Microsoft + Nokia Babies: Hate at a Distance, Love Up Close

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Apologies to QML fans but I’m going to to extend the interruption of that series by at least one more article.  Blame a cynical friend’s recent conversion to the Dark Side of mobile Microsoft

As regular readers know I’ve been a dual Microsoft/Linux power user for many years.  While some friends see that as a bad case of cognitive dissonance, I prefer to call it technical agnosticism.  I was never interested though to include Windows Mobile in that scope, mainly due to an observance that it was just Windows scaled (badly) down to a handheld device rather than something specifically designed for the form factor.

Microsoft finally realized that, bit the bullet, and created Windows Phone from scratch.  But the product still carried Windows branding baggage and has been panned by some mobilists and tech pundits– many of whom did so with ten-foot virtual poles.

This has been especially true of Nokia fans (self included), particularly those who saw great things in the Linux-based operating systems Maemo and then MeeGo and had high hopes for the sexy N9.  Nokia’s CEO had brought about the Elopocalypse in accepting Steve Ballmer’s engagement offer, and no one from the Linux side of the family wanted to be part of the post-wedding reception.  Some later snickered at the Spanish meaning for “Lumia” (as tempting as it is to riff on that further, I’ll demur).

So far the MicroNokia nuptials have resulted in two acknowledged offspring: the fraternal Nokia Lumia twins, 710 and 800.  There’s nothing apparently spectacular about the 710, hardware- or appearance-wise.  Its low price is the most attractive feature.  As for the 800, photos don’t quite do it justice.  You have to use this device to realize its true beauty.

The same can be said for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 OS.  Yes, videos seem compelling, but jaded smartphone users aren’t easily impressed by moving pictures.  Experience it first-hand, however, and the skepticism melts.  I admit to encountering that at Nokia World when I first got to play with the Lumias.

This sort of mindset conversion is never more dramatic than when a diehard open source devotee is swayed.  Such was the case when my aforementioned friend Johan Paul surprisingly tweeted the following:

I’m highly interested in what he’ll have to say further, the more he uses his Lumia 800.

Now, I can’t quite profess unconditional love for these babies.  Some of the beauty is only skin-deep and there are genetic defects only a mother could overlook.  My personal OS peeves are no tethering, no Bluetooth file transfers and no USB mass storage mode.  HUGE step backwards in my opinion and a MUST fix.  As for the Lumia 800, lack of TV output combined with omission of a front-facing camera have my teeth gritted.  I also have to wonder why support for quickly-trending NFC was left out.

Beyond feature failures, Microsoft and Nokia face distinct but obviously related challenges here.  The former needs to get Windows Phone in general out of the market share basement.  The latter needs to re-establish their specific phones as must-have products.  I have yet to see a clear signal on how evangelical overlap is going to be handled by the two, particularly where software development is concerned.  I also still wonder if the marriage between them will ultimately put off other WP participants (not that I actually care).

Nevertheless, if outreach efforts can get examples into the hands of prospective buyers everywhere, even doubtful ones like my friend Johan, Microsoft and Nokia do indeed have a potentially winning combo.  The 25,000 device-seeding effort won’t hurt!  In addition to my QML explorations, I plan to develop for Windows Phone and can’t wait to start showing off my own Lumia 800.

I just need to get that pretty baby in my hands…

Disclosure: author is a former Nokia employee and current Nokia Developer Champion learning Qt


23 responses to “Microsoft + Nokia Babies: Hate at a Distance, Love Up Close

  1. I loved the Design, the Hardware is great and I don’t need a front camera. I like the weight and the camera takes good pictures. I never used a mobile for a video call. So I thought this phone should be fine for me.

    But I don’t want to use Bing, I haven’t found how to replace it with google and I was unable to connect this expensive device somewhere else except my Desktop!

    Searching the web the only feeling I got suggested was it is MY FAULT!

    Solution: I have to use Zune! –

    I simply to stupid and don’t know how to use it…

    I have to install Zune on every other Device I would like to connect my Phone to… even at a friends PC. WTF! 😡

    How could I put Zune on my digital photo frame?!

