Is the Nokiandroid an inevitability?

Priceless post by Jean-Louis Gassée on an imaginary conversation at Nokia between the amusingly named CEO Olli Pekka Kallasovo and his head of mobile devices Anssi Vankoji. The key point is where Fake Oily says to Fake Anssi:

This leaves us with one choice: Android. I have made the decision and I want you to implement it.

Go read it. It’s very funny.

More seriously, dear readers, I actually think it’s going to happen. I don’t share Jean Louis’ pessimism on this. These Finns are totally fucked. Symbian 3, Symbian 4, Maemo, Meego, no-one knows what to write code for, and everyone is just tired of listening, of attending another bullshit launch of another car crash handset. In his discussions with analysts, salespeople and other investors, Baruch feels a tipping point has been reached. Nokia have lost all credibility with investors and developers and will very rapidly fade into irrelevance unless they go Android, and do it while they can still make a difference in deciding the outcome of the war between Android and iPhone.

Needless to say, OPK and the current set of Finns will have to go.

Just think of the consternation at Motorola and HTC. Much gnashing of teeth. It’s a delicious prospect. Android is going to suffer a severe setback later this year when Verizon, the major refuge of the Androids, goes iPhone. Google getting Nokia on board, still the leading handset player in the world with a lock on the higher end in developing countries, would pretty much cancel that out and equalise the playing field. Needless to say, Nokia would immediately become Google’s préféré, the recipient of the latest updates to the OS.

Ultimately, Finns are nothing but pragmatic. I think this is going to happen and I think it will be sooner rather than later.

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5 thoughts on “Is the Nokiandroid an inevitability?”

  1. I don’t think they will go Android. The main reason is Android is strong only in the US and is based on outdated technology (Java) and their application market sucks. Nokia could do better.
    As you mentioned if Apple would be able to sell to most US operators, Android would be in a big trouble. I strongly agree.
    Like I don’t think BlackBerry phones are smartphones at all. Push email is the only technology they have – not very high tech but they bring additional revenue to operators. (They still might be the biggest losers of market share in the US.)
    So the only thing Nokia should do is a nice device and make OVI based on operator billing (15% Nokia, 15% operator, 70% developer). This could make them competitive to Apple and Google both.
    Because Google has 0% of the paid mobile app market (most people cannot buy anything on Android market, not even Finns and Swedish; it is open to very few countries only) and all of the Nokia mobile OS-s are superior to Android technology wise. (Basically everything is superior to Android except BlackBerry.) No developers earn money on Android, so they would be happy to jump on Symbian 4 or MeeGo (which is pure Linux, very easy to code) if they could get access to Nokia’s mass market phones.
    Like the operators who hate Apple and Google both, they would be happy to setup payment with/through OVI if they had a part. Operator based payment could possibly open a market several times bigger than iTunes (of Apple.)
    Last but not least Nokia obviously has the best logistics and can produce mass market phones very cheaply.
    So they need only one nice device…

    1. Laci, I don’t know of a market where there are any prizes at all for being the number 3 OS. They can still make a difference to Android if they join it now, and at the same time cut billions from their R&D budget. Their main competitors on hardware would be largely subscale players, and Nokia could achieve potentially relevant influence over the 2nd most important OS, rather than full control over a totally ignored one. Their shareholders would be rewarded. As things stand they are leaving in droves, and most view Nokia as the next Motorola in handsets.

      Operator billing might be nice, it is true, but lots of operators have their own app stores for their Android customers no? It would be strange if they didn’t take a cut already. I don’t know myself, but would be surprised if they didn’t.

      The ease of writing for Symbian/Maemo relative to Android though is something you are much better at assessing. And I note Angry Birds is out for Maemo and the Nokia 90000000 before it is out for Android. . .

  2. I think you (or J-L) are severely underestimating Nokia’s (Linux) platform expertise/capabilities and overestimating Android as a platform. Android might have a lot of hype going for it (being backed by google and all), but it has limitations as a platform, both technically and how its development is run and how it interacts with the wider free software universe. Nokia might seem slow to catch up, but they have an excellent platform and the knowledge and determination to leverage it. This will give them an edge over all the other handset manufacturers that will all be busy trying to make the same Android releases do what they want, and lets them (Nokia) do things Android is unlikely to be doing for a while.

    The N900 put-down in J-L’s article is not entirely fair. The N900 is what it is, for enthusiasts, as he writes, and it was never intended to be anything else. What’s important is to see the progress made from the N800/N810 vs. N900. It takes a little faith, but if you extrapolate that into the future to the N900+1 or N900+2, you might just end up with something that can actually compete with the iPhone (!) (who else is even trying that these days?).

    1. Crikey. Et tu Joe. Does anyone like writing for Android?

      I think the problem is that it “takes a little faith”. Nokia is all out of faith with important constituents. They used it up in their inability to understand and execute in the past 3 years post the iPhone. YOu software guys may still have faith, but unless they do something radical and change the management and strategy (or at least appear to), what’s left of Nokia’s credibility with investors will dissipate totally. Borads of Directors aren’t tasked with satisfying the interests of software developers. They might still make it with the current strategy, if they had time. Which they don’t.

      It wouldn’t be the first time a company took wrong technology choices to satisfy The Money.

  3. Baruch,

    … so, how ’bout that there Torch, eh?

    Been offline and in cash, but couldn’t resist some puts after reading about RIM’s latest-and-greatest (less that 1Ghz processor and a small screen? Puh-Luh-Eeeze!). Made a little on that just overnight. I really hope you will have something to say about RIM at some point.

    As for Android, while I expect the criticisms made are all valid, I use it every day (still got an old G1, the very first Android thingie, now running Cyanogen 6.0-Rc2, which is Android 2.2). The improvements are continual and substantial. It runs on a bunch of hardware, is available for GSM, CDMA and whatever Sprint runs, is free and does a whole lot of stuff, some of it even pretty well.

    I still think (or maybe at this point just hope) that Android will be a medium-term bridge, and that eventually something will be available which is more akin to a genuine Linux distribution, with actual package management (and not these shoddy “marketplace ” things) and a large body of genuine free software [anyone wonder how much GPL code is being illegally sold in these binary-only “marketplaces?].

    Meego could possibly be what I am hoping for, but it seems to be moving nowhere in a hurry, and so far the only supported hardware is Intel Atom-based handsets (are there any?) and the N900. Note that while the N900 is ARM-based, there is as yet no indication of any desire that Meego should run on all reasonably beefy ARM-based phones, just the N900, meaning it is completely irrelevant at this point.

    My take: any genuine smartphone vendor wanting to stay alive (except the Mad Fruit) needs in the near term to provide or at least not impede Android running on their phones. There’s no law against them offering other software, Symbian, Meego, whatever, but Meego runs on essentially nothing yet, and unless Symbian is vastly improved over the two versions I used, why would anyone want it?

    Android is as expected producing the commoditization of phone hardware: ARM-based touchscreen phones running Android are the new IBM-PC. RIM and Nokia can sell into this market, but whether they can compete long-term with the Chinese is another question.

    Cheers,

    Cash

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