Sunday, 22-Jul-12 22:25
Minor thought about Nokia's strategy...

I've kept quiet publically about my views on Nokia, my former employer, simply for the reason that quite a lot of the public discussion is just mindless bashing - the public opinion in Finland in general is quite bipolar: if things are going well, you can't say bad things; and if things are going badly, you're supposed to be competing about who can invent the most creative bashing. And I think a lot of the discussions has so far been pretty destructive, and kindly put, context-free.

Anyway, one thing that really irks me about this whole Windows Phone strategy is something that worried me already with Symbian: the fact that it's completely bound to the Windows ecosystem. Yes, Visual Studio is a nice environment, but if you take a look at the offices of any random self-respecting innovative startup, or peek at any gathering where alpha-geeks congregate, you'll see overwhelmingly nothing but Apple logos. And this has been true for the past seven or eight years or so.

Still, a few years ago, mobile development occurred on Windows and web development on Mac - mostly because mobile operating systems were their own beasts, and you needed a host environment to write stuff on them (though you could write Java code for feature phones both on Mac and Linux too, but mostly it was a pain). Now, both dominant players in the smartphone world, Android and iOS have very deep roots in Linux and BSD, respectively, and many of the engineers who built those systems are Mac and Linux users - so the development environments are available on those platforms as well.

Now, when your average alpha geek realizes that mobile is cool, are they going to ditch their existing platforms, toolchains, email clients, etc so that they could be first in a completely unknown environment? Will a hipster ditch his Mac and iPhone to use Windows to code for Nokia? Or lug two laptops into the cafe? Or reboot his machine to switch between operating systems?

I have my doubts. The preference of the work environment is ingrained pretty deeply into people. Yes, some people have the ability to keep switching between OSs, and some people just plain prefer Windows. But my guess is that whenever someone creates a mobile startup, they first code for what they're familiar with (which in these days will be iOS & Android), and only if it works, they hire an offshore consultant to replicate the experience on Windows Mobile to get the rest of the market. You can get some pretty great talent from Romania, Ukraine, Russia or India for quite cheap...

Now, obviously there is value in being the first-mover in Windows Mobile space - less apps is less competition. If you're really good, both MS and Nokia will use their marketing muscle to highlight your app in order to promote their own platform and phones. But still, it's an awfully big risk to start off with the small market - 'cos in order to be big, you absolutely must get to the Apple and Android stores. And someone else might make it first. If someone clones your best-selling iOS app on Windows Marketplace, well, the loss isn't great.

Of course popular apps will appear on Windows Mobile as well; once you have the concept proven, it's easy to replicate. But still, will Windows Mobile be the platform on which the Next Big Thing will be born? Or will it be the "Can Haz Too" -platform, nice and comfy for your dad to join Foursquare after all the hipsters have already done their final check-in and moved to Wherever?

I don't know, and I certainly don't want to underestimate Microsoft's marketing muscle... but it seems to me that they'll need to do something fairly radical to start winning back developer's hearts. A lot of the server-side stuff these days is pretty much "sorry, we don't really support Windows that well", and for many developers it seems that Windows is the place where you pop in to check whether your site still works on Internet Explorer. So it's hard to see why it would be different for mobile any more.

(If I'm wrong and for some reason there's some sort of a selection bias here and it just so happens that all the Macs owned by developers happen to be people I know and everyone else uses Windows, please do let me know in the comments.)

(Update: Just learned that Nokia is even kicking out excellent developers from their dev program for not developing on Windows Phone. So they're turning to Android/iOS. Oh well. Developing for Symbian wasn't ever fun, but this isn't the way to end it.)

Saturday, 14-Jul-12 23:50
Unhelpfully, he said

One thing that greatly bugs me is the tendency of some people to suggest switching operating systems or platforms whenever you have a problem. For example, if you have a problem related to an Android device, some dork will inevitably come and suggest that you should buy an iPhone. Or if you have a problem with your Mac, some other dork will come over and proclaim that if you just switched to Linux, you wouldn't have these problems. (And I'm not going to even start with the kind of comments you get if you happen to have a problem with one Linux distro - ever tried debating Debian vs Gentoo or Red Hat vs Ubuntu?)

And I do understand that people do try to be helpful. But in this case, it comes across as smug and mean, and to me it sounds like "well, it's your own problem for being so stupid you chose the wrong platform." I mean, if I choose something, it's usually the result of some thinking and balancing of benefits and disadvantages - so when someone just suggests, without understanding the context, that I should've chosen something else... well, to me it sounds like what an utterly contemptuous, stupid person would say.

But the biggest thing that irates me that the advice is always, always completely useless. If I have an 81 cent software problem, what kind of a solution it is to buy a €599 phone to solve it? In exactly which kind of an universe is that a reasonable solution? It's the rich bully kid solution, if anything - it's just like asking advice on money problems and someone telling you "well, you should've chosen to get a job that pays more", or complaining about something your spouse did and getting the extremely helpful "get a better wife" -response. Mean, prejudiced, stupid, and completely and utterly useless, and nobody in their right mind does that to people. Except that it seems fully okay when it comes to computing issues, apparently. Which is probably one of the reasons why people think geeks are dorks.

So henceforth I'll be treating any such suggestions with extreme prejudice. I've listened to this shit for 30 years. Enough is enough.

Thursday, 05-Jul-12 20:23
Ditched Facebook for a month, nobody noticed

I wouldn't call Facebook sabbaticals a trend, but I've seen a couple of people take them recently. Much like a New Year's promise - no alcohol for me in January!

Anyway, I decided completely quitely to just not go to Facebook about a month ago. I had a couple of purposes: mostly to wean myself, as I sometimes get into these fully unproductive "must refresh Facebook to see if anyone says anything interesting" -states, but also to see if anyone noticed or cared. Today I finally cracked and asked the wife, if she's noticed my absence. "No, but I did wonder a bit why you've never seen any links", she told me. My tweets do go to Facebook, so that probably kept up the appearance of me participating, but I didn't read any comments, wall posts, respond to friend requests, event invites or private messages.

Facebook is social software, yes, 'cos it gets better the more people use it (kudos to Matt Jones for this). But if I wouldn't answer my phone or talk to anyone or attend a regular hobby for a month, I would really hope someone would notice and at least ask what is going on. But in the hypersocial atmosphere of Facebook, it is enough to just make noise to fake a persona. No actual interaction is required. And there is so much noise that the loss of one voice means nothing - there are a billion others ready to step up to join the chorus of social cacophonia.

Of course, I am not an important person, and I would expect only a handful of people to really care about hearing from me. But yet... Social software like Facebook and Twitter are pretty much the only contact I have with people these days (you know, small kids keep you busy). I don't think it's really contact though; just reflections from random angled surfaces.

(Oh yeah, and about my other target: I'm getting a lot more done. Or to be specific, I've been a bit more relaxed and a bit more focused, so I feel better. Absence of distractions good. Haven't yet really decided if I'm going back to FB. Probably I'll start popping by every now and then and go away if I notice myself spending too much time in there.)

((Also, I started a simple Tumblr blog where I try to post some thinglinked space images every now and then.)


Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.



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