    I would have bought a iPhone if I had known this before. I have a iPod doc in my car and the iPone 4S is for me cheaper compared to the Lumia 800. The USB port is even not working in my car. So why have they put a USB connector in the Lumia 800 if it is not USB?
    They should have invented a own connector like Apple did instead of using USB. This way I could understand it and would search for a adaptor.

    This is very frustrating! I send it back and hope I will get soon my money back. Now I’m thinking about buying finally a iPhone 4S or a Samsung with Android. I’m still not sure. I can’t belive how immature this device was!

    In the advertising I read “offline navigation with maps on the device” – but the navigation doesn’t start without a online connection!

  2. And you think really deserved such blog posts, with a picture that many of us (well, at least I) will find very humilating? Respect our feelings, please.

    For developers like me who have spent countless hours in Maemo/MeeGo bugtrackers, writing software, fixing software, all to make the Maemo community happy, it is much much harder to forgive than it is for the end users.

    And all I can think of if I read about the Lumia marketing budget, the Deadmau5 concert in London and the 25k hand-outs is this one thing: What if – WHAT IF – the N9 had gotten the same chance? And for that robbed opportunity – to finally get a polished end-consumer ready Linux device from Nokia to the masses – I can never forgive those who made or support the Nokia/Microsoft deal.

    • Michael, you’re ignoring my own contributions to Maemo and MeeGo. I’m not just some “end user”. I was there from the start as a Nokia employee, helping build a community around products I truly loved. If you like, I can point you to blog posts here supporting that. Right now you’re leaping to flawed conclusions.

      The point of this article was not to disrespect anyone, or forgive and forget anything. It was to point out that at least some of the bashing has been without just cause… and I point at myself, too.

      As for the picture: it was a bit of a joke following the headline. But by all means, thumb down the link at Planet Maemo .

  3. Hey Texrat, very nice post and it’s actually not far from my own feelings regarding this whole situation.

    About the fate of Maemo and MeeGo: I symphatize with all the people who believe in it, especially because I believed in it too. It’s a pity that the story didn’t work out well.

    How I feel about the Lumia specifically? It is a great device, and once you get past the “yuck WP7” feeling, it turns out to be a nice experience. In fact, despite its tight release schedule and obvious shortcomings, it feels a lot more like a finished product. No offence to the Harmattan team, but I can’t comprehend why they didn’t manage to stabilise their software despite the fact that it’s one year (or more?) overdue…
    I am of course missing a lot of Harmattan stuff from the Lumia. In fact, WP7 is very primitive, but in the positive sense. It’s so simple that I never have to think about where to click, it boots fast, apps launch fast, and the builtin apps don’t contain bugs or graphical glitches, at least I couldn’t notice any in these two days.

    So yeah, as a long-time .NET developer I’m biased, I also still think that Harmattan is the better, but I’d pick WP7 over iOS or Android any day.
    I will not quit doing QML and Qt, but I’m grateful for Nokia for letting me develop for their new platform too.

    – as a test of the vkb, I typed this from my Lumia 800 🙂

  4. While I don’t think some of the N9 vs Lumia 800 hardware differences will be deal-breakers for people sizing up the Lumia 800 on its own merits, I really don’t understand why Nokia didn’t make the Lumia 800 a world-friendly pentaband GSM phone like Nokia’s other recent smartphones that are officially available in the US… N8, E7, 700, others?

    I just bought a Nokia 700 (pentaband GSM), and I still prefer the N900 over any other phone I’ve owned, but I don’t mind spending/justifying $$$$ for worthwhile devices, and I might still buy an N9 (out of pocket, for $$$$) for the form factor, mostly because I have no interest in AT&T (thrilled with T-Mobile USA service and prices, thank you) for cell service, even with a gifted Lumia 800.

    More generally, I’m not opposed to development on any platform, as long as the related effort, training, etc… is justifiable, or at least fulfilling and worthwhile, if the interest isn’t necessarily monetary, e.g. open-source projects, but I’m sure that justification depends on whether the development is more driven by paycheck or community and if development on a particular platform fulfills less-tangible personal or communityinterests.

