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Interview with Mikko Rontynen about S60
Over at Nokia, Mikko Rontynen holds the post of Head of product marketing and is responsible for the development of S60 platform. Here is a short snippet taken from his bio that was quoted at S60 Summit:
Mikko Rontynen has a background within the international IT/mobile industry for over 15 years. He is currently working in Nokia Mobile Software Sales and Marketing unit, as the head of product marketing team for the S60 smartphone platform. Prior to joining Nokia Mikko worked as a senior product manager in First Hop, being responsible for the mobile messaging product line. He has previously held various consultant, product management and product marketing positions at companies such as Teamware Group (Fujitsu) and ICL. Mikko Rontynen holds a MSc (Technology) degree from Helsinki University of Technology.
But without much ado, let us get straight to the interview, fortunately we touched upon many issues back then, though not the lesser part of them is left behind the scenes, and right after the interview we managed to sit down with Mikko again, he is very good company. Take this fact alone – Mikko has used all communicators, starting from Nokia 9000 one after another. Nevertheless, back to the present day.
EM. Mikko, thanks for you presentation today, it was inspiring.
EM. I want to ask you about additional or extra software for S60. Some time ago, you used to include a lot of free extra programs with devices. Today we see, that this still holds true for some middle-range handsets, but for a flagship like Nokia N95 we now have to pay for some software, like editing features in QuickOffice (only viewer mode by default), or have to face trimmed suite of pre-installed applications.
MR. I think it is all about targeting of device at different and specific segments. And there is always a decision what necessary functionality we need for a specific segment, purpose. In E-Series we have full featured editor, VPN-client etc, because you expect to find these features in such business-oriented devices, but these don’t necessarily have to be installed in others devices. It is an example of the flexibility that we provide, depending of what our target segments are. It doesn’t make sense to fit always everything into all devices, because the requirements on hardware side are much higher, much more complex. This is an example for support of different segmentation policies.
EM. In the first generation of E-Series devices you had used own viewer for Microsoft Office documents, later you changed it over to Quick Office and canceled further development of own solution. But this one was really good, even better than that found in Windows Mobile devices. Today this viewer is used for Messaging apps in Nokia N95 only.
MR. Thanks for such words about our document viewer. First of all, this kind of viewer is not a core S60 application. Yes, we have such sort of specific viewer which was developed by us, now we have QuickOffice solution. Also, we have Picsel Viewer which is used by Samsung for S60 devices. It is some kind of layer on the top of S60 and this is up to the manufacturer to decide which solution to use. We don’t see anything that would make sense for us to develop such kind of solutions. There are good solutions from our partners like QuickOffice and we could use them.
EM. But on the other hand if you implement such solution in all devices it will cost you a lot of money. Buying out the developer of such solution is the best way, isn’t it?
MR. Yes, it always the question: to make or to buy. It is a kind of normal R&D decision which has to be done, what kind of model we will be using. From our point of view, the best business solution for this kind of application is partnership with QuickOffice.
EM. Up until today Nokia has had three product lines of S60 devices, N-, E-Series and also products from Nokia Mobile Phone Division. But in terms of connectivity and messaging, E-Series is more advanced, while multimedia is better in N-Series etc. Actually, these are three different R&D teams, working on the same platform. Will this situation remain the same in future?
MR. At S60, we make a core which is used in E-Series, N-Series and also in Mobile Phone Division. Nokia Multimedia Group and Enterprise Solutions are working on top of that; they are adding extra features to the email client, business applications. That’s how we work. S60 is the core and differentiation, add-ons are provided by our licensees, some of them do more of such work, some do less, though. But Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions or Multimedia Division put a lot of effort into making different devices for the market. It is different on a higher level, but the core is still ours.
EM. Sounds strange, because Nokia is the only company with different business units…
MR. But requirements for the devices are also different. This is what’s driving this model. We see that business-oriented devices have a lot of special requirements. Of course it is possible for Enterprise Solutions and Multimedia to share some solutions, it makes sense. For example, you could find VPN-clients in the N-Series devices, it is not totally separated. But in a way they are handled separately because the focus of the particular business group is different.
