they should have responded sooner, maybe they shouldn't. But wait and see. And if in some unlikely future they don't respond well enough. Well, so be it. -> ** IT'S THE USERS THAT MATTER ** <-. I only care that the users get the best experience (and that includes cost and availability of technology). iPhone is pointing to a better usability but it's a shocking failure on the cost and availability of technology front. Show me all the poor people with iPhones – there aren't any. They deserve this stuff too, and it will be Nokia that gives it to them – and Apple that we can thank for giving Nokia the push to do so.

    Articles like this one Ewan are VERY good, because they're giving Nokia a public slap. Good work. Articles like the one yesterday are less so, because they're indulging in over reactionary future speculation.

  19. I like the harsh’ness to the article and Nokia are clearly either doing something wrong or keeping something very good underwraps. Either way you can’t buy a VCR and expect it to play Blu-Ray.

  20. having read many of the comments of this and the related article, you seemed to have stirred the proverbial hornets nest here Ewan!

    I think its clear that Symbian is going to be around for while and with decent (global) market share to boot – insert symbian, Nokia market share stats etc here – but your fustration is utterly understandable.

    What do Nokia, Sony etc have to do to get Developers on their side? But more importantly why the hell hasn't this been number 1 priority 3 years? I worry far less about Nokia than Symbian because Nokia have realised that Symbian just can't cut it when it comes to serious mobile computing (name your reason, mostly corporate apathy i imagine) hence the intro of Maemo and the stunning N900.

    Someone made a good point in an earlier thread, just how essential are apps compared to connectivity, functionality, web browsing etc at the moment? I tell you what, with the desktop browsing capabilities of the N900 I can watch a youtube video, i can check my gmail, I can do my shopping online (bit painstaking, granted), I can update my social networks and guess what? I DON'T need an app for that!

    Now for the easy part…getting the developers on board!!

    I just can't see Nokia making another N-Series device that runs off Symbian, Maemo will spread through the top end devices and given time trickle down to mass market handsets as well.

    To be honest I think that Maemo has come along about 18 months too late but now it's here Nokia need to pick it and run with it, run like the wind Nokia, run! Because lets face it, how dull will it be if 'mobile computing' has a competetive set one 1?

  21. We have been developing for Nokia phones for 4 years and nothing is easy with it at all.

    Taking away that its a difficult enough to develop anything, its a total dog to deploy anything after its developed. When the went from one symbian version to the next the deployment process changed completely as well, not to an easier method but to a more difficult one.

    I just don't get it. Why do they make things to damn difficult for developers?

    The Ovi site is just rubbish and embarrassing and looks like it was developed by kids at school.

    It's so easy really, list categories, list apps, click on app to install, pay using your account.
    Whats difficult with that?

  22. having just read Alex Kerr's post (after posting my intial thoughts) I just like to say one thing…its absolutely on the money…

  23. Just to add to my other post, when we're considering how 'good' Nokia smartphones/Symbian/S60 are, PLEASE could we all realise that Symbian is not S60. S60 is the UI layer that sits on Symbian. S60 seems to be where most of the criticism from a user's perspective lies (e.g. 'slow', 'clunky' etc).

    Symbian is a SUPERB mobile OS, and I reckon the best out there. Just one indicator is the multitasking capability. I've been programming various systems for around 25 years now, and I can say genuinely that the multitasking is better than ANY other OS I have seen (on any platform), other than a.) The Amiga (IMHO the best digital product of any sort in history 🙂 – yes I'm a fanboy ) and b.) The tragically now defunct Tao Group's Intent OS (originally known as TAOS). Multitasking is a clear pointer to the underlying structure, efficiency and maturity of the OS. The telephony integration on Symbian is also excellent. WinMo, RIM, iPhone OSX, Android et all can match neither of these features.

    Now, if you have an issue with Symbian – e.g. tough development, I'd ask simply how much of that is the technical fault of the OS and how much is the fault of poor SDK design, not enough dev. support, not enough programming language support, etc. If you have a problem with S60 fair enough but know that the UI engine is scheduled to be replaced with something much better.
    Whatever the reasons are they're obviously all equally important but I think it's also important to be clear where exactly the problems lie, because it helps everyone's understanding, and complaints to be better directed, and fixes to be sorted out.

