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Interview with Mauri Metsaranta on S60 software
Director, Software Platforms Marketing Nokia Corporation
Mr. Mauri Metsaranta, Director, Software Platforms Marketing, Nokia, has over twenty years of international experience in the IT and telecommunications industries. He has held various senior positions in sales, marketing and business management. He joined Nokia in 1998 and is currently responsible for the market development and marketing of Nokia Software Platforms. His main focus areas cover S60 software on Symbian OS, Java, Flash and other open software technologies.
EM. My first question concerns adaptation of software for various regions? Today in the presentation it was mentioned that you have multiple languages support in FP2, and also some regional differences, for example the lunar calendar for Asia, where it is very popular. Will there be different applications for local markets among standard features for S60 in future?
I believe that some features of this kind will be implemented but we always consider the possibility of integrating an application that already exists in the market, and we rather at least try to use it at the beginning and take and opportunity to have a partner. As for the Lunar Calendar and such features – I have heard about them. And I also think that it is also input method that matters, not only language. These are really keys features and we really need close cooperation on the language environment with particular regions. That is really what we are focusing on.
EM. Lately Nokia has been promoting some kind of cooperation with web-services like Yahoo, Google and others. But what about the future, when you launch some own services, and probably extra software for your devices - how it will be promoted?
Well, the key element for us is to maintain the platform consistence, so that the applications work across the entire portfolio. That is of course only one thing that allows S60 to act as the identifier of these applications for people. S60 is a benefit brand and we believe that the device brand and the service brand (if it’s an operator brand) is what we need to support, Nokia brand or Samsung brand, rather than build a huge equity for S60 brand. We are not trying to capture the whole software value under S60. Quite differently, we are mostly focusing on extensibility so that people are able download software and personalize their S60-based devices. That is the benefit marketing we are doing; the strategy is the same as you see in clothing industry, for example GoreTex, it fills the value of the end-product. And we also have a logo program for S60 devices and it is starting to be implemented, and of course it is voluntary. Also we are trying to build up S60 as the identifier. Then from our point of view, we try to make sure that the software features are notable in the market, since sometimes we see that one key feature may override some other important features. And we are trying to ensure that most of the value-added software features is properly highlighted. And this means that we need to have a very close collaboration with licensees and also provide them with knowledge and skills to highlight these features. Another thing of note here is the experience. We feel that the S60’s extensibility is an experience like Internet or navigation or some other music experience. It’s a similar kind of experience and we want it to be marketed as one experience. We want the consumers know that they can personalize the device to meet their needs, have all these cool applications.
EM. You mentioned consistence across the device portfolio, but in the near future you are going re-launch the N-Gage brand and this gaming experience will be categorized, because some games will be available across the entire portfolio and some games using hardware acceleration will enabled only for the N95, or similar products. And this will lead to some kind of misunderstanding - today you claim that regardless of the N-Series device one own he can use nearly 99% of all applications with it, saving for, maybe, GPS, but this is a conditional limitation. However with N-Gage this will stop making sense and bring about different experience for different products.
Yes, I agree. From S60 point of view we are driven by the consistency so that we provide this base layer to all licensees. But then the licensees are free to build up own differentiation on top of that, like multimedia is what the N-Series is, then the E-Series, also they have made the user interface a little bit different, added some applications and so forth. The N-Gage is another way of differentiation – there are no obstacles from our side that would prevent other licensees from doing similar differentiation. Actually we would welcome that. But then you should consider the options and system versions for such solution, and also the form-factor for those devices should be really gaming-friendly, hardware has to be optimized for gaming too. So if you want to make this kind of product it is partly about hardware design, partly about technological capabilities and awareness of developers and consumers of the features.
EM. You mentioned the link between gaming experience and hardware acceleration and as far as I know the life cycle for gaming products, will be considerably longer than for ordinary products – for an N-Gage device it will make up about 1,5 years per device, for people will not change it so willingly, due to the different experience. And this means that Nokia will become too concentrated on OMAP chipset, which they are using in the current devices, and which will stay here for next 2-3 years. Could you improve OMAP2420 enough to prevent it from getting outdated in two years’ time?
