The Public Trial of Eldar Murtazin

Device reviewers are an interesting bunch.  They form a fairly tight-knit community yet individually can be as competitive as any triathlon participant.  The reviewer who gets his or her hands on some heretofore unknown prototype is treated with both admiration and jealousy– and often a rallying defense by the community when one gets busted.

Such has been the case recently now that Nokia has reached its limit of patience with gonzo blogger Eldar Murtazin.  The name should be familiar to most readers but for the sake of others, Eldar is the hard-hitting Russian Mobile-Review editor-in-chief known for a knack of getting access to devices so far in advance of production they sometimes seem like homebuilt projects.  Many maemo.org members have long wondered about this ability, as well as the lack of a strong response from Nokia to previous incidents.

The final straw for Nokia apparently was Eldar’s early release of N8 details (translated from the original Russian).  After no response from Eldar to a previous plea for the prototype’s return (the writer claims he received no such request), Nokia has now unleashed the hounds: Russian police have been asked to retrieve Nokia’s stray property.  Pundits appear split on the subject, some asserting Eldar was overdue for this sort of response and others treating the blogger as some sort of Robin Hood.

Here’s what those leaping to Mr. Murtazin’s defense don’t seem to understand: Nokia has to vigorously defend its intellectual property.  In fact, the company legal team likely erred by allowing him as much rope as it has for some time.  And it’s not just legal issues involved here: prototypes by their very nature are not ready for review, and release of details too early in the product development process can skew public perception.  Anyone who understands this business cannot realistically blame Nokia for wanting greater control over the message.  With that said, the company definitely needs to gain more control over their prototype management process!

The case gets even more convoluted.  Some bloggers claim that Murtazin is a Samsung consultant which, if true, would certainly taint any excuses he might make.  Despite extensive searching, though, I have been unable to conclusively confirm or dispel this allegation.  For the record, Eldar denies it.

Many covering this situation are drawing comparisons with the Apple-Gizmodo iPhone 4 fiasco.  Police action was also involved in the aftermath of that event, but in that case it was mainly to seize the property of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen.  As of now Nokia is only asking for its own property back, so unless its actions go farther than that the similarities are vague at best.

Regardless, Eldar is neither hero nor victim in all of this.  He’s simply a smart and arrogant guy who flaunted an ability to gain access to unreleased products and is now dealing with the inevitable fallout.  And on one hand it’s admirable that some in the mobile blogging community are circling wagons around him, but they would be better off considering what his irresponsible actions can do to everyone else.

As smartphone competition heats up, and device reviewers look for any edge, I suspect we may see more incidents like these followed by escalating responses from manufacturers.  Things should really be interesting where the operating systems are open source (MeeGo, Android, Symbian) and differentiation is more about hardware.

While some observers want a more private approach to resolution, a public response is not only necessary for manufacturers to protect their physical and intellectual property, in my opinion it’s necessary to keep the community appropriately informed.  Not to try offenders in the press, but to shine a harsh light of scrutiny on players at both ends of this cat-and-mouse game.

Readers, you know my opinions now; what are yours?

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29 responses to “The Public Trial of Eldar Murtazin

  1. In total agreement. Getting my hands on such a device, I would only want one handed to me by an official from Nokia. Why? If they are handing it to me, they feeling it is far enough along to be reviewed and have public comments made about it.

    Sure, seeing an early prototype is great, but I vehemently dislike how the mobile community treats an early prototype in a lot of cases, whether it be consciously or not: Like a final production, assembly line, retail product.

    And that just isn’t fair to ANY manufacturer. Yes, you CAN gauge a lot about the direction they are heading and make some concrete conclusions based on hardware. However who is to say the hardware you are using isn’t one variant of the device, or the software is an early build with lots of bugs?

    Those little questions are glazed over and ignored by many readers on reviews of prototype devices. It is as much our fault and responsibility that Eldar and others like him seek out this equipment and review it.

    To many of us “need to know” and to few of us, really have the ability to disseminate the information we learn with a grain of salt.

  2. PC pronouns? For shame, Randy! For shame!

  3. “Some bloggers claim that Murtazin is a Samsung consultant which, if true, would certainly taint any excuses he might make. Despite extensive searching, though, I have been unable to conclusively confirm or dispel this allegation. For the record, Eldar denies it.”

    Proof came directly from Murtazin’s Twitter page. In his Bio line now he has “Editor-in-chief, analyst, mobile phone market; Nokia in state of war with me – OMG!!!” while no sooner than 3 days ago he had “Editor-in-chief, analyst, mobile phone market, working on some future phones with A-brands.”
    See Bing cache copy of the page: http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=twitter.com%2feldarmurtazin&d=4984253820568321&mkt=it-IT&setlang=it-IT&w=c80d3ba,3bf5125c

  4. credibility of Eldar?

