The Continuum Theory

Further to a comment I made yesterday here I felt inclined to pursue the topic of continuation in more detail.

It appears to me that ever since the release of the iPhone and following it’s undoubted success, many phone manufacturers have ditched what they know best; in many cases their historical heritage, and are now blindly pursuing their piece of the ‘iPhone Apple Pie’, churning out touchscreen model after touchscreen model without much consideration or at least without building upon what they have already given us, their loyal customers, in the past.

Nokia is undoubtedly a key example here, a company who have a rich heritage of doing things in their own way and standing out from the crowd with unique designs and up until WP, their own homegrown software as well (the now defunct Symbian, Maemo, MeeGo).

I look back at Nokia 3 years ago and consider some very promising new breed of models like the N900 or the N8 which given time could have gained more and more traction in the market if Nokia had had the inclination to nurture the seeds they had already planted.    Let us consider when the first iPhone came out, there were issues with the 1st generation which were ironed out with each successive model until this day where you have the iPhone 5 which is now a finely tuned, very successful version of the original.  The point is, Apple started with something relatively small which had huge potential, but perhaps wasn’t completely perfect upon release.  Given time and investment however the iPhone is now one of the best selling, most loved smartphones on the planet.

By this token, the same could have been true for original Nokia products such as the N900 or the Symbian-based N8.   Okay, like the first iPhone, both wern’t perfect upon release, but they had very strong potential to build on and refine into something even better.  You could argue that the N900 had plenty of opportunity to prove itself with its predecessors (N710; N800; N810), but the point is none of those previous models were accessible to the mass consumer in the way the N900 was, none of those predecessors could offer the main function you need from a mobile phone: to make phone calls.   Therefore, for many the N900 was the first in its class and in my eyes you have to discount its predecessors when looking at its potential future path to success as a ‘smartphone’.

Look at the Nokia N8 – another tremendous feat of hardware engineering, all bundled into a very neatly sized package with all the extras you could think of including an amazing camera (still one of the best in class almost 3yrs later!), HDMI out, TV out, Micro SD support, USB OTG, FM transmitter etc all bundled into the most beautifully engineered anodised, machined body, which is on top of that virtually bullet proof.   Okay, the software could have been much better upon release, but Belle today shows where an N8 could be in 2012/13, and it’s a vast improvement over the original release albeit still not quite perfect.

Leaving all other features in place, consider a Nokia N8 or N900 in 2012 with an up-to-date processor (minimum dual core 1.5ghz) and enough ROM (1gb +), improved software with a decent sized app store (Nokia Belle is almost there in terms of apps) and you would have phones that would be very viable alternatives to the likes of iPhone.   I would go further and suggest Nokia should have committed to one ecosystem early on, choosing between Maemo or Symbian (IMO Maemo but more accessible in terms of apps) so they could have put all of their resources into making one of these ecosystems into a viable success.  Expending time, energy and resources on 2 half baked ecosystems was never a good idea and inevitably led to loss in confidence and internal conflict.

The point is that, given another 3 years, either of these models could have been built upon and could have been refined to be the best in class today.

As a customer, I expect just this: CONTINUATION.  I don’t always expect the 1st version to be 100% perfect, but I know that by the time the second, third or even fourth generation is ready, the manufacturer will have learned along the way and made a much better, refined product with each successive iteration.

Sadly Nokia lost it’s bottle and in the process any potential continuation on those models was ceased.

Okay, the 808 Pureview and the Nokia N9 could at least be considered as ‘almost’ successors to the N8 and N900 respectively, but with completely different aesthetics and a lack of OS continuation, there were never going to many network operators who would be willing to take the risk on these ‘stillborn’ devices, and arguably their potential success was killed off before they even left the starting blocks.

The big frustration, here for me, is that when I consider buying a Nokia today, there is but one viable option for the high end: Lumia.   I was as excited as the next person when I started seeing the 2nd gen WP8 lovely colourful fabula designs which stemmed from the original N9 look, but then I started hearing more of the capabilities (or the lack thereof) of these devices and found there were some serious downgrades in terms of hardware when compared with eg. N8/N900 – so what’s going on here?   Okay, they may be acceptable to the average consumer, but where is the continuation that we expected from investing in products like N8/N900 ?   Is it Microsoft who are holding things up by not having the appropriate drivers to match Nokia hardware that was running fine on Symbian or Maemo OS 3 years ago or have Nokia just decided to drop key features in the interest of increasing their profit margins ?

The point is, with Maemo, like Apple, Nokia had planted seeds in fertile soils and just needed to be patient and water them in order for them to organically grow into beautiful trees bearing the fruits of their work, but with Windows Phone, they have taken a half grown stunted sapling and expect it to thrive in a desert where it will need a heck of a lot more watering and fertiliser in order to survive.

I promise I’m not trying to Nokia bash here because I dearly love Nokia and I really want desperately for them to succeed, but this post is really born out of an absolute frustration for what ‘could have been’ in 2013.

Let’s hope that Nokia can continue building on the Lumia series and one day (hopefully soon) can bloom and offer similar hardware features in their Lumia devices comparable to my 3yr old Nokia N8 and N900…from a personal POV all I would like to see in a Lumia today on top of what they have already delivered, with this continuation in mind, is: TV out, decent multitasking, an FM transmitter (or equivalent), possibly a QWERTY slide-out option and of course solid software to match but sadly for now, 3 years later, I’m still waiting.

With all of this in mind. the best thing Jolla can do IMO is learn from these mistakes, and release a product that offers perhaps even a little continuation from products they themselves worked on at Nokia.   We won’t necessarily expect the first iteration to be 100% perfect, but at least promise us continuation (both software and hardware) in future devices so we don’t lose all hope for the second time around.

Wiseman says: Nurture your seeds and they will continue to grow into strong trees bearing the fruit of your labour year after year.

Thanks for making it to the end and as ever, I would love to hear your thoughts.  🙂