Tag Archives: Nokia

Mar 25

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Gadgets, Marketing, Products, Stage Two, UI/UX

Why Usability Matters: A Nokia Post Mortem

Andrew Orlowski has a detailed article in The Register that looks at why Nokia’s mobile ecosystem failed. It wasn’t because their Symbian software was faulty (the article states that Symbian devices actually performed better than others in terms of signal strength and battery life). According to the article, Symbian died because it lacked usability. Quoting from the page:

Nokia’s phones were considered uncompetitive in the marketplace, because new products from Apple and Android had raised the bar for ease of use, particularly for new data applications, and Nokia’s user experience was awful.

The UX matters: it’s the first thing potential customers see when a friend passes them their new phone in the pub. A well-designed UX is consistent, forgiving and rewarding; Nokia’s user experience was inconsistent, unforgiving and hostile.

This last point is especially salient. Apple’s focus on usability and user experience is one of the reasons they have been so successful with devices like the iPad 2. In order to succeed, device makers must deliver well designed products with great UX.

GigaOm delivered their own Symbian autopsy in which ex-Nokia designer Adam Greenfield stated that the cause of death was lack of taste. “There’s nobody with any taste in the decision-making echelons at Nokia,” he writes. Steve Jobs has made similar comments about a lack of taste in the tech sector in the past. Tasteful design and desirable user experiences matter more to consumers than hardware specs and processing power.

While UX is certainly a critical component of successful product development, we see another key factor that led to Nokia abandoning their mobile ecosystem – the rise of 3G and constantly connected devices. In our opinion, Nokia (and Palm, for that matter) got into trouble early in the 3G adoption curve. The company built a bevy of brilliant feature phones up until the 3G paradigm shift, but once technologies like email and mobile web arrived, Nokia failed to adapt in the ways consumers wanted. Its operating system could not handle these newer features and the entire platform stagnated. Eventually, the OS fell too far behind the rest of the market to save it. When people examine the end of the Symbian ecosystem, usability issues will certainly come up.

Great usability must work in concert with a nimble, adaptive corporation that can respond to (and hopefully initiate) tech trends. And this – by the way – is how Apple could one day fail. If a paradigm shift occurs outside Cupertino and Apple fails to pay attention to it, they could move quickly from market leader to tech laggard. As a final aside, placing widgets on homescreens is not something we consider a paradigm shift (hint, hint, Android). When a real computing sea change happens, the winners will be the companies that recognize it and react swiftly.

Feb 16

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Stage Two

Why Microsoft Should Kin The Zune

If the first image your brand conjures up is this one, it’s time to build a better brand.

Stephen Elop and Steve Ballmer recently issued an open letter outlining – in great detail – the strategic partnership between Nokia and Microsoft. However, the letter (which is really a press release signed by two CEOs) never mentions Zune once. In fact, it seems that neither company has had much to say about how the Zune brand fits in to the emerging Windows/Nokia mobile ecosystem. This has led some industry observers to conclude that the Zune “brand is on its last legs.“  Paul Therrott writes that “Zune was conspicuously missing—both in discussions from both Elop and Ballmer and on a global reach marketing slide that was created by both companies.”

Where's Zune?

Paul continues:

My sources tell me that the Zune brand is on the way out and that all Zune products and services will be moved into other businesses, including Windows Live. Zune will essentially cease to exist under this plan.

Mary Jo Foley has more at ZDNet, including a standard “we are not killing off Zune” statement from Microsoft and this clever piece of reporting:

Some veteran Microsoft heavy-hitters are moving to the Xbox division, as I’ve blogged recently, and are seemingly working on some kind of services-focused project . . . Maybe the Zune service will end up as part of the evolving Microsoft IPTV strategy?

It seems likely that Zune will be rebranded (as Windows Live or XBOX Media) or killed off in the coming months. Some have opined that getting rid of the Zune brand would be “foolish.” However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s why Microsoft should Kin the Zune.

Zune is not a great brand.

It doesn’t stand for anything and people do not have a positive emotional connection with Zune. MSN is a more desirable brand at this point, as is XBOX.

Killing Zune is cost effective.

Look at how much money it would take for Microsoft to turn Zune into a desirable, fun, meaningful brand versus how much money it would take to acquire a new media brand. Zune supporters argue that Redmond is “pot committed” to the brand, but this is not correct. Any additional investment in Zune is throwing good money after bad. It’s good branding and good business to kill Zune.

Microsoft has killed off bad ideas before.

Look no further than the Kin. Even after something has come to market, Microsoft isn’t afraid to put struggling products out of their misery.


There is no reason to doubt Microsoft’s ability to compete in this sector. They understand the need to build a Windows-based mobile ecosystem (as the Nokia deal attests to). And they know that a big part of mobile is delivering media. I trust Microsoft to ramp up a competitive iPhone/Android alternative that gives consumers easy access to movies, photos, games and music. They are capable of doing this well and in a timely manner. They just shouldn’t attempt this with the Zune brand.

Feb 15

Posted by Jeremy Toeman and Greg Franzese

Posted in Blogging, Products

Apple: Doin’ It Right

Apple is now the most valuable tech company on the planet. In fact, the Cupertino firm is worth $100 billion more than Microsoft and Google, its next closest competitors. According to TechCrunch, Apple is “a little over $90 billion away from becoming the overall most valuable public company in the world.”

Impressive, especially when one considers that the company was six weeks away from filing for bankruptcy not so long ago. So what is the secret behind Apple’s turnaround?

I have long maintained that there are no real secrets to Apple’s success. The company creates simple, stable products that people want to use. They engage in brilliant marketing and advertising campaigns to promote consumer electronics that are well designed. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop mentions Apple’s success in his infamous “burning platform” memo.

Apple demonstrated that if designed well, consumers would buy a high-priced phone with a great experience and developers would build applications. They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range [of smart phones] . . . The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience.

The focus on experience is telling here. Apple’s emphasis on design and usability creates products that are both stylish and enjoyable to use. There is a “cool factor” and a “fun factor” embedded in all of Apple’s devices. Simply stated, Apple designs, builds, markets and delivers technology that people love to use. The positive emotions users feel when using Apple technology results in increased and repeat sales.