Chickens, eggs and N900s

In my previous article I alluded to Maemo community outreach as a “chicken and egg scenario”.  The exact point is that it can be hard for a corporation to justify outreach expenditures if there’s no proof of significant interest.  Easy to swallow as reality but still tough for a community evangelist to fully digest.

In this case that outreach translates to developers, particularly those attracted to Linux, Qt and especially the mobile computing ecosystem.

But the dilemma doesn’t stop there.  Keep in mind that like most of the world, Nokia defaults to English, both in device software and internal communications.  Thus the developer citizens of this virtual ecosystem tend to be best served by first focusing on that language.  It’s not done with willful maliciousness but this situation can marginalize developers for whom English is a secondary or even nonexistent option.

Thus it’s reasonable to expect that a great deal of Maemo development will favor English speakers.  Ironically, the United States holds one of the largest populations of English speakers, yet Nokia’s presence here has been dwindling to an embarrassing bar-chart blip over the past few years.

This creates an interesting and perhaps troubling dichotomy.  Some success of Maemo devices going forward may well largely depend on North American developer engagement.  This may or may not be an issue so much for Canada, but getting US open source developers on board IF the N900 and its successors don’t gain traction here may get sticky.  Will they be as likely to code freely for the world at large if the platform doesn’t make it here?

Note that I’m not being xenophobic or leaping to conclusions– just wondering.  And to be honest I would rather see statistics on all of this than speculate.

One can easily lay blame at our stupidly-siloed, frequency-fragmented and virtually-monopolistic phone service model for potentially hindering the success of Maemo devices but in the end a blame game does not solve the root problem.  Nokia can easily thrive with the same platform in regions that aren’t so restrictive.

PC Magazine pundit Sascha Segan is already predicting Maemo to fail.  I hope he’s proven wrong… and I hope the US is part of the proof.  I’m sure we’ll know by next year, when rumors of T-Mobile US taking on the N900 will either swing true or false.  If true, such a thing can’t come too soon for Maemo.

9 responses to “Chickens, eggs and N900s

  1. turn.self.off

    meh, the impression i get of the US market is that while it worried about big government, it loves big hand-holding corps.

    so unless nokia can provide a flawless, cradle to grave follow up in the same pattern as apple, palm, or t-mobile/danger (latter fumbled), and to some degree microsoft and rim, ones timed to a corp management system, or that motorola is pushing with its cliq system on top of android, i say no chance.

    and i do not see ovi being anywhere near that…

  2. Having spent most of last night working with my n900, I can say there are some changes that need to be made before it could catch on. That said, I do enjoy it.

    • Daniel, so you see the necessary changes as hardware, software or both?

      • Software, specifically in the interface. Also, some more applications would be helpful. I have no complaints about the hardware. The touch screen is different from my G1, but it still does the job well. I occasionally need the stylus for precision clicking.

  3. I tend to agree with Segan’s article — right now. The N900 will fail (I think Nokia knows this too). But, I think we’ll see quite a changing tide towards Linux as a whole (not just in mobile) in the coming years. As for Maemo? Well, I don’t think it will fail — Nokia’s too smart to make something its main priority, just to see it fail. But, it won’t be with the N900. And, who knows? Maybe it won’t even be with the first Maemo 6 device. But, give it a couple of years… I have high hopes.

  4. I saw your site when I was browsing for something not related at all, but this post was on the first page of Yahoo your website must be enormously popular! Keep up the good work!

  5. Reading this again, in hindsight I rambled and did a poor job of making a point. I’ll revisit this again later in the MeeGo context and do a better job.

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