When do we call it? RIM is dead. Apple is the most valuable company in the world. Android is the best-selling smart phone OS world-wide. Microsoft cannot afford to lose.
Now, what happened with RIM is sad. It’s a good company; they did a great job. Ok, let’s not be overly generous; their phone OS, like Nokia’s, has always been awful. Yes, people loved their Blackberry’s. But people didn’t know any better. RIM’s mistake? They saw an opportunity (to enter the consumer space in a big way) and they took it.
They made a lot of money.
But it wasn’t the heart of the company. Their core competence was with the Blackberry service and with enterprise. They just faked it in the consumer space. RIM rode the wave for a little while then got destroyed by the big boys.
They made a lot of money.
Now they are sinking fast and likely the wake will take them all the way down (leaving nothing or at least much less than what would have been left had they stuck to their market). Sometimes things happen that way.
I, for one, am proud of Nokia (even though I’ve criticized them in the past for making crappy phone software). They are trying to do something different (unlike Samsung say). Lumia phones are unique and cool hardware-wise. Going all-in with the Microsoft phone OS (formerly known as Metro) instead of Android was a tough, bold call. Things to consider when predicting the success of the Lumia and of Nokia:
Metro gets good reviews (even from people I know who use it).
Metro’s biggest issue: it’s GUI is boring, every app looks the same.
Palm also had an innovative (and competitive to iOS/Android) operating system and good hardware, and failed…hard.
Microsoft has to win this – they need to at least be third and will spend any amount of money to do so (they will buy RIM, twist its enterprise partners arms, etc.), and they have the money.
For more experienced users, cloud storage solutions like Dropbox provide a much more familiar experience. But for novice users, history has shown that direct interaction with the file system is where usability goes to die. iCloud blunts the worst of these sharp edges, but in the process it also sacrifices some extremely desirable traits that users cling to.
Jobs had this philosophy as well – apparently a lot of user interaction testing shows that file system confuses the hell out of some people. But, does anyone remember Windows 3.0? The file system – if I remember correctly – worked the same way. Files were saved intra-application. It royally sucked. It just wasn’t useful. And you see that in iOS as well. One of the best parts of System 7 was the file-oriented nature of the OS, the solid-ness of the system with respect to files. I miss that.
So I’m against this iOS trend. I think it is limiting for the tool – and tools should be as empowering as possible right?
Belief: Company X could have came to market with product Y Z years ago!
Implied: Company X would have owned the market like Company A does now.
Reality: Product Y would have sucked and nothing would be different.
Today Nokia announced that it lost $1.7 billion in the second quarter, its fifth quarterly net loss in a row. Just a few hours before the announcement, the WSJ published a great piece revealing how, as early as 2000, the Finnish phone maker had designed a proto-iPhone – complete with a color touch screen and geo-location, gaming, and e-commerce capabilities. The phone, though, never moved into the mass production phase because of ”a corporate culture that lavished funds on research but squandered opportunities to bring the innovations it produced to market.”
While it’s not surprising that a lumbering, oversized multinational corporation failed on the innovation front, it’s clear that Nokia does not suffer from a dearth of ideas: It spent $40 billion on research and development over the past decade, almost four times what Apple spent over the same period. Nokia also developed and ultimately discarded not one but two operating systems, Symbian and MeeGo. Nokia’s deficiency lies in what Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble call “the other side of innovation,” or the problem with executing new ideas, not just thinking them up.
Nokia had a nice piece of hardware in tablet form years ago based on Linux: it never took off. This mythical iphone-pre-iphone would also have had no traction. Nokia phones have always sucked software-wise (if you don’t think so, you just didn’t know any better). Basically no one knew any better until the iPhone arrived (except Palm Treo users to some extent).