    This general “Symbian's crap” attitude doesn't help anyone when in fact you mean for example the S60 UI layer is a bit slow historically and developer management policies have annoyed you.

  24. To all the detractors, read Mark Tynan's comment above and tell me what you think. The summary is that you are wrong, I am right.

    Attempts to undermine the broad thrust of my post by making corrections to the sweeping statements I've made are ridiculous. They're 'sweeping' for a reason: Because I don't want to write a 50,000 word analysis.

    Why can't I get Ocado on my Nokia N86?

    Why is it such a flippin' trauma to develop for the Nokia/Symbian platform?

    What's been done about it?

  25. I guess I can't avoid commenting when mentioned by name…

    I think Alex has already posted a couple of great comments, but I might build on something he said…

    As Alex said this is a view of the current moment in time, and I would add to that it is a view of a relatively small proportion of the market. There's an understandable obsession with tracking high end smartphone £400+ devices – but these are only the tip of the ice berg.

    There's also a tendency to be ahead of the real world. Mobile has already created new technology worlds (near instant global communication anywhere, anytime)… but the best is yet to come. People reading blogs like this are playing with the next generation stuff that won't go mass market for some time. Yes these things can help sell high devices now because they are an obvious differentiators, but seriously how many people buy a device purely on these merits? And that's just the high end…

    Yes, you can make the argument that the trends we see here will be repeated lower down the market in time. I do agree with this, but it is rather more complicated that the statement suggests. Yes we may see the same trends, but will they be implemented by the same companies in the same ways – almost certainly not (you can pick this out in almost any consumer electronics industry). I've seen the car industry quoted as a good example, but you could also pick out the PC market etc. etc.

    So why is it different? Things might look the same, but the business processes and the technical structure is often very different – so too is the operating environment (internal legacy constraints and unavoidable externally governed constraints being the biggest factors).

    That's a general thought on this.

    Some great thoughts in this thread about Symbian development (mainly agree). But for all these great iPhone apps how may actually make money as a sustainable business – some sure – but a lot of it (with bigger companies) is just written off as promotional spend. It would be the same if they did Nokia apps too (maybe even more so given the distribution headaches). The market, as a whole, just isn't that mature as far as apps go. That's why Ewan says I'd like to use app / service x. Not I need to use… I bet he'd say I need my mobile phone to make calls. I need my phone to be pocketable (and so on). And Ewan is a high end user – this is even more true for mere mortals.

    So one answer would be that any company putting money into mobile apps might have their sanity questioned… except of course its not always about the bottom line. You follow the media hype. You have non-revenue reasons for doing stuff (e.g. potential, learn now, exploit later). The iPhone is probably the easy reach now, but will it be the easy reach when things turn into multi-billion £ business'? Probably not as they wont address the whole market – that's a very fundamental difference to Nokia (which is why the Nokia versus Apple thing gets tiresome).

    So yes I guess it is about patience. Should Nokia be doing better – definitely. Is it critical yet – nothing like it. Will they do better – yes. Will it be perfect Elysian fields – no. Will it have volume – yes. Will you be able to build big business on it – yes (though maybe only the future can answer that…). Will there be other players – most definitely.

    I know there are exceptions to all of this (I'm sure we can all point to several case studies), but I speaking as a gross generalisation.

    Nokia basically gets a lock of flack because its market leader… but compared to a lot of others it looks good… Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and so on… It doesn't excuse Nokia, but it does place their performance in context.

    Crappy Nokia devices – yes S60 5th Edition UI is widely considered a dog – that should be separated from Symbian as an OS. Fair enough.. its being worked (and even so it still manages to be the second biggest selling platform – behind S60 3rd Edition that is)… S60 3rd Edition is said to be old and outdated – it is not – try an E52 or an N86. No it is not touch (the very horror), but it has no competition (outside RIM) and there's a good reason for it – its a very good platform – maybe its not considered high end by some (ignorance really). The E72 is probably the finest all round QWERTY you can get – but no one thinks about it because its not one of the 'cool' touch phones… Ok must control ranting here. Point being that there are some great devices and they're still selling well. You could say that's down to consumer ignorance, or maybe its because Nokia has delivered what the mass market operators (and to a less extent consumers) want?