  5. Apart from having a new gadget to play with, what’s so appealing in these phones.
    I mean, hardware-wise are there any peculiarities which make them innovative and give the user or tinkerer something more?
    And, software-wise, apart from another user interface, what are they allowing you to do better, or are they going to do of never seen before?
    My guess is that there is nothing new or better, there is simply the expected excitation for new shining toys and the hope in a new market for professional developers which find the Symbian, iPhone and Android worlds already saturated with apps for practically everything.
    One thing, however,I find interesting is the shift from icons to typography in the phone’s main commands and areas. After an iconic orgy that has lasted decades, people might find easier to read things than to guess from 48×48 somehow enigmatic ideograms 🙂

    • For me the attraction isn’t necessarily what’s better, but what’s different. I also have a lot of Windows development experience and want to see how much applies. Curious more than anything else.

      I’m intrigued by technology in general and personally think a lot of the religious wars over various tech flavors are pointless. That said, if I ruled the world it would be open. 😉

  6. I still don’t get it why such a big Company like Nokia is unable to support 2 systems and must put away their former satisfied custormers?

    WP7 is fine for the mass market and MeeGo for the more ambitious customers. My N9 works perfectly and fells very valuable. So why not keep those efforts and create a successor?

    Even Samsung supports 3 systems. Android, WP7 and their own system. So why can’t Nokia?

  7. Pingback: Microsoft + Nokia Babies: Hate at a Distance, Love Up Close … | اطعج … للحقيقة أصول

  8. I agree with most of these points. I was so excited with the prospect of the N9, having an open phone that has all the functionality I could need built in, or could be picked up from the repository. I own and type this with my Nokia C7 as my computer is out of commission. And it does everything I need it to. When I bought it, I inserted my sim card, used USB OTG and bluetooth to get my music, videos and important data from my other phones and I was set. Buying an iOS or WP7 device that can’t do anything without their native software installed on a computer is rediculous. Symbian may not be the prettiest or most dazzling OS, but it has and does what you need it to, it gets the job done. A few months ago my brother asked me about buying a tablet because he didn’t have a computer and thought that they were just as good and worked the same. I told him that instead of the iPad 2, to buy himself a Core i5 notebook, which was cheaper. I also explicitly told him that any iOS device has to be activated through iTunes on a PC before it can function. So ignoring my advice he buys the iPad 2, because his friends had them. He’s 23 years old and I’m his 18 year old younger brother, but I’m still more sensible than him, he bought it to be more popular with his friends at work. Then he calls me at 3am because it won’t work. I then explained that it has to be registered through iTunes and put down the phone. The next day I had to ask my friend to borrow her laptop so that I had to activate the stupid thing, and when I told him to give me his N8 so that I could copy his data over, he said he’d do it later with a bluetooth file transfer, after I’d explained that it doesn’t work. So he basically spent R6500(about $580) on a shiny brick instead of an actual computer that he could have used at his job. He made the mistake, I had to fix it, and all he does is read overpriced iBooks, of books he’s already read. You can’t add data with USB OTG or bluetooth because it doesn’t support mass storage or wireless transfers, it’s camera is useless and he spent a fat chunk of his month’s salary on a shiny brick. Whereas my Symbian C7 which cost half the price can do everything it won’t. But he still thinks it’s the best purchase he’s ever made. It just proves that certain people are idiots who choose fashion over usefulness.

  9. There is a moral choice involved. Microsoft as a company behaves indecently, using patents for trolling and engaging in anti-competitive behavior being hostile to open systems (such as Linux). So one should first of all choose to avoid supporting Microsoft on the moral grounds, rather than on technical ones.

    • I feel really lucky to get paid to work on *nix machines all day, and to have the freedom to put together homegrown open-source solutions for most projects, and to evaluate other solutions on technical merits, as opposed to shopping with a fat wallet, and becoming increasingly dependent on a particular OS or vendor or architecture.