    So is it letter or email? Or nothing at all?

    I rest my case.

    • Eldar cited this e-mail form Nokia:

      Dear Eldar,
      If you are in possession of Nokia property, we kindly ask for its return.

      Then he replied with question about what kind of Nokia property should he return. No answer form Nokia was given. Now Nokia asks the police the same thing – get any Nokia property from Murtazin if he has any. So Eldar says that there was single e-mail, but it didn’t mention N8.
      As to letter or e-mail – Murtazin was never good in English, and in Russian both letter and e-mail are the same word ‘pismo’. So it’s translation issue.

      • “what kind of Nokia property should he return” ???

        um, how about all property that don’t belong to him, that he has obtained probably illegally??

        all prototypes have “property of Nokia” on them. even if he has gotten them legally, he should return when Nokia asks. applies to employees as well.

        i just can’t stand the fact that he makes himself look like a victim of all these when he’s in the wrong.

      • And what if he in fact didn’t posess N8 at that time? If it was lent to him and then he returned it back? To someone who is not employee of Nokia? Besides, there is strong mobile-review.com policy: no info about unreleased models before some leak occurs elsewhere. It was the case with N8 – look here for example:

        http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/05/nokia-vasco-viral-video-ready-n8-too/

        A month before Murtazin’s article.

        Then he is just a good journalist doing his job (what’s the reason to keep silent if some info has leaked already?) wandering why Nokia wants to punish him instead of finding out who and how gave him and others an access to the phone.

      • If he didn’t possess N8 or any Nokia property, he could jolly well say he didn’t have anything to return. The fact that he asked for what to return implies he has some Nokia property, and he needs to return all of them.

        Oh, and I have a “policy”: i will commit a crime only after someone else has committed the same crime first. As long as I adhere to my “policy”, i’m a good person. YAY!

        Please.

      • besides, he’s not just repeating something that has already been leaked (the engadget article had only a pic and couple of lines). he had a whole write-up on the device. Huge difference there.

      • Have you read Murtazin’s article?

        http://www.mobile-review.com/articles/2010/birulki-64-en.shtml

        Well, you you call this a review….
        The next day, on 27 april, the phone was officially presented:

        http://www.nokia.com/press/press-releases/showpressrelease?newsid=1408608

        Many sites published then their impressions on the phone, including mobile-review.

        As to policy… When something is not a secret anymore what harm can be done by revealing it? Yes, by the law this may be a crime. But try to use your common sense. I call it good balance between couriosity and protection.

        And to the letter. If I ask you to return all my property, probably you’ll ask me what I’m talking about, wont you? So Muratzin stated in his blog that Nokia knows that if them will mention N8, he can sue them for false accusation. Anyway it doesn’t matter now. Do you really think that if Nokia really wanted their prototypes they would break all contacs with Murtazin, refuse to answer his calls or e-mails? Both parties are guilty in this misunderstanding.

      • “Have you read Murtazin’s article?
        Well, you you call this a review….”

        Have you read my comment? I didn’t call it a review.

        “As to policy… When something is not a secret anymore what harm can be done by revealing it?”

        Are you kidding me? A lot of harm can be done propagating guesses/speculations/half-truths about leaked devices. As an engineer who has worked on some of these devices, it infuriates me whenever I read articles like that, talking about the device like they know it better than us, and we can’t fight back because (1) we can’t comment on leaks and (2) we, or at least I, am not as good with words as these “journalists” are.

        “And to the letter. If I ask you to return all my property, probably you’ll ask me what I’m talking about, wont you?”

        The letter said — If you are in possession of Nokia property, we kindly ask for its return.

        What part of “If you are in possession of Nokia property” isn’t clear to him, you, me, or anyone? Plain and simple English, even on the protos: “Property of Nokia”.

        As for how I would answer such a letter from you, yes, I’d ask “what are you talking about?” because I don’t know you and don’t have any idea what kind of property you have. But Eldar knows Nokia and knows what kind of property belongs to Nokia.

      • write-up: Definition from Answers.com – write-up ( ) n. A published account, review, or notice, especially a favorable one.
        Well, no matter. I’ve got your point, I hope you’ve got mine. Lets get back to work.