    What about turning this around? Apple's device are outrageously expensive, they have not manged to launch a mid tier device yet, their devices still regularly drop calls, have moderate battery life etc etc. All unfair because its not really what Apple is about in the mobile space. And let's be honest what self respecting geek (you know the ones concerned about network neutrality or how cool open source is, or how important freedom, the ones who celebrate the new open culture, the democratising effect of the web is etc etc.) should own an Apple phone – after all it has a horribly closed business model – that is about as far as you cant get from the geek 'open' culture that we're live in where utopia happens. Compare that to Nokia who have embraced open source and openness as their business model (Symbian Foundation one of the biggest ever contributions to open source). Every open source geek should be cheering Nokia on by buying a Nokia phone…. Of course I jest, but hopefully you get the point.

    Whoops I appear to have ranted a bit. Ewan is an evil influence 😉 And I probably didn't even answer Ewan's questions.

  26. Short answers I can do.

    Why no Ocado (see my other comment). But there's little business case for it full stop right now. iPhone is the easy reach, but serves only a small fraction of their customers (Ocado shoppers and iPhone onwers may correlate quite well, but how many of those have downloaded and used the app).

    Why trauma – older platform that addresses mass market. Therefore has legacy issues, and is built to fulfill other requirements which were more important (and probably still are). Operators still a drag too.

    What's being done about it? Qt and WRT – powerful combination, but it takes times. WRT currently under exploited – most web services could use this to create integration right now. Distribution will be fixed by Ovi Store in time (building for a cross-the-market portfolio and global is hard).

    Its kind of like asking when will my Ford have the same stuff as my Tesla…

  27. I read this article and thought. We've come a long way… People complaining about firmware updates just a few months after the device came out. Remember when phones didn't really have firmware updates… anyone remember how long it took the N95 to become truly stable – almost 12 months – not to mention the nerve racking via the PC and pray update process!

    Now days Nokia delivers them OTA (actually it wont for N97 v2.0 because it is so big). The N97 is one of the first phone Nokia specifically said at launch would have major upgrades, which would add major functionality… I guess people always want more. But bear in mind Nokia rolls out more OTA updates across more models and in more markets that anyone else… When is that going to become a significant business advantage (e.g. for pushing out new services or reducing support calls over the life of a phone).

    Ideally it would all happen at once, but most people just aren't that concerned – over a month is fine. Yes stuff goes wrong – the red and blue 5800 incident springs to mind – which needs fixing.

    But yes Nokia would do well not to annoy the influencers, who after all do understand why Nokia does some things and don't always have a rational, objective view point. And why should they? Just one more thing Nokia have to actor into to decision making…

  28. Had this conversation with someone in the pub after OTA

    Nokia have given developers matchsticks to fight with in what was a hostile environment with walled gardens, blocked internet ports, poor access to network apis, fragmented phones etc

    Apple walked in and dropped a small nuclear bomb into the cosy little forest arrangement and armed developers with automatic weapons, suddenly location, global distribution, global payment at non punitive revenue shares and discoverability had become easy making the environment less hostile for all involved

    Android mean while has been quietly setting off smaller fires around the outside of the forest, that are gathering momentum.

    There is nothing wrong with Symbian or JavaMobile on its own but when the whole ecosystem (SDK, user perception, data plans the phones are sold with, dev support, documentation, certification, testing) is put together the environment for third party developers leans heavily towards the iPhone and Android platforms currently

    I am fairly simple chap I would love Androids SDK, Apples hardware, user base and marketing with Nokias marketshare, I think myself and other developers might flock to that eco system

    whatever happens with Nokia, Apple et al 2010 is bound to be interesting from where I sit

  29. Speaking as a user (I'm also a developer) one thing I find frustrating is that phone companies (the manufacturers, retailers and networks) do not seem to have twigged that if you sell a product on a two year contract you've actually got to provide decent value for the whole two years otherwise customers will start to resent you.

