Unfounded, Twitter-Fueled Nokia Speculation

It is well observed that I’m a fan of Nokia products. Not so much the devices, but the experiments and research items that come from them are the kinds of things which fuels all kinds of thinking and imaginations. More fuel was added to the fire today via a brief mention on Twitter, and for once, I’m anxious to see what will happen.

The Kindling
Things started with me taking note of a comment by a Nokia employee (Chanse Arrington) concerning their Ovi Suite product:

PLUS!!! Ovi Suite is being written and optimized in Qt, so a Mac and Linux version are in the future.

I used to be a fan of this kind of interaction between mobile devices and attending PCs. However, in recent years, I’ve come to see and use mobile devices as PCs in their own right, and so a comment like this coming from someone who does get to see/play with some items before they hit the public kind of made me wince a bit.

So, I responded (technically, interjected in a conversation that was public but not my own):

Ovi Suite being written in Qt isn’t a solution, its musical chairs. Better sol is nearer to MWS, platform written in web

Then he responded:

We have some plans here as well, more to come soon. Are you going to Nokia World?

Leave it to the 140 character limit of Twitter to spawn some speculation in a bro.

My Thinking
Nokia has played the part of a good sport for several market cycles now. Despite them still having a significant lead in device sales, the mindshare losses (innovation, brand, etc.) and profit trimmings (this year Apple became more profitable with fewer devices; but deeper service integration) have all contributed to a slanted – if not not quite fair look – at the mobile giant. They are a company under a lot of pressure to meet the smaller, louder companies in the industry, and have been making changes in that direction for a number of years now. Not a lot has been seen, respected, or acknowledged.

Concerning mindshare and brand, this is something that’s spun way out of their control. In a move last year, Nokia announced they would begin to pull back on some of the major show circuits, intending to craft their own experiences and buzz around their own events – with the annual Nokia World event as the main occasion for resetting expectations, releasing products, and displaying their leadership.

With this thinking, I began looking at the recent leaks towards Nokia devices (the C7 and N9), and the weird and plentiful announcements of the N8 in a different light: what if Nokia is not going to use Nokia World this year as a jumping off point for the imagination-catching new devices that some are looking for? What if they are going to take a broader step, a more innovative and adventurous step even, towards that idea of being a services company (following through on their corporate transformation). What could that look like?

…a service enabler.

History of the Mobile Web Server
Again, I don’t need to dive back into a history of the Mobile Web Server (MWS) product (I talk about it enough as it is), but there’s something in its administration to which history might be useful to look back onto.

With the MWS product, any Nokia mobile device had the ability to be a server. The MWS software also provided a framework for handling some aspects of your mobile device without taking it out of your pocket. You effectively had much of what Nokia offers in the PC Suite and Ovi Suite products, things just lived on your mobile device, and were accessible through a Nokia-provided (and secured) gateway (the mymobilesite.net service).

What if – just based on that history of what the MWS was, and that comment from @chansearrington that Nokia was planning to re-announce some aspect of Ovi as a mobile web server?

What would and Ovi MWS Look Like?
Strong assumption, but it behooves me to break down what this service offering could look like.

First off, I don’t know that it would have a blog and photo gallery component. The latter already exists with Ovi Share and is being merged into the Yahoo Flickr offering at some point in the next 18mos. A blog could incur too much of a cost to bandwidth concerns. I’d probably guess that Nokia would offer this as an app with some carrier interests in mind though.

The calendaring, contacts, and messaging aspects would be key here. As would the admin panel which allows you to display to others the status of your device/calendar (meeting, on the phone, available, etc.). I’d expect this aspect to be included, and probably at no cost to the user.

Of course, Nokia is a company that needs revenues, and democratizing the web like this (with the 1million or so devices per day they sell) would be huge. So, you’d have to assume that a blog, possibly enhanced photo gallery, API access for developers and companies (analytics, ad serving, vertical products), and probably Nokia Life Tools would be aspects of this service which would be add-ons customers would pay for.

Ovi Maps gets very interesting here as running an Ovi MWS plus Ovi Maps is an instant tie into LBS services which take best advantage of the immediacy of mobile data.

There could be some integration here with the Novarra acquisition they had earlier this year (Novarra had a product called Vision which made drag and drop possible between a web browser and a mobile device). Such a server technology could easily be leveraged to turn the browser into a second “screen” for a mobile device. And given the amount of browsers with tab-based interfaces, it would be easily leveraged without needing to teach a person anything more than logging onto their mobile from any web browser. For now, I’ll ignore the HTML5 and security implications of such use.

Another Reason This is Possible
A few days back, Nokia announced that they acquired the analytics firm Motally. While some might have looked at that purchase as something a lot questionable, I wondered if Nokia has finally gotten to the point where they could create products which could create the data they wish to analyze and sell, but didn’t have enough intellectual capacity to quickly take that information from raw data to usable streams for their Device and Services divisions.

It’s Just a Twitter Speculation Thought
Considering that I can’t make it to Nokia World (unless a few miracles happen), I’ll have to listen for this from the sidelines. But, I can say that Chanse’s comments did give me a bit to rethink about in light of the pressures that Nokia has to make each Nokia World event something more than the confirmation of leaked devices and copycat services.

You never know, we just might get that really cool mobile future a lot sooner than later.

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