I’ve been hesitant to write this post, mainly because it’s such a slow movement, but I’m seeing a change in Nokia over the past year or two that I haven’t seen before, and I think it’s a really good change. Of course, they’re going to need to move much faster if they want to really make an impact, but it’s nice to see some movement, nonetheless.
I’m talking about Nokia’s attempts to shake the quiet arrogance confidence that they’re known for and really speak up and out about their products and company. The first Nokia event I ever attended was the Go: Play event in London where they announced N-Gage 2.0, the N81 and N95 8GB. It was also the first event where Nokia used the word ‘Ovi’. I’ve since attended 3 Nokia World events (I’m missing this year, unfortunately) and watched countless product announcements online via video.
All of these keynotes/announcements have been roughly the same, up until the Nokia N97 announcement at Nokia World 2008. Several others noticed something different – Anssi Vanjoki made the presentation, and there were several differences from previous product launches.
For starters, Anssi went in-depth about the origins of the Nokia N97 and the various thought processes that went into the device. He also loosely referenced competitors Apple and Google for the first time ever, and took a friendly stab at Engadget, as well. It was a very powerful keynote, one that led me to say that Nokia was finally on the offensive. It was the first time anyone knew without a doubt that the Nokia leadership *doesn’t* perform their job in a bubble, and it was really refreshing, sitting in the room and seeing a dramatically different kind of announcement from Nokia.
Not long after that, the Nokia N900 along with Maemo 5 was announced, and this was immediately noticeable as something completely different. If you compare the marketing message for the N900 to that of the N97, you’d know this was a different Nokia. The intro videos used a very loud and ‘in-your-face’ music, a stark contrast to the gently, friendly tones used in most Nseries and Eseries intro videos.
In addition, the print advertising used hard lines and who can forget the ‘maemo project’ online video campaign?
But it’s not just changes in the presentation and marketing, either. Recently, Rita and I decided to shut down Symbian-Guru.com. It was a long, fully-thought-out decision that took us months to actually commit to, and we didn’t really expect nearly the reaction we got. One thing that neither of us seriously considered was a direct response from Anssi Vanjoki, one of Nokia’s more well-known executives.
For reference, Anssi and I go way back – in fact, he’s partially responsible for Symbian-Guru itself and my experiences in going from forum junky to blogger and beyond. You see, Anssi did an interview with Wired magazine back in 2006, where he showed off his Nokia N91 running Symella – a P2P app that I had been in the midst of campaigning the developer to port to S60v3. Since the N91 ran S60v3, I emailed Anssi to see if he would at least share the .sis file so we could use it on our new S60v3 phones, too. After a few emails back and forth, Anssi revealed he had a special unit of the N91, but encouraged me nonetheless. I eventually (with the help of many users on HowardForums) persuaded the developer to port the app, and started emailing all the blogs that I read of the big news. None seemed to care, so I decided I’d start my own damn site, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Back to the present – when I published our post on Symbian-Guru, Anssi came out with a direct response on Nokia Conversations, the official Nokia blog, letting us know ‘the fightback starts now’. As I exited my role at Symbian-Guru, Anssi picked up his new one as the head of Mobile Solutions at Nokia. His blog post (his first ever blog post, I believe) described how he was going to bring the fight back to Nokia, and he gave some specifics. If you’ve ever met Anssi Vanjoki, or even been in the same room, you’ll know he has a very powerful presence, and I believe he’s one Nokian who knows what needs to be done, they just need to let him do it.
A few days ago, Niklas Savander, Nokia’s head of Sales and Marketing, hopped on Twitter for an hour to answer questions from anyone who tweeted at him. He managed to avoid all of my questions, but answered a ton, nonetheless, and I believe it was really him, and not just a PR hack playing Ghost Writer.
The point is, where Nokia has always been known by their quiet, forceful demeanor, its executives are beginning to speak out and act….openly competitive. It’s refreshing, in my opinion, and they need to do more of it. In a world of Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, Steve Ballmer, and Ralph De La Vega, companies need to have a public face that’s capable of creating change.
Another way that Nokia is really stepping out, moreso than any other mobile manufacturer that I’ve found, is their online presence. I wasn’t able to find an exact roster, but here’s a list of official Nokia Twitter accounts, as well as a list of Nokians who tweet (these may not all be ‘official’ Nokia Twitter accounts). They also have the incredible Nokia Conversations blog, which is run by some of the smartest dudes and dudettes Nokia has on board. The best part is knowing that Nokia actually monitors its brand on Twitter – they’re quick to respond to questions, comments, and complaints there. Nokians on Twitter are also personable, as demonstrated by the personal accounts of various Nokians, such as @chansearrington, @jgallo02, and @docmobile.
Nokia still has a long way to go to fix all that I believe is wrong with the company and its products, but I think they’re starting on the right path. They need to move faster, and I think they can, if they shed some extra weight and focus their attention on the right priorities. I’m still happy as a clam with my Nexus One, but I’m still a Nokia fanboy at heart, and I hope to see more instances where the company is breaking out of its shell and revealing the competitive monster it can be. Exposing your executives to the public is a microscopic step, but it’s a step, nonetheless. Keep walking, Nokia, you’ll either learn how to run or you’ll trip and fall on your face. Either one would probably be a good learning experience. 😉