It is quite tough for me to give a comprehensive answer, because the actual device build is on our licensees’ side, so they make the decision on the hardware platforms and even in Nokia there are different roadmaps. Our licensees have their own traditional hardware environments and they want to leverage that and we want to comply with those requirements. So it is quite difficult for me to say in which direction they are actually going, we are just trying to enable that as a software layer.
EM. When you launched FP1, it brought along A2DP profile that could have been embedded in all devices, but in the end we see that a lot of people from Nokia state that it is a software omission, not something hardware-related, like with the Nokia 6290. What was the problem?
I really don’t know, but we could check that for sure.
EM. The S60 licensees, like Nokia, don’t provide much information on the operating system itself – they rather focus on N-Series, E-Series devices, on the current line-up. Could you comment on that?
We have very deep collaboration with the N-Series and the E-Series in key features, but they are really focusing on the applications that differentiate them. However, for example, when they want to highlight the browser, it is of course the S60 browser, and it is very interesting, but for consumers it is will be the N95 browser. I think people are buying benefits, not technologies, and of course, we don’t want to start selling operating systems. Naturally, a part of the audience is techi, but the rest of folks want to buy experience. Some time ago we came up the voice messaging feature – it was a big idea and then we went on bundling more features and traits, experiences of stand-alone devices, like music players, and the next step is connectivity, online services, which people are now experiencing via the Internet.
EM. I would like to highlight the issue with the Nokia browser – even being a mobile technologies professional, reading Nokia’s documents, Forum Nokia articles, specifications, I don’t know what these names are all about – you call it Nokia web browser, then – Safari and also – Nokia browser version 2. It is very strange when a lot of names of software lead to one and the same end-product. Also over at Nokia they like using the term “convergent device”. But speaking of the music front, to me it is generation zero, because the sound quality, not only in Nokia’s, but also in Walkman phones as well, is far and away not as good as on stand-alone MP3-players, (saving for the N91 and W950, though these are the top-of-the-line devices) and people see that. As for our opinion, it is based on our research “What do you think about smartphones?” Our goal was to find out what features people were using, what they liked/disliked in smartphones and there were about 25 questions on the list. First they had to name their devices and then answer whether it was a smartphone or an ordinary phone. And 69%, at 1200 participants, answered that their phones were everything but a smartphone, and they were mistaken. The problem is that, when we are talking about S60 – people even don’t know that it’s a smartphone, however they do know that it is a Nokia with 5 Mpix camera and GPS onboard, it is a cutting edge device, very sophisticated, and they like it. And we had another question – “Are you going to buy a product of this kind next time?” Around 40-45% gave us a negative answer – their smartphones were too complicated. It turns out that they are not so easy to master, people usually don’t read manuals. What could be done on this front, since people aren’t going to learn about new technologies on their own?
First, as concerns the smartphones. I sway towards the opinion that most of the consumers know that they own a smartphone. They have a feeling of what it really is. Also the smartphone definition varies a lot across the regions. But I would prefer that people really buy, for example, E61i and have all those features and enjoy them. So I don’t think that awareness of having a smartphone is that important. Of course in retail it would be much better to have them separated. Now onto the usability issue. Today, when we are moving towards mid-range devices, we definitely have the idea that this simplicity is the key. Some things can be concealed, so that only power users could find them, and the main structure could be very simplified. On the other hand when there is large number of different experiences, like in the N-Series, using new technologies leads to more complicated devices. So it is about finding the balance.
EM. When we are talking about simplicity – the main menu and sub-menus in the S60 devices today vary throughout the line-up. Occasionally you might find QuickOffice in the Organizer item, or even in Own Applications etc. Even I have to go through all menus every time to find out. What is the problem with that?
It is all about the different units that make their own decisions. We only provide a consistent environment upon which they build own solutions with their target audiences, target markets in mind, of course they prioritize some features in some cases to meet the consumer’s needs, but S60 itself is aiming to be more consistent; over at Multimedia they are building loyalty to the N-Series devices, and the Enterprise solutions do the same things for the E-Series. So the E-Series and the N-Series should be consistent in future.
EM. Thank you for the interview.
Published - 23 May 2006
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