Ever since the February 11 2011 Nokia event cheekily tagged as #NoWin and known colloquially as The Elopocalypse, I’ve struggled to cover Nokia’s present and abandoned strategies here with equal care. Don’t be misled by my attempts of objectivity over Linux and Microsoft activities, though– it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been moderating an internal conflict between a growing invasion of open source love versus a legacy of Microsoft development experience combined with strong curiosity. Neither side has a clear advantage over the other for me and therein lies a conundrum.
I could have very easily avoided the whole controversy at the start. When I assumed responsibility for Maemo internet tablet quality in the North American market, I could have taken the easy route and stuck to the basics. That meant developing test plans, training auditors and inspectors, hosting Finnish and Mexican product teams, and making sure CES 2007 was supplied on time with 200 pristine N800s. Nothing more.
But no. I’m a device nut. An admitted hardware geek. As I’ve shared many times, laying eyes on the Nokia 770 tablet changed everything for me. It put what I saw then as the future in my hands, literally and figuratively. I could not just treat this product line as I did the various and sundry cell phones I also touched. I took tablets personally.
Which meant that when a colleague referred me to Internet Tablet Talk (now talk.maemo.org), I had to check it out. I found a community of talented, passionate people eager to see where they could take the 770 and its successors. Grateful to Nokia for daring to deliver this novel Linux-fueled family. Of course I joined immediately. The developers and enthusiasts desperately desired guidance from Nokia, and I was glad to be of some service… although given the frustrating secrecy around the hardware, that often meant nothing more than dropping cruel hints to keep them interested whenever Nokia lapsed into all-too-common periods of apparent non-progress, or worse, resistance.
That up-and-down Maemo journey took an unexpected turn to the merger with Moblin that led to MeeGo. After overcoming initial anxiety I decided that MeeGo represented the redefined future. I replicated Maemo Greeters as MeeGo Greeters, played around with some graphics identity stuff, and shifted over outreach work (while still staying with the Maemo community). More recently, I helped start the Community Device Program and expect to keep working at it.
But as one pundit after another predicts the demise of mobile MeeGo, and the venture itself suffers a visible lull, many are nervous over the prospects… including myself. I’m not going to give too much credence to rumors– especially since there’s alternative talk of Samsung taking over the reigns instead of an outright plug-pulling.
What I am pondering, though, is Windows Phone 7 (the current build is referred to as Mango).
After all, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to ensure that my Visual Studio experience is readily useful. I’ve missed software development work the past few years, as I’ve had to focus on a job where only my SQL skills were relevant. There just has not been the time, regrettably, to do what I had hoped with Qt (although I have not given up completely). But with WP7, I only have to learn the unique aspects of phone development and I’m up to speed.
That’s really, really tempting.
I’m also coming up on the end of my term as a Nokia Developer Champion. Whereas my Maemo and MeeGo experience was applicable when I was nominated last year, I can’t see that being the case now. I do want to enjoy the privilege for a second year, and that means embracing Nokia’s current strategy.
And it’s not just negative talk that has me concerned about MeeGo. The outreach efforts I began for North and Central Texas have stalled after a bright and promising beginning. I am right near the point of letting the Dallas-Fort Worth area Meetup.com account lapse due to declining interest (Austin never really got off the ground). I won’t drop it outright– merging with a general open source group makes sense.
It’s been interesting living in two worlds the last several years. Friends who are diehard soldiers of either camp don’t quite get how I can reconcile the two. But as I said at the start of this article, I’m a device nut. Still passionate about open source, yet also willing to explore the “dark side”… with a focus much more on hardware than software.
In that respect, I think I have something unique to offer as a volunteer ambassador for Nokia. I’m passionate but not religious about any technology, and in fact prefer to stay as agnostic as possible. I believe I have a rare ability to bridge two distinct worlds, to talk with and listen openly to members of either one. That’s what I hope to bring to another year as a Nokia Developer Champion. Hopefully the judges will soon agree… and that the MeeGo community won’t be too rough on me as I keep a foot in that realm, too.