      On the other hand, I’ve written Win16 console programs for DOS/Win 3.1, and Win32 programs for purely Win32 environments (in the mid/late 90’s), because the need was there, and I didn’t have the same experience that I have now.

      I’m absolutely mourning the loss of Maemo and Meego and even Symbian for Qt development, but it also gets a bit exhausting trying to explain the merits of open-source software, and my preferences for my Nokia devices over iOS and Android and Windows Phone, or more specifically… trying to *justify* putting effort into Nokia devices when Nokia has left so many user and developers in such an awkward position.

      I also feel lucky that the ‘stranger than fiction’ past couple of years with Nokia doesn’t directly affect my paycheck or livelihood, since my personal investment is mostly at hobby-level, plus or minus the out-of-pocket expense for a handful of phones, and gentleman’s agreements for a couple of loaner/development devices, which have admittedly been soured by the recent landscape, or that’s my excuse for not feeling as enthusiastic about these things as I did a year ago.

      Still, at the job I get paid for, I can certainly raise specific technical issues with software, and submit bug reports, and lobby vendors to address particular issues… but I think the most productive action against companies that don’t produce products I want, or that have ethical issues with production or even core business models… is just to actively search out alternatives, and do my best to support and lobby for the alternatives, with sound technical arguments.

    • Shmerl, I can sympathize with your position, but that gets onto a slippery slope of moral relativism. At a certain point many of us have to do “deals with a devil” and often that means picking what we see to be a lesser evil. For instance, I see Apple as “more evil” than Microsoft and so I avoid Apple’s products and platform. And I won’t defend every practice of Microsoft’s because you are correct: they engage in many that I deplore.

      I used to see Nokia as Mostly Good but they have disappointed me in the past few years with some business decisions so now I don’t know what to think. And don’t get me started on Google, which to me seems very bipolar with equal aspects of good and evil.

      It may sound quaint, but when I choose to get involved with a Microsoft product, such as developing for Windows Phone, I try to infuse as much of my own principles as possible into the effort. That goes so far as to tell Microsoft how I feel about certain practices, such as software patents (I am totally against them). It’s easier to gain their ear as a participant than as an opponent… and potentially easier to influence. That’s something many Linux devotees don’t seem to grasp. Attacks are not usually viewed as constructive criticism.

      I have solved some very big business problems with useful and powerful COM and .NET creations over the years… and could have made some good money by going commercial with a few. But I prefer to freely share my code, ideas and philosophies with others instead. That’s how I sleep with myself after dealing with the Microsoft devil.

  10. Pingback: Microsoft + Nokia Babies: Hate at a Distance, Love Up Close … | Maemo Meego

  11. Thanks Texrat for mentioning me! 🙂

    I am still to write a detailed blog post about my feelings towards this device and the comparison between the Lumias and the N9 (while I think that would be a lengthy discussion that will not end with one or even a few blog posts). I have a long history with Maemo and also the N9 (I was in the end part of the internal team creating the product so I know more about Harmattan than I can discuss) which leads to many feelings while using the Lumia 800 which are quite hard to express. In the end, whichever I want to put it, the Lumia 800 feels more polished as an end user device. I want to write more about this, but that’s the god honest truth I feel. We can discuss about the morality that Google, Apple and Microsoft have when they do business and around their products, but I really want to get beyond that. In the end it’s anyway about the products these companies deliver first and foremost to the end users and secondly to the developers.

    I hope I too have the time soon to write about my feelings and a detailed comparison between the Lumia 800 and the N9 but until then, and after that, I am sure there’s going to be a debate if switching to WP was a good or a bad thing for Nokia. I think I know what I think was the correct move.

  12. Am with Helmuth, why doesn’t Nokia contribute on 2 OSes. Its normal, as Helmoth stated in the comment above, samsung has two OSes.

    • Define normal. Why should a company contribute on 2 OSes. Apple certainly doesn’t. Nor does Google.

      And the matter of fact is that Nokia has two OSes; Windows Phone and NOS (running on S40). Does Nokia really need more?

  13. I’m starting to think I should have placed a question mark at the end of the blog headline… 😉

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