    The average low-end symbian phone gets about 6 months support from the manufacturer ( that is they usually fix the most grievous bugs ) but nothing close to the level of support that Apple commit to providing.

    The average two year old symbian phone cannot possibly install applications intended for the current generation of phones which developers are targeting, hence you are paying the same in 20012 as you did in 2010 but for gear which is utterly incapable of keeping up with the standard.

    If I had to blame somebody for this situation I think the networks are the most culpable: They are the ones who hype high-end featurephones to gullible early-adopters in order to mark up the price of a contract. In the end this is self-defeating because those early adopters know that the contracts force them to update less frequently.

    This situation can only benefit android since the platform that can deliver the first fully-featured PAYG smart-phone is going to win all the disgruntled former contract-holders.

  30. What Rafe Blandford said. And what Steve Rowlands said.

    I won't say I disagree with you Ewan, because I can't disagree with something as subjective as this rant. But, I would point out that I find it very interesting that you're dropping all the blame on Nokia and Symbian (and sometimes inter-changing these with no particular logic, I might add).

    I do admire your “developers, developers, developers” motto and mantra (if that means anything even remotely related – I honestly don't know but love the way it sounds).

    But I don't share it.

    The developers you so cherish and credit for being the future (whatever that word means) are mainly a bunch of crybabies. Sorry. Ignorant crybabies.

    And if they choose not to develop for Symbian, it's their *choice* and their loss. Literally: loss. As in, money lost, not whuffie points from Scoble.

    Me? I always want more apps. I like apps. And the more, the better.

    The real world, however, could not care less. That's a reality. And if you are going to call those mobile device users ignorant, then please, apply the same logic to developers.

    What's the average price for a successful Twitter app for the iPhone? Compare that to what Jan Ole Suhr gets for his app on Symbian.

    As for the fragmentation, bollocks. That app I just mentioned above, that serves as a great example (Gravity) comes as ONE sis file that you can install on THREE different generations of S60.

    Sure, Nokia could do more for developers. Symbian too. And so could Apple. And they all will, because they have to constantly improve everything.

    But the fact that you and I can't go and develop our own app, no matter what the platform, in 5 minutes with no actual knowledge of, well, anything, means that in order to be a developer you have to have developing skills.

    Creating a fart app (or 10,000) does not qualify you as a developer in my book.

    Again. More promotion from Nokia? Sure. More help for developers? Sure. But let's also have real developers, ok? I don't look forward to licking my phone.

  31. “Hello. I'm a normob. I saw my mate ordering his shopping on his iPhone with Ocado. Why can't I do that from my Nokia?”

    Answer that one, Vlad.

  32. Parent post from Vlad is excellent, and makes some serious points for developers to dwell on. But you also make a good point Ewan.

    I think it's about time though that we refocussed this on USERS. You know guys – users? That dusty vague old concept hidden away on a bookshelf somewhere, buried under a pile of papers, and almost forgotten.

    Us lot sit here and bitch about Nokia, and bith about development, and bitch about Apple, and all this blah de blah de blah. And that's fair enough within it's limited little box.

    But let me say that Ocado, and Sony Pictures and all the rest a a bunch of f'ing idiots. And I'm not normally prone to such language. And dare I say that developers that *blindly* jump on the iPhone/Android bandwagon (i.e. without even a proper cost/benefit analysis and a clear idea of profits to be made – or some other competitive advantage, and that's without even considering the point I am making right here) are also a bunch of f'ing idiots (hey see all the friends I just made by saying that!).

    Why? Because we're a bunch of selfish ******. Yeah, we have to make a living. Blah de blah de blah. There is this faux air of caring about users, which is in fact false. Because if you cared about users, why on earth would you target one of the most minority platforms on the planet? (iPhone). At this point I won't even mention Android because (taking a snapshot right now, as we're doing with Nokia) it's one of the most insignificant and undersold software products in history and trying to find an Android owner is like trying to find a cork floating on an ocean.

