Nokia the OEM

I’ve been tracking all the Nokia news the past days and while it’s impossible to argue that change was required, it seems that Nokia has actually folded considerably more than we’d all expected.  In exchange for access to Microsoft Windows Phone, Nokia is essentially closing up shop outside of manufacturing and some bits of maps.  Near term Symbian will be supported, but that has a pretty clear path to death.

If you read the open letter, everything is spelled out in plain English. My thoughts in italics …

• Nokia will adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone strategy, innovating on top of the platform in areas such as imaging, where Nokia is a market leader. (symbian and meego are done)

• Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies. (Nokia gets a say for some features, probably driven by hardware opportunities)

• Nokia and Microsoft will closely collaborate on development, joint marketing initiatives and a shared development roadmap to align on the future evolution of mobile products. (Nokia earns the right to co-marketing and will probably have some devices featured as core Windows Phone products in direct MS marketing)

• Bing will power Nokia’s search services across Nokia devices and services, giving customers access to Bing’s next generation search capabilities. Microsoft adCenter will provide search advertising services on Nokia’s line of devices and services. (Bing and you’re done, just like Nokia’s ad business)

• Nokia Maps will be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services. For example, Maps would be integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine and adCenter advertising platform to form a unique local search and advertising experience. (Fortunately for MS, Nokia paid Billions for Navteq and we’ll put that to good use in our core products)

• Nokia’s extensive operator billing agreements will make it easier for consumers to purchase Nokia Windows Phone services in countries where credit-card use is low. (Nokia will help MS get operator billing in place for Windows Phone which will potentially help global reach for MS.  Probably does nothing for the US Smartphone market opp)

• Microsoft development tools will be used to create applications to run on Nokia Windows Phones, allowing developers to easily leverage the ecosystem’s global reach. (QT is dead.  An excellent acquisition for Nokia)

• Microsoft will continue to invest in the development of Windows Phone and cloud services so customers can do more with their phone, across their work and personal lives. (More MS for Nokia owners running Windows Phone)

• Nokia’s content and application store will be integrated with Microsoft Marketplace for a more compelling consumer experience. (Ovi is dead)

The best post that sums this up described the transition as a coup and frankly that’s not too far off. Microsoft has a new leader in place at Nokia who owns a massive amount of stock and naturally wants things to work out … for Microsoft.    Microsoft gets a new hero manufacturer to abuse.  If Nokia enables Windows Phone sales he wins – on both sides of the equation. Nokia as a company and brand has some major issues to resolve.

The real issues facing Nokia are remain the same. They still need to attract developers and require some major assistance still in the US, the largest smartphone market. Microsoft has barely made a dent and it seems their sales are in the channel rather than end user. Windows Phone is a fresh start in a race that’s been active for years. Android while more competitive for Nokia as an OEM would have been an easy option for developers to work with given the stratospheric growth and sales of Android products over the past two years.   Windows Phone is certainly nice, but that’s all it is.  There are no standout applications yet even though the growth has been reasonable.  Time will tell, but I’m not feeling this at all.

Outlook stuck offline?

I’ve had this problem intermittently for a while now and it’s driving me crazy.  Of course it only happens when I’m out of the office on VPN.  Here are the steps to reproduce it:

  1. Initiate VPN
  2. Launch Outlook

Standard procedure right?  Sure except my Outlook seems to enjoy getting stuck in Offline mode with absolutely no way to get it back.  Before you suggest selecting Go Online from the file menu, have a looksee …

outlook offline no workie

Notice anything missing?  Exactly.

Windows 7 needs to get cleaned up before going out

I’ve been using the Windows 7 beta since it was released and I’ve updated through a few builds as well though admittedly not as an official MSDN partner.  I’ve acquired he build in the wild and have been using Windows 7 daily on my netbook.  The experience has been most good, but a few frustrating issues have remained through each update and these are going to frustrate people to no end.

The main bug I’ve encountered is that my network connection simply times out.  Sometimes I get hours, sometims minutes and sometimes it refuses to work at all after waking from sleep.  The repair utility has about a 40% chance of getting me back online, but generally I need to reboot the system.  The only upside here is that Windows 7 boots pretty quickly, but the average person is going to hate this.  This is a basic requirement for a computer and I expect networking to just work.

