Posts Tagged ‘nokia’

Book Review: Operation Elop, the final years of Nokia by Merina Salminen and Pekka Nykänen

Design auditing the new Life Tools for Nokia, Sept 2009, India

Operation Elop, uploaded by Harri Kiljander has just been made available in English and I’m already on Chapter 8. I saw the editor’s tweet 23 minutes after he said “It’s done and available on Medium under a Creative Commons license” and I haven’t stopped diving in and out since.

It starts with a memorable day in Finland – 10th September 2010 – so memorable that one asks “Where were you that day?” and people remember. I remember it well, and I have photographs to prove it. My life changed rather dramatically in the year that followed, and the period that the book covers is the same period I was away from Finland, having already decided to make my home here for the remaining years of my life.

Its complicated, this history of Nokia’s demise. The impact on Finland was palpable, the responses ranging across the spectrum of human emotions. You have to know that I was in love with Nokia and the changes they had wrought across the developing world. In 2007, there’s a photograph of me sitting in their lobby stunned from the impact of coming face to face with a corporation that conveyed the values of their brand. And its because of Nokia’s design and innovation researchers blogging their exploratory user research across Africa that inspired me to do what I have been doing for the past 10 years. Every chapter in this book has been adding new layers to my own personal journey.

I’ll highlight the one paragraph that’s important to me. When all the news was breaking over the years, I thought that Nokia was splitting their product development energies too broadly. In fact, in May 2011, I was invited to a feature phone workshop to present on the future and on Africa. What I said we wanted to put on t-shirts, “Don’t get stuck in the missionary position.” They were taking a Mother Teresa route in Africa instead of focusing on what they were good at – robust engineering and products that stood up to harsh climes and rough usage. At a value for money price point. I didn’t know it was already too late, but here’s the key snippet from the book that helped me make sense of things from long ago as I read it today.

From Chapter 19:

In 2010, the foundation of Nokia’s business consisted of devices priced at a few tens of euros ($30–50), with which one could make calls, send text messages, and use simple web services. Thanks to efficient production, feature phones yielded larger profit margins to Nokia than smartphones. The amazing efficiency was based on the S40 operating system, which had been introduced in 1999. Nokia conquered the world with S40. It was made possible because the system could be tailored at a low cost to mobile network providers operating in different regions. By 2012, Nokia sold 1.5 billion S40 devices across the world.

This was squandered in the race to the top, the glamour of being world famous, complicated by so many factors – all simply and accessibly laid out in the book – that it still makes one weep to think of what might have been. All I know is that the Nokia I own today doesn’t even have predictive text.

I want to thank the translators for their hard work and effort. The book has been a joy to read and it’s kept its Finnishness in choice of words, and sentence structure. You can read it online or download it for free.

True Confessions: I was an earnest and idealistic Nokia fangrrl 2006 to 2010

OMG I can’t breathe! Photographed hyperventilating with the guy responsible for my phone’s design, Peter Griffith at the Nokia “Connecting the Next Billion” Emerging Markets Strategy Workshop in London, May 2011. 

If I thought I could get away with it, I would tiptoe out of the room right now. Michael Davis-Burchat has just yelled out on Twitter, asking me what I think of today’s bombshell extravaganza of speculation and dealmaking. Mike’s on vacation but imagine returning to work to discover you’re now working for Microsoft. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!

*tiptoes out of the sauna, grabbing the Koskenkorva on the way out*

Postcard from Kajiado: Cheap chinese phones and the internet

Downtown Kajiado, Kenya, 21 Oct 2011

It wasn’t the first time we’d heard this from a cyber cafe operator, but apparently the biggest challenge to mobile phone users wishing to get online by using their spanking new phones was whether they were a cheap Chinese phone or a fake.  Up and down Kenya, or right in the heart of Masai country which is where we were today in the hot sunshine, if a customer bought a cheap phone and wanted to get online they ended up coming to the nearest cyber cafe for help setting it up. The problems are legion – from the fact that only genuine brands like a Nokia or Samsung are easily and directly set up with the mobile operator’s internet connectivity by receiving an SMS to the fact that the OS was rarely well configured or programmed.  One lady we’d met earlier this week  confessed shamefacedly to using a fake Nokia for browsing – she worked for a Safaricom dealer – apparently she was saving every penny towards buying a laptop for Christmas.

It makes me think that as social networking drives many more online to connect and communicate with their extended networks, global brands have less to worry about than they imagine they do.