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Nokia Portal: A Force For Good, or Finnish Folly?

A mobile mailbag, no less

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Letters Remember the Reg mailbag? For younger readers, the Mailbag was like Comments, but with the good bits highlighted, and all the crap taken out. Except the crap that was completely insane or libelous - which we gave a special award to.

Well, we have letters.

Here's something to cheer up Nokia executives. Some readers, and even some operators, think that its big mobile portal gamble is worth persevering with.

Mobile portals and content services are very much the operators' home turf, of course. And earlier this week I pointed out that grabbing the market from your customers is never a very wise idea.

This generated the biggest mailbag since, ooh… since the last time I miscalculated the Sterling to Euro exchange rate. No, the biggest since we last decided to kick the Web 2.0 New Agers. OK, it wasn't that big, but it was pretty substantial - and far too diverse for any consensus to emerge.

There were a few surprises, though. One industry source with an interest in seeing Ovi succeed told us,

"It hasn't blown the door off the other services, but that's OK. But what Nokia does have is a trusted brand, it puts these trusted devices in 350m hands a year, and it does that in 120 countries. That's worth something."

"Nokia should be to do things with the marketing expertise it has, to reach a lot of people with the a service that people trust."

Surprisingly, a reader at one European operator agrees. Let Ovi flourish, he writes - then we can take a cut.

And stuff the operators who don't offer a Nokia phone, writes Glenn:

I think that Ovi may last beyond Christmas, but probably not by much. Once the inevitable bundled freebies that will come with new handsets have been used up IO think it will run unfortunately run out of steam, and we will be back at the mercy of the operators for content.

However, if it goes the distance and rattles the network operators to point of them not offering Nokia handsets, I will be going to the network that does offer the nokia that I want and not staying with an operator that tries to make me have a phone I don't rate, want or like

And a few readers think that networks should stay out of value add services altogether ...

All phone companies and ISPs need to realise all the customers want is bit pipes.

All I want on my phone is to talk, message, or if it has smart phone bits, just to do awkwardly what my laptop does. If the phone company or ISP wants to run a market stall, car show room, bus service, airline or tunes downloads, I want to choose to use or ignore it on basis of any other similar offering.

I have a new Nokia phone because I wanted a phone, not tune downloads. Also I think it's as if they launched a phone interface this year instead of doing it for years. Have they students designing this stuff now?

I use my phone with WiFi to listen to R4 as I'm too far to get it on DAB or FM radio, and long wave has Cricket. I'd use 3G, except the flat rate data SIM is 35c for phone calls and if I put in the SIM from my 3G modem I'll miss calls.

Michael Watterson


No, you're wrong. We've been putting up with the operators' crappy services for years now, from their crappy walled WAP gardens through their email services that we didn't want, video calling over 3G, music downloads, etc, etc. They tried, they failed.

The content and services are and always were already there: in a thing called the Internet. It's access to that that's all we ever wanted. If Ovi provides a user-friendly portal to all that, and not just another crappy walled garden, then it will succeed. Together with the operators' more sensible current pricing, the mobile internet may finally become mainstream. Everybody then benefits, including the operators, who should finally start seeing some significant data usage.

Neil Hoskins

Some thoughts on my broader point, that Content Is Not King: so why bother with Content?

You are correct -- the OVI idea is "just another" Web 2.0 play. The emphasis on communication rather than content is pretty obvious. Facebook hasn't really taken off because it's a good way to disseminate content -- it's because it allows communication easily with all of your friends.

The mobile operators have long been holding back progress with mobile communications with their own content plays. For example, they used to make it hard to use the phones internet access to go anywhere other than their own sites, which they'd use to pimp the value added services. The real benefit of 3G was never the ability to make video calls - it was the high speed internet feed. And the operators ( at least here in the UK ) quickly emasculated that feature. Finally, Three appear to be getting the hint.

James Radley

James adds that if WiFi takes over from 3G, then Nokia will no longer be hidebound by the operators, and will Ovi will look more attractive. Alas, I think commercial WiFi is all but dead now - and 3G is here to stay.

have not done a particularly good job with their own content services, and maybe, just maybe Nokia can pull it off for them. Will we then see a the same situation of iTunes wagging the tail of the music companies ?

I think your opening sentence says it all. They are dammed either way. Better to look back in ten years time, and say they realized they were in the transportation business rather than the railway business

Mike Choy

But it's not all good news. Thom in Ireland was the most scathing:

Can’t you see that Ovi is already the last big thing that never was!

Content is a king with no loyal subjects. Nokia should just drop this ball and get back to making and innovating phones like they used to.

Thom

Thom adds -

I really don't see mobile phone content as generally worth throwing money away on, as I haven't seen anything truly of value on offer, at least not here in Ireland.

It does seem that there's alot of hubbub about these services when really what most people seem to want out of a phone is something that's practical and useful. I used to post regularly to a website some years back called thefeature.com, a kind of ideas website run by nokia to find out what people wanted access to on whatever mobile device they carried. It was a good place to fantasise, but the limitations of the technology, such as interfaces, bandwidth, battery life etc appear to be the main things holding those ideas back. I think these should be the kinks that get worked out as a major part in any mobile service.

And what content, again?

There are ads all over the place for content such as "TV on your phone!", despite any evidence that normal people have a desire to watch normal TV on a 2 inch screen. They complain about lackluster sales in the data department, while simultaneously making the experience as painful as possible. In their mind, ISPs not charging per email was a bad business mistake. You're absolutely correct that the service providers are scared of being turned into glorified ISPs, and have missed the point entirely and no longer have any idea what it is that made them successful, or how to continue. As is usual, give it a couple years and a new company will start up doing what the big carriers failed to realize they should have been, and there will be another upheaval.

For further examples of their dementedness, check out the bitpuke that is blogs.s60.com.

William Gunn

Bitpuke indeed, William - but you can never really judge a company by its bloggers. If someone works in product development, they're too busy to be blathering to the Globosphere - and they'll let the product do the talking. Corporate bloggers have simply self-selected themselves for irrelevance. That's quite a useful feature for us, because we know it's safe to ignore them. So the message for Nokia?

Ovi might be an uphill battle, to a fruitless destination - but you might as well stick at it. ®

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