About 20% of the time after waking from sleep I lose the ability to control both volume and screen brightness from my function keys.  I can still handle volume from the taskbar, but there is no way to adjust screen brightness.  Brightness is locked down at the first level which is quite low.  I tend to run on the 3rd step up which is a nice balance of brightness and power utilization.  A restart fixes things.

I’ve mentioned these issues before and doing a general search around I can see I’m not alone though there’s no actual resolution from Microsoft yet.  The problems seem to actually be a part of Windows 7.  It took 2 restarts just to publish this post today … not cool at all.

Microsoft goes “high” fashion for Windows Mobile

In what has to be the lamest idea I’ve seen touted in a very long time, Microsoft has decided that Isaac Mizrahi (who has no mobile or technology design credit) knows more about what the on device experience should be like.

The designers are working to improve the background wallpaper, color schemes, and the look of scroll bars and other elements in the Windows Mobile interface, Woodman said. The goal is to let users personalize their phones, he added.

Windows Mobile, while potentially powerful, suffers from classic Microsoft design complexity. I look forward to seeing what comes from this experiment …

In a statement, Mizrahi said, “Phones are just as much a fashion statement as the clothes you wear. As a designer, I’m excited to team up with Microsoft to bring forth fresh and funky new ways for people to make their Windows phones a part of their personality. Cast aside your old black phone and make this about color and fun.”

Should be fun. Not.

via Computerworld

Microsoft to Launch Retail Stores

As you may have read already today, Microsoft intends to launch retail stores which strikes me as a serious challenge.  Unlike Apple which has had great success with their retail strategy, Microsoft relies far too much on their external ecosystem to tell their whole story.

Microsoft has a solid story around connected entertainment with Xbox, Zune and MCE and Apple still regards this area as a hobby with AppleTV.  This is a small piece of what they will most likely (my guess) be looking to sell though and I wonder how highlighted OEM partners will be selected to display on the PC side.  Given the existing channels in which Microsoft products are sold, I’m wondering whether a store in a store concept might not actually be a better play here.

Microsoft will definitely have a lot to contend with on the consumer experience side as their system is still quite a bit more complex to setup and manage.  It should be an interesting year for retail …. Apple is apparently also retooling their stores to offer more a differentiated experience via the Mac solution. 

Windows 7 Starter Edition – What can’t you do today?

Microsoft truly can’t get out of their own way … Windows 7 looks so good, yet we’ll have to suffer through a ridiculous number of SKUs when one would suffice. And the worst thing I’ve read yet on the topic is that Netbooks will get something called Starter Edition which limits you to 3 concurrent applications – who the hell wants that??

In a typical session I run Firefox (min 10 tabs), Pidgin, Twhirl or Tweetdeck, Ovi Suite and sometimes Evernote.  I also usually add in iTunes or for music. There are few processes like two-finger scroll, Jing and Dropbox running at all times and while  I’m not sure if the smaller stuff would be blocked but it seems I would have to make a choice on the applications running.  I would certainly NOT be able to fire up anything else like Skype for a video chat (which also works quite fine) without first closing down a bunch of stuff.

I run more than 3 applications at a time on my phones … come on Microsoft!

Update – Just ran across another source and it looks like Home Premium will be the standard netbook install for the higher end systems while Starter is really designed for emerging market low end systems.

Windows 7 “Plays to” DLNA Standards while Apple keeps it closed – as usual

While this feature is not currently in the open beta, Play To highlights Windows 7 ability to be both a control point and server in a DLNA network.  What’s so awesome about this is that a ton of devices already have this baked in and Windows 7 can auto-discover them as well as present itself to them.  It’s great to see how easily this system works with existing media devices and formats.

Seeing this feature though also raises the obvious opposite perspective from Apple’s model.  The iTunes system ONLY works with itself.  Sure it works on both Macs and PC’s but there is no way without some hacking to get your AppleTV to play with other sources.  Even then it does not function as a DLNA UPnP device like what was shown in the video.  There’s no way to share media from my Nokia Handset to my television without first syncing to my desktop and then copying – through iTunes – over to the AppleTV.

Apple’s closed system certainly simplifies the consumer experience though that’s only due to the substantially limited perspective on how we are allowed to share media in the home.  I have many more things captures media than just those made by Apple … and I know I’m not alone.

Thanks to eHomeUpgrade for the tip.

What’s not working for you in Windows 7?

