Friday, February 11, 2011

The burning "platform"

When I first read Elop internal leaked memo, I thought the "plaftorm" that was burning was the whole Nokia as a company. And the way it was going ahead needed to change.
I thought it needed to act faster and be more flexible.

Instead he actually was referring to a platform the way we technical people use it: the Symbian Platform.

I didn't think about that. Symbian is Nokia as much Nokia is Symbian. I never would have thought they, too, would abandon it at one point.
I liked their idea of using Symbian on featurephones and smartphones while adopting a complete Linux stack (Maemo first on the N900 and MeeGo now) on their top-of-the-line devices (those they used to call "mini computers").
It made sense.

So I laughed at those who believed in rumors about Nokia embracing the WP7 platform. Because that, to me, meant dropping Symbian and MeeGo and I never believed it would happen.
Indeed, it didn't. But it's like it did.
They will continue to bring Symbian phones to the market.
They will continue to invest in MeeGo.

Issue is, as Elop said, these next two years are a transition period for Nokia.
What that means, to me, is that they haven't yet decided to took the plunge. They want to see how it goes.
Will Microsoft brand new platform really save Nokia's ass? True it's a compelling new platform with a sparkling shiny new UI paradigm (something even Apple's is missing), but it's still new.
Or will MeeGo really be the shiny true alternative to Android, iOS and WebOS (not to mention the RIM's one based on QNX) ?
Instead of focusing on one, they choose to pursue all of them and see which one will work best.
They sure have the money to do it and, with Microsoft's new platform ready to ship, also the time to do it.

I mean, I can understand that. Symbian was designed for a totally different hardware specs in mind and it shines in that (try to run a complete Linux stack, WebOS, Android or iOS on a featurephone), but it was NEVER designed to scale. It showed that and Nokia needed an alternative.
They tried Maemo.
That meant embracing the Open Source culture. And as we all know, that takes time. We are stubborn, they are as well.
True Maemo was mature enough, and by pushing it more it could have succeeded, but Nokia didn't believe in that. May be that was a misstep.
Maybe they had grander ideas in mind. Maemo as a scalable OS (from smartphones up to Netbooks, passing via the tablets...much like HP's trying to do now [brilliant]).
And that was probably what pushed them to merge Maemo in Moblin to make MeeGo.
But again, doing that properly, with a strong Open Source culture in it, takes a lot of time.
We all have seen it in Linux on the Desktop. We're slow. And that is not good for Nokia.
They needed something yesterday. And we were too slow.

That's why, I think, they went to Microsoft (or, maybe, the other way around, more in a minute).
They'll have a shiny platform (that is really promising, btw) right now (meaning we may see a Nokia WP7 mobile device by the end of the year?) and they can still continue experimenting with the open source community and MeeGo. At one point that platform may be powerful enough to drop WP7 again and embrace it fully.
But they clearly don't believe in that, yet.

There probably wasn't much choice either. WP7 still could allow them to differentiate from other hw vendors (everyone's selling an Android phone, few are selling WP7 phones).
And that maybe what pushed Microsoft to give Nokia more control on the hw than it gave the others.
Microsoft NEEDED a stronger ally after they've lost HP.
HTC seems to be mainly interested in Android and LG is too moody, perhaps.
Nokia's perfect for Microsoft. It's exactly what they needed. And they wanted it badly enough to give Nokia more control.

So, yeah, the big news is that they jumped from the burning (Symbian) "platform". But they didn't really made a big change yet. They are still waiting. Thus the "transition" period.

This is the way I see it.
So, what does this mean to us as MeeGo/Maemo Open Source community.
That's just guessing now. It may turn well if MeeGo proves itself. I mean IT IS a much nicer platform than Android or iOS. Slightly more flexible than webOS. But it needs much more than that to succeed in this world.
After all, Linux on the desktop IS far superior to anything else, but that's not enough and Canonical is understanding that.
The Open Source approach gives you freedom, but it slows you down. Democracy is such a bitch sometimes.