Friday, June 15, 2012
Nokia struggles as phones become emotional commodities
My heart was bleeding blue yesterday as the Salo R&D site is closed. This was the epicenter of the business for twenty years. Many of the iconic phones were developed there, many of the heroes of Nokia walked the halls of the center. This is where I started my Nokia career. The place is a small sleepy town en route to Turku, the second most important city in Finland. The highway 1 compared to its importance was a winding road through the Finnish forest. Once in Salo it was heaven of technology, the sheer knowledge of the sandal wearing engineers was amazing. I have memories for life. Thanks to everyone for the time, if I only can help you now, I will!
Nokia is saying that the market has changed faster than anticipated. It is mindblowing to think that the founders of GSM are 'out of business', Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia.
I really like the last batches of phones and particularly the Lumia 800, I really thought it was a stunning design. Others also liked it, it was different and fresh. Yet, like Stephen Elop says it is now a war of Ecosystems, rather than a battle of devices.
There is so much truth in that statement, but yet this is maybe where the problem lies. Consumers do not care about eco-system they care about getting stuff done, and communicating. For those tasks all eco-systems work well enough, and when things are good enough the consumers lose interest. The phone has become an emotional commodity.
The phone is absolutely not a commodity, the entry barriers are high, the technical sophistication is high, yet consumers take all of this for granted. The phone is just a natural part of digital life, like a hammer. A tool every household has, but no one gets excited about.
All the conversations are about apps, all the sex appeal is in apps and all transformation takes place in apps, and this space is a jungle. In this some make magic and create billions in wealth, others fall into the sediment of long lists.
Recently a friend asked what phone she should buy, a question I have answered a thousand times before, and there has always been a good answer. Now there is not, it depends, do you use Mac, or do you want to store your stuff in the cloud? Do you use PC, will you use lots of apps, do you want local apps, will you buy content, do you have content, do you want to??? Remember she asked what phone she should buy. . . In the end, I said it doesn't matter they are all great, pick the one you like most.
When you get this kind of answer, then thoughts gets focused on price and that is a signal of commodity.
The emotional commodity state of phones is rather worrying, and as you can get a brick with mostly screen from €100 to €600 then you start wondering what is the real difference is, and as Manufacturers panic, they go down the rabbit hole of gigahertz, gigabytes and other commodity jargon.
This leads me to believe we are in the calm before a new emotional gadget storm, discovering the gadget that we all want to talk about, show off and rave about. Perhaps the era of wearables and intimate electronics?
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Back to building own experiences
A new era in my partnership with Fjord starts as I move from an operational role of Chief Innovation Officer to become a part-time member of the board and advisor to the management business. This is an important transition for me because I believe in the business and want to help it grow to the next level.
On a very personal level I’ve always been inspired all that is new and by change. One of my guiding principles is to hire people smarter than me and make myself redundant. This then allows me to go on and explore what's new.
I’ve been creating things all my life. It's a deep passion of mine. When I was very young I made things with lego, as I crew older I made bikes which I sold to my friends, and then I built radio controlled miniature sailing boats and sold them around Europe. Professionally, I’ve created mobile UI's that have been sold in every corner of the world and now I yearn to go back to creation.
I’d like to thank my fellow Fjordians for teaching me so much and for pushing me out of my comfort zone. My sense of design is wider and deeper than ever before. When I look around Fjord, I see what I believe to be the smartest team in service design. When I joined in 2007 we were a team of 27, today, Fjord has grown to become the definitive service design consultancy with a team of over 200, operating from eight offices around the world.
I’m very proud of this Fjord creation and I’m looking forward to nuking from the outside.’
So what's next? Firstly, I am going to continue to build the touch and force sensor business, Tech21 Sensor, that I helped to found a few years ago. The business is in Berlin. What makes Tech21 so interesting for me is that it sits in the emerging space between technology and biology, making man-machine interfaces analogue. It is a fantastic enabler opportunity. I will also help a couple of start-ups grow and internationalise and then I want to build something on my own. But more on that later…