I’ve got a short list of bugs in my Windows 7 install and while I know some of these issues are “standard” on my hardware, I have not seen anyone else talk about a few so figured it was worth a share …

  • Sound & Brightness controls don’t always work when resuming from standby.  This is frustrating but at least the NC10 boots back quickly …
  • Bluetooth seems like a mess.
  • I’ve found if I try to open My Bluetooth Places, I can actually cause the Explorer to crash.  It usually freezes up and stalls, but the full Explorer restart seems pretty major.
  • I can pair devices, but they don’t always work.  My mouse needs to be repaired frequently in order to continue working.  I’m using the Apple Mighty Mouse …
  • Dial-Up Networking is a non-starter.  I have my N85 Paired, but find I can only get a data connection over USB.  This is far from awful, but certainly an inconvenience.  The upside is that the N85 charges like this …
  • Desktop Gadgets are flaky.  I only use the Weather but find that sometimes they like to stay on top of active applications or simply disappear.  I have two of them running and right now one (the first one if that makes any difference) seems to have gone away.  This is usually resolved with a reboot.
  • Full Screen mode in Firefox is hit or miss.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it fights with the taskbar to see which one gets to stay on top.
  • Time – I keep finding the clock is off by quite a few hours.  This morning the time was reading tonight and the time server preference seems to fail on most of the server options.  I usually try manually when this happens and eventually it updates.  I’ll have to try setting it manually and leaving it.
  • Think that’s about it – at least in what I’ve noticed and tried.

    What happened to Windows Mobile 7?

    At last year’s Mobile World Congress there was a good deal of chatter regarding Windows Mobile 7 – particularly around the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1. Almost a year later, the X1 has shipped (with Windows Mobile 6) and now the talk is around Windows Mobile 6.5 and it’s looking set for devices scheduled to ship in Q4.

    I’m not a windows mobile expert and I don’t even play one here so I can’t say whether this is semantics (6.5=7) or some backpedaling … What am I missing here?

    ASUSTek envisions the digital home ecosystem

    While the idea is not a new one, only Apple has really “succeeded” at bringing a successful vision of their digital home ecosystem to market with a good degree of success.  Microsoft only lightly pushes their version today though I’m figuring quite a bit will change when Windows 7 arrives for release.

    Asus is actually in an interesting position.  They sell both Windows as well as Linux products and offer some very big bang for the buck.  The customers I’ve come across (mainly on the netbook side) are quite brand loyal and it would be easy to see how a lower cost mobile device could also be added as a control point in the home.

    As Mr. Shih envisions the future, families will want to surf the Web and watch Internet video on televisions

    “Today, the family crowds around a small PC screen when they are sharing digital media and getting on the Internet,” he said. “In the living room, it should be more convenient to use the big screen.”

    Didn’t Microsoft fail at this vision with WebTV, I asked. Now the technology is much better, Mr. Shih replied.

    To Mr. Shih, there’s no reason to stop at the TV.

    “To make the whole digital home possible, in the eventual state every wall becomes a display,” he said, “The mirror should become a screen.”


    “Because you want to blend it into your life,” he explained. “You already watch the mirror.”

    And how will you control all these screens?

    In Mr.Shih’s view, as likely as not, it will be on a cellphone. And the company is working on a low cost smart phone called the Eee Phone. [via Bits Blog]

    I’ve always been excited by the prospect of the digital home and will be quite interested to see how this pans out.

    Where’s my Federated Presence?

    It’s easy to maintain a single status line across services which lets you report the same update across your social services.  I tend to use Ping.Fm mainly which lets me deliver cross-service updates via email, IM and web including mobile.  What’s missing in this age of unified communications though is the ability to share a richer level of presence.  

    By presence of course I mean my actual presence – am I in a meeting, on the phone, on the go or even in a different timezone from you.  All of this information can be relative input for deciding how to best get in touch with someone and there is still no way to do this effectively outside of the expensive enterprise route from companies like Cisco, Avaya, and Microsoft which also require that you use their solution exclusively without taking inputs from other sources.  Of course these inputs should be definable so I don’t share random personal bits with business contacts or important business information across to my Facebookfriends but I realize that’s a degree of complexity that might be more challenging.  Still even the “basic” federation for presence seems to be missing …  

    The key thing here is that I don’t want anyone else to have to install or use a particular service for this to work.  I just want this solution to deliver the right level of detail to the right service so my various contacts are informed appropriately.  Not too hard right?