Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The issue is not about how cool the phone looks

Martin Geddes blogs Finland, Finland, Finland offering opposing views on whether Nokia can get its cool back (not to mention growth, profitability, etc). What I find interesting about this discussion is that here (and elsewhere - Techdirt and BusinessWeek) the debate is about industrial design -- do Nokia phones look and feel cool? But in my opinion this is not at all what the next evolution of the device is all about...

Nokia made a really smart move -- they jumped on the digital bandwagon early, when a lot of their competitors (and leader Motorola) stuck with analog. The question in my mind is whether or not Nokia will make the next jump from phone to computer.

The handset industry has approached the problem of increasing features in handsets from a consumer electronics perspective -- pack the electronics tighter, pre-wire the features, and focus the device on a particular demographic.

Two years ago I was at the Nokia Mobile Internet Conference and heard Jorma Ollila's keynote speech in which he said that in the future every phone would be unique. That is, you would have a phone that suited your needs, I would have one that suited mine, and 500 million other people would have their own idiosyncratic versions of the "perfect" phone.

The only path to this vision is by making the leap from thinking of the phone as a consumer device to thinking of it as a computing platform -- infinitely programmable to provide whatever feature set a given user wants -- even different feature sets at different times of the day (work vs evening).

Nokia's purchase of Symbian solidifies their intent to own this new phase, but will they understand enough about this alien world and will they understand it fast enough? Microsoft is moving quickly, and we could wake up one day with Windows ubiquitious in our pockets the way it already is on our desktops.

No comments: