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Symbian founder on mobile past, present and future

Why Skype's a chimera and why the iPod is great

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Let's talk about VoIP - over here in California that's thought to be very revolutionary. I've always thought these arguments forget about incumbent advantage

Yes. VoIP is going to go over broadband, the incumbents sell broadband, and they have a way of connecting the local loop to the Internet, so the BTs are going to be very happy.

Some companies won't be here, some grow and some disappear. It's also true that gorillas in one sector that don't make that transition to next sector. They can skip a generation like IBM. So some people we know today will be gone.

IPv6 will be next thing we move to.

But one interesting question is will we get all the services and benefits we're promised. I learned from Ericsson that they invented 260 services for PBXs and four only ever caught on. Voicemail and Caller ID were a couple.

So what innovation and what services do you think we are going to see?

Ask yourself, what are people going to with all their pictures in the future? What are they going to do? Is writing to CD-ROM really safe? Sorry - it's gone in a few years. Are people going to do a 3-stage offering, or make one of their copies in an alternative geographical location? Nobody does that.

With digital you can do things better; for a really simple straight forward things.

No one has designed architecture for the home. We've got Wi-Fi and broadband and Bluetooth but there's no way to put it all together.

So who, then? We've seen that even with the best intentions Wintel can't do a good job. It has to come from the consumer electronics people;

So it has to go back to being vertically integrated; you have to tackle the product offering yourself. You start doing something vertically because you can't work with everybody. So somebody has to break through, starting with a niche.

Like Apple?

That's one way. Whoever does this has got to do the hardware, and the software, and the systems infrastructure, and not many people can do that; and they must have a brand that the consumer respects. On the one hand they have to be known for style going into the home, and on the other be able to manage infrastructure. And they've got to be big.

So they need to establish a beach-head, and some companies wouldn't even bother to try to cross this chasm. And it needs a really big organization to be able to deliver. So I don't even know if they know they should be doing this.

But isn't there a real advantage to an open network?

Yes but the voice problem doesn't go away.

It's like a magic trick. Skype is not offering a whole product in a mass market. It's in a small market and it's a chimera. Skype couldn't roll out their service to compete with anything, globally. OK, they might be able to, but it would be an awful and probably still couldn't get it to work everywhere you go. That's even true for 3G, now!

What would you do differently, if you had your time as CEO again?

We wouldn't have spent time on user interfaces. We'd have left that much earlier. [In 2001, Symbian left the business of designing UIs to its licensees, with the exception of UIQ, which remains part of the company]. Everyone was keen to share and we tried hard for two years, but it was never going to happen. Everything about those companies [phone OEMs] is based in their own UIs. So that was two years wasted.

In hindsight we came to the right view; but we never learnt that lesson. There were other things people were keen for us to get into early, for example WAP. We could never have NOT done it, but I had a pretty good feeling it wasn't going to be worth it. But I wasn't the customers.®

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