Sunday, August 30, 2009

Agent Simmons says "Ooh. Nokias are real nasty."

This month Fast Company is telling us about Nokia's plans to take over the world in their cover article Nokia Rocks the World: The Phone King's Plan to Redefine Its Business. Take it over and charge us all rent, mind you.

While reading the article I kept finding myself caught between finding cool things in their plan and then wondering whether their business model was downright evil. Alright, maybe evil is a bit strong (no doubt fueled by their description of the VP as "a cross between an Andy Warhol mystic and James Bond villain"), but a giggling enthusiasm for charging farmers in India $1 per month for a cell phone internet app that can help them with weather predictions and market prices seems a little sadistic somehow... because I imagine that is a very steep price for them. When I searched for the average income of an Indian farmer I came across this blog post from Devinder Sharma that cited it at 2,115 Rs in 2003 (that would be $43.28 American at current exchange rates). Could it be much more now? I doubt it. While trying to find a good source there were plenty of articles talking about the impoverished conditions of the Indian farmer, including one article that talked about increased suicide rates. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm trying to imagine spending more than a quarter of my income on a cell phone app (I assume the cost of the cell phone and plan is not included in that). Do I think it would be awesome for everyone in the world to have access to everything through the wonder of inexpensive phones and internet access? Yes I do. I'm just not sure that it can always be a profit thing.

Meanwhile, Fast Company is crazy good, so if you haven't read it consider this to be your sign that you should. It's like the Wired for business. If you don't read Wired either then get on that! Sheesh...


  1. Nokia for years has had a Unix-clone (Linux) operating system -- Maemo -- that could go up against iPhone OS (which is Mac OS X Unix). Instead they keep selling clunky Symbian phones that are difficult to write programs for. I have one of their Maemo-based "Internet Tablets" that I used while motorcycling because it was far smaller than a computer, and I wished at the time that Nokia had made a cell phone with this OS. Apple saw the same thing I saw, and despite being years behind when the Maemo-based "Internet Tablets" came out, beat Nokia to market.

    My take: Nokia has become big, clumsy, and cumbersome. They innovate, but they have the same sorts of internal problems that killed Honeywell Computing Systems, i.e., internal politics keep pushing an old obsolete operating system (Symbian OS) and keeping the new more functional operating system (Maemo) out of their phones, much as internal politics kept HCS pushing GCOS rather than the far superior Multics operating system and eventually ran Honeywell out of the ocmputer business. They need an adult to take charge and say, "This is what we are going to do." That's what Steve Jobs did when he returned to Apple -- he took an unfocused company and focused it on, "this is what we are going to do," and made the hard decisions regardless of how the internal politicians screamed. Until Nokia has such a person in charge, they're just going to continue plodding along in the same old fashion, producing lots of great technology but never getting it out the door before "that fruit company" because the internal politics simply preclude it...

    - Badtux the Geek Penguin

  2. Badtux the Informative Geek Penguin!

    Thanks for the extra info. Just based on the hints, allegations, and things left unsaid in the article it seems like the journalist has a similar opinion.

  3. Thank you, Sue.

    Indian farmer is in a great distress. In the past 15 years, more than 200,000 have committed suicide. Another 40 per cent want to quit farming if given a choice. What do you expect from them when they get a paltry income at the end of the month, and that too after such a gruelling work they do on their field.

    Devinder Sharma
    New Delhi