  5. I have to say that its easy to sit on high horse and criticize Eldar. But really he is a Journalist (call him blogger but he is a journalist before a blogger) and every Journalist has a duty and a responsibility to their readers. I for one I know that I benefit alot from his previews It gives me an idea what to expect from a forth coming device. He gave a detail preview of symbian ^3 very very detailed which as a reader and tech enthusiast I found enlightening and which would understanding what to expect from symbian ^3. Some a call him a whistle blower but I see him as someone who would do anything to get the news out (undoctored by PR machinery.) However this is not to mean that Nokia don’t have the right to request for their product back It is within their every right. But Elder insisted that he never had possession of the prototype but was given an access by a source whom he is not ready to disclose. This becomes an issue of my word against yours. The onus is now on Nokia to proof that Elder indeed has and is in possession of their property. Just my $0.2

    • High horse? No such animal here. I was very objective. As for “blogger” being used as an epithet, please note I identified him as editor-in-chief of Mobile Review.

      And given how two readers here have tripped him up, I think Eldar’s defense has been rendered pretty thin. He’s lost the benefit of the doubt through disingenuity.

    • I think the $0.02 you quote is a fair value of your comment.

  6. Nokia is acting like a hypocrite by taking legal action against bloggers that expose the company’s shortcomings while at the same time failing to provide merchantable quality merchandise and then refusing to admit or remedy their (intentional or gross) negligence.

    A case in point is the Nokia N900. Nokia advertises it has 100 of standby battery power time. Extensive tests over a two month period did not get half of that time. In fact, with very light use (less than 1 hour calling and less than 15 minutes internet) the phone did not last one day (8 to nine hours) over a ten day period. The phone in other (legal) words is not of merchantable quality. Yet Nokia despite repeatedly sending messages to clients that it would respond to their complaints, did not respond after more than a month.

    Bloggers help point these shortcomings out and give the ordinary person a chance to be aware of the shortcomings of company’s like Nokia who put profit over their customers and apparently even over providing merchandise of merchantable quality.

    Most of the people who contacted me could have been spared the significant damage they have suffered because of Nokia’ misrepresentations and the cost of legal action to remedy the situation, if a good blogger had identified Nokia’s clear misrepresentations concerning the N900.

    If Nokia relied on making better products then trying to deter criticism of is sub par products, it would do better.

    • You’re confusing the issues. Reporting deficiencies didn’t get Eldar in trouble; playing with prototypes did (and even that’s a simplification).

      I’m a blogger who has pointed out Nokia failures (including the N900 usb detachment problem) numerous times, and no action against me. Same goes for friends and peers doing likewise.

      That said, I would like to see Nokia do a much better job of heeding blogger concerns.

    • allnameswereout

      “Bloggers help point these shortcomings out and give the ordinary person a chance to be aware of the shortcomings of company’s like Nokia who put profit over their customers and apparently even over providing merchandise of merchantable quality.”

      One can point that out after the final product is realized. There is no reason to warn the public for a product which isn’t even finalized. You won’t want to know the deficiencies in prototype cars. Reviewers of cars are careful with that for good reason: it might cost them the chance to review again. The reviews are also authorized by the manufacturers. Since we’re discussing an end product involving hardware (the device) you’d assume the same rules apply.

      Strangely, some people find it normal that a reviewer has received (stolen; either directly or via-via) an unknown prototype version of a to-be-released product, then publicly expresses their opinion about this, brag about this, and get away with this + some nice income on advertisements. He actually _got_ away with this in past while he shouldn’t. While I can understand interest in review of a product or prototype, the fact here is that its an unauthorized leak.

      This is akin to using GIT from Linus his tree, compiling the kernel, seeing it crash, and then complain about it on your blog with reasonable userbase. If Slashdot would do this, they’d be flamed to death, and for good reason. If you’d do this on a developer blog where only kernel developers would come there’d be no problem. There’d be a constructive discussion about solving the problem. Such blog is called ‘bugzilla’. Eldar however, is doing these reviews purely for his own gains.

  7. Rumor has it that Eldar is now a Nokia employee. Supposedly an email address was confirmed. I won’t post here so as to minimize the spam, but it does make one wonder…

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  9. I guess Murtazin is a good journalist marked recently by the disgust to Nokia products. About Mobile-Review.com: I usually have a sensation I’m reading a tabloid when visiting his website… I understand Nokia tries to fight that kind of bad press by law, but in the real world, who gives a poo about some pop figure having a court case with a tabloid??

  10. Just discovered and enjoyed this, an update would be nice should you ever have time, cheers nubbler.

  11. So now Eldar claims Microsoft will purchase at least a part of Nokia’s cell phone business. That’s a pretty bold prediction and, if proven false, may very well cost him some fans.

    http://techshrimp.com/2011/05/16/microsoft-buying-nokia-phone-unit-says-eldar-murtazin/

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