Why the first MeeGo device needs to launch BIG

With each major variant in the Maemo Device line, Nokia enjoyed incrementally increasing success.  Its conservative “test the waters cautiously with a toe tip” approach cultivated a small but determined community eager to demonstrate that mobility and open source were a match made in electronic heaven.

This is okay for skunkworks and limited release projects.  Not so much for paradigm-shattering advents.

The relatively tiny Maemo citizenry found themselves strongly challenged by the Apple iPhone and its committed evangelists.  Few in the burgeoning Apple ecosystem have been overly concerned with the default restrictions (that grow steadily stricter), including developers.

You see, commercial developers are largely concerned with one thing:

Sales figures.

The sort of phenomenal sales the iPhone has enjoyed tempt application developers with an offer they can’t refuse: they can lower their app retail prices to ridiculous levels knowing that they’ll make more money selling a million $1 apps versus several thousand $50 ones.

Outlets like the App Store potentially level the playing field.  The trick is to make your clever game or utility stand out against thousands of its peers.  But the bar to entry into iPhone app sales nirvana is fairly low, leaving developers with essentially just the need to produce something attractive and wrap a compelling viral campaign around it.  And if you as a developer come to the attention of the right players, you’ll find them very willing to get you the necessary exposure.

Mobile device blogger Jeb Brilliant appropriately takes Nokia to task for falling behind in the App Wars and suggests the company get busy coding.  This isn’t so difficult to accomplish in the Symbian world, where Nokia still maintains a commanding global lead in mobile operating systems and user interfaces.  The hope is that Symbian^4 will ensure that this dominance continues.  But before Jeb”s entreaty can truly resonate in the Maemo realm, the sort of applications he yearns for require conveyance.

Nokia had hedged its bets with parallel albeit slower development of linux-based Maemo.  With Nokia now joining forces with Intel to transition Maemo resources to MeeGo, some skepticism over a linux operating system’s prospects in the mobile space has abated.  And the promise of the Qt multi-platform development tool can only help.

Still, Qt can only carry so much.  Without sales numbers to justify a move, the many commercial developers committed to iPhone and now Android will be naturally reluctant to abandon those platforms or spread themselves thinner… no matter how much easier and cooler MeeGo coding may get.

Since Nokia will be releasing the first MeeGo device, this is an appeal to that company alone for now: forget your usual conservative-or-quirky approaches to marketing.  It’s time to blitz, and blitz big as we say in American football.  Dispensing 300 seed devices at the 2009 Maemo Summit was a good idea, and one I believe you should continue.  But cute little campaigns like “online as it happens” aren’t going to cut it.  Think big.  Beyond Superbowl big.  Shrink-wrapped logos and photos on the space shuttle big.

If you can’t persuade major carriers around the globe to promote the first MeeGo device, you’re going to have to ramp up your game.  Hire the talent.  Open the wallet.  Do what it takes to make that inaugural MeeGo mobile computer the must-buy device of second half 2010.

If you sell it, developers will come.

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27 responses to “Why the first MeeGo device needs to launch BIG

  1. I guess, you are right! Step 5 out of 5 demands for a big splash. I tweeted already in the beginning of the year that it’s going to be busy. So far on my record already: PR1.1 and MeeGo announcement, and first MeeGo code drop. First MeeGo device from Nokia will deliver flagship experience. Guess, whether that comes with a small piep or a loud bang. ;-) But first more service for our loyal N900 customers…

  2. Johannes Graubner

    Numbers? Nokia needs to deliver not just 300 pieces, there must be 300.000 pieces available, when sales start! If customers can buy the items only through hand-selected channels even months after first roll-out, at prices made for geeks, they cannot build the customer base that attracts commercial programmers … N900 has had more potential when Nokia made out of it.

    • “300” refers to the devices handed out to developers and testers at Maemo Summit 2009 as I pointed out in the article, not units for sale.

      • Johannes Graubner

        I well understood before posting. However, it took Nokia until Mid of March at least until the N900 was generally available in Germany. Coincidence? At about the same time, at amazon the price fell permanently from about 600 Euro (the Nokia recommended price) to around 500 Euro (the street price expected from the very beginning). I do not know the figures, but the impression is: Nokia has delivered homeopathic numbers of the product only, ie. nothing a commercial programmer is interested in.

  3. Yup, you’ve nailed it, Texrat!

    The first MeeGo device from Nokia has to be a huge deal. The “Flagship Experience” that Peter mentioned above *HAS* to encompass: UI/UX, Apps, services (3rd party and Nokia), customer support, marketing, etc.

    The N900 and Maemo 5 has come far, but for instance, lacks support for the full OVI experience, Google Sync, and a few other key things. I don’t think the first MeeGo device can afford to slip in any of these areas. “Out-of-the-box and 100% working with my existing online life” is what I would expect. I hope I am blown away when MeeGo starts shipping from Nokia.

    @Peter – thanks for staying commited to the N900 user base!

    • I’m guardedly optimistic. I expect billboards. Skywriting. Parades. Bombastic marketing above and beyond anything Nokia has ever done.