EM. Let’s talk about Symbian OS development. Version 9.5 comes with some improvements, but first devices will see release only next year. And this year, in June or July, S60 solutions with Features Pack 2 are arriving in the market. Is it critical for Nokia to reduce time-to-market for new tools and OS?
MR. We work side by side with Symbian. And we are very happy about functionality and features which we need in S60 from the kernel in the operating system. It is not really the question about getting implementation of the certain Symbian OS release faster. It actually works pretty well as it is. We, at S60, aren’t using all versions of Symbian, for example, we didn’t use the version 9.0 at all, and it is our choice after all.
EM. Around 6-8 months ago, Nokia CEO said that you are no anymore a mobile phone maker but an internet company. In the S60 blog there has been a lot of speculation, what kind of company it is? How do we define an internet company? Is it possible to get two different things, such as S60 and S40, together? My question is about widgets. It is a simple way to make the same cross-platform solutions, environment not only for S60 devices but in future for S40 products as well.
MR. Of course we could see the same kind of environment with Java application already for S40 and S60. Technically there is no reason at least in my understanding why widgets couldn’t be used on S40 devices. Look at the current browser for S40 devices; it isn’t the same browser as in S60. The proper widget engine is a browser engine and that’s what we have in S60.
EM. What do you think about web browsing experience on S60 devices? It is really cool but for some countries with low speed connection it is quite a pain.
MR. Of course it isn’t only about the browser, it is also about bandwidth and the speed. Browsing over GPRS is not so exciting, you have to use a mobile-oriented browser. But if you have EDGE which has been rolled out before WCDMA in many countries, for USA EDGE is good for example, you will find browsing experience exciting. Our point of view is that bandwidth is increasing constantly, in certain markets it takes it more time to get raised. Also, the device capabilities are getting better, like display sizes and so on. Broadband creates not a mobile web, it will be a complete experience, one web for all.
EM. You are going into GPS-based solutions. Today you have Nokia Maps or Smart2Go, will you support third party solutions in future for Nokia devices?
MR. As a platform vendor we want to see many navigation solutions. It is great to know that TomTom, NaviCom are there and obviously, different solutions have good sides and bad sides. It is user who chooses the solution after all. In certain Nokia devices there is pre-build navigation software, in some devices there is no bundled software. It is individual choice for the customer, some kind of segmentation. Of course, Nokia has acquired Gate5 and it makes sense to use their technology in own products, and this software will come pre-installed in future.
EM. We carried out some kind of research and found out that a lot of people even didn’t know that they were using a S60 smartphone.
MR. Exactly. That is the difference between Windows Mobile and S60, where the consumer awareness is not as high as we would like to have it. This is something we are introducing in S60, like our logo “Open to new features”, that gives understanding that you could do more with this device.
EM. Do you believe that PC download of extra applications will be successful on the market? Most people are using the mobile device for downloading new software, not PC.
MR. I think that development of this sort of content is definitely a critical part and I believe that the device is a more important one. The more advanced users are going to browse web for all kind of applications not only the shops which come pre-installed on devices. On the whole, the volume of market for all kinds of catalogues is important.
EM. In Feature Pack 2 the main idea is to build a more straightforward interface, make the device friendlier. On the other hand, some 3D effects and so on not so obvious, people would like to see it once but not all the time.
MR. I think that it is a design issue. I used FP2 in some devices, and if effects work fast enough then it is a nice way to improve the interface, you actually get a very good feeling about it.
EM. What about power consumption on S60 devices. Occasionally Nokia had to cancel some good features on devices only due to their being too power-hungry. In future, will there be some kind of choice for the end-user, to utilize such feature or not, or we should wait for more capacious batteries and won’t see such capabilities in the upcoming devices?
MR. (laughing) I think it is difficult to figure out the balance between functionality, power consumption and size of the device. It is really about optimizing on software and hardware side which we are actually making. Which technology is mature and which one will be integrated, is always a technology-specific question. The GPS chips are probably not ready today in terms of power consumption but in future we will see other hardware solutions. All kinds of radio technology do consume much power, as well as display etc.
EM. Thanks a lot for this interesting interview.
Published - 11 May 2006
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