    No, if you (you being developers, but more to the point you being Sony Pictures, and Ocado and all the rest) REALLY care about users – you will meet them where THEY are at. Not where you are at with your geek-love-fetish for premium high technology.

    Many, many, many, many, i.e. almost all, users out there, do NOT have iPhones (and some platform beginning with A whose userbase is so small I've forgotten about it). No. They have, possibly, if you're lucky, mobile web. And they almost guaranteeably have SMS. And they DEFINITELY have voice (shock horror scream faint – voice got mentioned – and by voice I mean REALLY well designed IVR/push button menus).

    So developers, with your druggie-like addiction to iPhones and other shiny, touchy things, where exactly, I humbly ask you, are REAL services for REAL users, on the platforms THEY have right NOW?

    Where are the apps, en masse, that are fun, interesting and enjoyable, telling me about the latest movies, or allowing me to order my shopping, etc, that work with the mobile web, SMS and voice that almost all REAL users actually have right now? Where?

    Yes, sure you can pick out a few sporadic random unusual examples if you try. But by and large they are not there. And why? Because the idiot, deer-caught-in-the-headlights developer industry went off chasing something shiny and exclusive. Why did they do that? I don't know. Geek psychology? Selfishness? Greed? Not enough love or sex in their lives? I dunno.

    There is a place for iPhone apps, sure. To try and coax users to a better place, slowly. But many, many, many people on this planet can not afford an iPhone, or have one for some other reason, or it's just not right for them. And we the developer community are failing them on en masse because of our geek love for the highest of high tech. And this is not answering the needs that real users have.

    Of course some will understand and answer this need. And they will be rewarded in ways that put the paltry sums the most successful iPhone developers make to shame.

    And please don't reply to this post with the lamest of lame excuses – “we've tried that for years and it didn't work”.

  33. It comes down to cost. Companies go out to market asking for proposals — and when they get the details back for the Symbian client, their eyes pop out their heads. The process with iPhone is so much easier.

    So I agree there's a heck of a lot of laziness on the part of developers — but it's also a cost issue. For the developer and for the client making the purchasing decision.

    So laziness gives way to simple economics 😐

    It's typically cheaper to make an iPhone app than a Symbian one. That should hopefully change when it comes to discussing Maemo. But I find it absolutely staggering that with the millions and millions of entirely capable Nokia N95s out there, more companies don't support them.

    The sad fact is most companies made a costing decision and opted for iPhone. The market has spoken — and it's said 'no thanks' (broadly speaking) to Nokia/Symbian.

    So who's at fault?

    Symbian and Nokia. Not the developers, right? They're simply reacting to reality.

  34. I'm not really sure you've got my point at all I have to say 🙂

    90% of phones in the world aren't smartphones. 93% or 94% of phones in the world aren't Symbian. So in your reply mentioning iPhone and Symbian combined, you're focussing on around 6% / 7% of users. What about the vast remainder, exactly?

    I know for an absolute fact (as I do it daily) that for example developing and running a mobile website, or to be quite honest a good IVR or SMS app, is cheap as chips. Way cheaper than anything else. It really is. Especially if in the latter cases you get the user to bear the cost (noting that the cheapest premium SMS tariff is 12.5p I think which would be easily bearable for most users and the few pence profit from which would cover all the costs of running the service).

    What it does require however is having the intelligence and being bothered to make a good mobile website (/sms/IVR). Most of the stuff is free – e.g. PHP (/Ruby/Perl/Java), WURFL/WALL for live adaptation to any mobile, MySQL for database, Freeswitch or Asterisk for IVR, numerous co's for SMS ( are great for premium stuff – no cost to developer). Hosting costs a bit, but very little and can be scaled up according to load very easily (try for example).

    Developing a scalable mobile website integrated with SMS and IVR and using the above tools is at least an order of magnitude easier (and also much cheaper and quicker) than learning the iPhone SDK and producing an app for it.

    Come on developer community, you've got no excuses.


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