      I’m afraid anything less will be more of a final nail than cornerstone…

  4. Great analysis, excellent article.

    Meego is going to face additional difficulty distinguishing itself from its Linux-ish cousin Android. Google has the advantage of spewing Android-related ads across the entire internet, and it has the kind of name recognition most other companies can only dream of. IMO, Nokia/Intel would do well to initially target the Android developer crowd. Many of those developers have a solid background in open source, and they may be easier to woo than similar iPhone developers.

    And even though it’s small, I have to think Nokia/Intel would do well to target the core Linux desktop user market. I don’t know many desktop Linux users with iPhones, and if these people are willing to support a FOSS effort on their PC they are even more likely to support a FOSS effort on their phone. Use that loyal fanbase to start the developer initiative, then move out from there.

    My $0.02.

  5. Three things that are not part of the device which they need to get done before the meego device release – ideally for the 900, but, certainly for the first Meego are:
    1. Support from Ovi Store including payment structure – vendors need to know the system will be in place for users to download apps for a fee. I wonder how many more things would be available for Maemo if developers could charge through the n900 Ovi store.
    2. Gaming – lets face it, the Maemo extras repository is full of puzzle games, emulators and ported classics, thngs that appeal to the inner geek of many who rejected the PC/Console way of life. But the mainstream embraced PC’s and consoles and it’s not cool to anyone else that you can play games released 10 years ago on the n900, regardless of whether they were landmark titles at the time – what is needed are full versions of Bounce and more level packs for Angry Birds, plus action, 3d, and sports games from the likes of EA to really take advantage of the graphics power, but these things won’t come unless there is a way to collect revenue. This is one thing that occasionally has me headning back to my N85 and the N-Gage games.
    3. Mapping – one of the things reviewers say is a problmem with the n900 is you have this device with a huge screen, just waiting to be docked in your car, but the maps application is inferior to it’s Symbian based siblings. Getting an up to date OviMaps application with the same free turn by turn directions as other nokias would be a big boost.
    4. PC support – Nokia has always provided good support software through PC suite and OVI Suite, but the n900 is only partially supported by PC suite and not at all by the newer, more integrated ovi suite. Even though it’s supposedly possible i’m still also stuggling to get the Maps Loader to recognize my n900 so i can pre-load some maps. In addition, it would be nice to be able to sync directly with the other OVI web based services other than just Photos.

    In short – get the paymodel sorted and give application developers a chance to make a profit, get a few big name game makers on board, get working on an up to date maps (probably in adition to some of the other excellent apps nokia did for symbian, such as Storts Tracker, but maps has to come first) and better integration with Nokia’s PC and Web services. The pay model and integration being the most crucial to a successful launch of Meego.

    One last thing – in the US at least, the N900 is barely on the radar as it’s not been picked up by anyone. Now, all the main carriers have different radios, and only 2 are gsm. As a T-Mobile customer, i would hope whatever comes, a version is done for T-Mobile too, but getting at least one carrier on board here, who can also advertise the amazing new handset they have. I would love it if the first Meego had the same mindspace as the G1 when it was released as the first android device, but i don’t think that can happen without carrier support.

    • Johannes Graubner

      > i’m still also stuggling to get the Maps Loader
      > to recognize my n900 so i can pre-load
      > some maps.

      It does not work under Win 7. It works under Win XP.

  6. Obviously i meant 4 things in my first line – the list kind of grew in a Monty Python Spanish Inquisition kind of way as i wrote this.

  7. that was really gud topic i liked it
    u r true if nokia make up contract with tmobile or any other us carrrier the developers will definitely come. i love nokia devices cuz they have so much in features to give that even if apple come up with 4g or 5g iphone they cannot compare with nokia n900 device.plz nokia come up some major carriers like tmobile so that developers will be happy to make apps for your devices.

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  11. I think the big launch envisioned here needs to happen but I believe that what they need to get sorted more than a big budget and marketing muscle is launching, at least, two devices at once.

    Meego is supposed to be cross platform and it’ll be a very cool, unique selling point for it. Launching just one device is letting someone else take this opportunity to look cool in a keynote! :)

    Launch a phone and a netbook at once and demonstrate the cool integration features, then throw in some cool words like: revolutionary, right out the box, and the now popular magical, and you’ll have all the press you could possibly ask for!

    well that and get OVI sorted please

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  14. Nokia’s style of bringing stuff to the market is not like Apple’s. No huge pile of phones waiting somewhere, no actors paid to queue in front of a store (happend in Stockholm, probably in some other places as well). Nokia manufactures to order, meaning there will be only a tiny amount of phones available initially, but production is quickly ramped up if there’s demand. So, for MeeGo launch they would need to change that as well, especially if there’s a marketing earthquake. A terribly expensive marketing campaign + huge demand + no phones available = EPIC fail.

    I agree MeeGo needs to launch BIG, but unfortunately I can’t see Nokia being flexible enough to change their way of working, not even just for this occasion. I wish it would happen, but I’m afraid it won’t. But let’s hope Mr. Vanjoki is hungry, really hungry.

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  16. Tiago Estill de Noronha

    They should launch with a promotional price that is equivalent to the price 2 years after launch, and keep it like that for a few months; lots of people will buy ’cause it’s cheap, and then since lots of people already have it, lots of other people will get one too even when it’s more pricey

  17. Who would have thought when I wrote this a year ago we would still be waiting for that “big launch”? Or that MeeGo would have been largely pushed aside for Windows Phone 7…

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