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Nokia seeks lost Marble widgets

Fiddling Finns need a wake-up call

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Yesterday's network, tomorrow

Today's announcement will do little to raise the morale of the bedrock third-party software developers who Nokia needs the most: the C++ and Java developers required for infrastructure, middleware and mission-critical applications.

Even the most loyal Nokia developers whisper that Microsoft makes a less predatory platform host than the 800lb Elk. How can this be so? Well, because Nokia receives API requests from the community, it has a good inkling of what everyone is working on. The company can deprecate an API on a whim, if it wishes to enter that business sector. And if that API is crucial to your business, then you need to be looking for a new job. Turf wars between Nokia's Enterprise division and its Multimedia division leave these developers in a Kafka-esque situation: duplicating requests for the same feature if it's going to be deployed on an E series phone or an N series phone. Developers need to plough trough that bureaucracy not once, but twice.

Now imagine how today's news will be received. It becomes apparent that Nokia hope to attract new developers by making its phones more attractive to wiki-fiddlers and script kiddies. Over to Cripps again:

"Web developers are several orders of magnitude more common [our emphasis] than the C or C++ programmers targeted by S60's native environment and also considerably more numerous [ditto] than Java ME programmers. Attracting these developers will be a key factor in the continued healthy growth of the mobile applications ecosystem," he reckons.

Actually, the health of the mobile applications 'ecosystem' is entirely dependent on how the carriers choose to open up their networks. (For example: it's a given that tomorrow's mobile networks are IP-based, but it's far from certain that the network operators will produce a subset of APIs.)

The implication that more developers means better software has been demolished many times: Fred Brooks Mythical Man Month being the best example, and it hardly needs to be restated here. What does, however, is the Silicon Valley myth that the lone bedroom developer, who knows little more than JavaScript needs any particular coddling.

The exact opposite is true.

Nokia's future

Now this is but a selective snapshot of Nokia's business strategy. We could have been more positive, and praised the company's singular, and admirable determination to bring VoIP to its business handsets, against the wishes of its biggest customers. Then again, we could have mentioned the new CEO's nutty prediction that mobile TV will go mainstream this year - ignoring 25 years of mobile TV flops.

It's just that Widgets sum up so much of what Nokia today is failing to get right. The company is floundering if it thinks Web 2.0 is its salvation.

The irony is that the open internet is moving to an architecture that much more closely resembles the vertical network that Nokia wants to distance itself from. Increasingly, the packet switched network is acquiring the characteristics of the circuit switched networks: with intelligence built into the network itself. The internet needs this to grow, and handle more sophisticated applications.

These days, even the primary author of the fundamental text defining the old, open internet ( "The End to End Principle in Network Design") David Clark, says we need to rip up the infrastructure, and start again

"We are at an inflection point, a revolution point - we might just be at the point where the utility of the internet stalls - and perhaps turns downward," he warns.

Which way will Nokia be facing? Or will it be fidgeting with those Widgets?

Send your advice for Kallasvuo to the usual address, please. ®

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