Saturday, December 15, 2007

C'mon BA, get a grip

Now, I'm no UI designer, but I do happpen to be a human being. And as such this rubbish on BA's website really irritates me. I have no idea who designs their website, but please - telling your customers they can access "post-PIN content and functionality" is just a horrible mangle of pretension and obfuscation. And getting someone to click a box NOT to be remembered just completely does my head in. I've been griping about this for months already - but who do I tell? What are these guys smoking? And can I have some.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Seven suggestions for an Innovation stream

This week I've been in Amsterdam, in Nokia's annual jamboree - the rare occasion when the Finnish modesty and reserve is traded in for a colourful look-at-me celebration of all our cool stuff, good people and great partners. It's actually quite glitzy, and I hesitate to say, "American" in theme, and getting more so - a hedge fund manager I met at lunch said this was the first time that he felt Nokia was behaving like a media company. He thought that was a good thing, and given that he owns a large chunk of our stock, I didn't like to argue. And it is true that this really was a very well organized, vibrant and confident conference with some strong messages about Ovi and our new Internet services ambitions that made people sit up and take note. However I'm not sure that associating with an industry that has - in parts - an imploding business model and famously dubious business practices is necessarily a good thing. But that's for another post. This post is about innovation seminars, and what makes them sing. Or sink.

I can honestly say that one of the highlights in my 4 years at Nokia was being asked to be the chairman of the innovation stream at Nokia World this year. Nokia World is a Big Deal - we spend a small fortune putting on a real spectacular two day show that highlights most of what we are as a company and it involves all the top management. It's not completely clear why I was chosen; my co chair - Lee Epting, the VP and head of Forum Nokia was a more obvious fit in terms of the other moderators. Probably had to do with the Speaker Series sessions I host, and the fact that I've been mouthing off about Internet innovation recently.

Anyway, I'm writing this post to consider what the best possible innovation stream at a conference would look like. In short, I don't think we really got it right -- the audience in our session started off large and gradually shrank over the 2hours, losing energy all the while, and in terms of format it was fairly standard stuff - 4 presentations with just a few Q&As at the end. I felt the topics were actually interesting and relevant - Nokia's UI vision; mobile payments and NFC from Citibank; Yahoo! on web development and a session presenting the winners of the Open C developer challenge competition. The latter was the highlight for me - interactive, interesting and the demo of the winner (MobiTubia - lets you browse YouTube videos) was really cool. Ironically, getting the N95 live demo worked fine, but the lady from Citibank was tripped up by the first of her videos not working. We didn't have any really cool gimmicks - we killed off the audience voting feature since the tool had SMS disabled and we weren't convinced of the usability of the WAP portal. The irony of all this was that there was a huge amount of stuff that we could have talked about and showed off - just a few yards away in the Expo the innovation stream had 19 demos with some of the coolest gizmos, gadgets and services that I've seen during my time at Nokia, including the mobile web server, Point & Find, voice recognition and an eye-controlled UI.

The contrast with the panel I was on the Economist Innovation Awards Summit a few weeks ago was stark, and also the Internet and innovation Conferences we've had at Nokia over the past couple of years. The first Nokia2.0 Conference we organized in March 2006 received a huge amount of positive feedback and led to a set of tangible actions.

So, with these in mind, here's some guidelines for what could be the bones of innovation stream 2.0, in next year's Nokia World or similar event. Would be interested to have feedback from participants of the Amsterdam session, and general thoughts on what would make an innovation-themed session as good as it can get.

1. Suffer the children
Any panel on innovation should probably tap into what the real innovators are thinking - and in the web space nowadays that means kids, not fusty grey suits. I first saw a panel of kids being interviewed stage at one of the Web2.0 conferences when Safa Rashtchy did this to great acclaim (my favourite was the kid who said he'd never pay a penny on DRM'd music from iTunes but was spending $50 a month on ring tones). Don Tapscott's New Paradigm group has done this quite well too. Nokia has hundreds of expert groups including teens, we should just reconvene one of them on stage. This is what I was trying to move towards with the call for videos on my blog, but I didn't push hard enough to make it happen.

2. Do an Oprah
Always fun to give stuff away, and Nokia's been more generous recently - giving away phones used to be taboo, but now it's more common. Random gifts under people's seats can become muted if people expect it, and can have a downside - as Oprah Winfrey dramatically discovered.

3. Pack in the powerpoint
The presentation by our user experience director was - I thought - rather beautifully done, with a new kind of presentation that it half video and half powerpoint. The crowd asked for more specifics about our touch screen strategy, but we weren't able to talk about that. In future combining great presentation graphics with data points makes sense, and in any event, the time for dull slides with small fonts is definitely over. If there are no powerpoints, then maybe the answer is to adopt a conversational tone...

4. Conversation not presentation
Nobody wants a sales pitch at these events, however most powerpoints slip into a few sales-y spiels at some stage. The Economist event was different - three of us were up on stage with Tom Standage - a super sharp guy and not used to being overly nice to business types. We had no idea of the questions, apart from they'd be about innovation, so there was little time to prepare a spiel, you just had to answer the question. Am actually thinking about inviting Tom to join us on stage for next year, if am involved.

5. Lighten the load with a dash of humour
One of the best sessions from last year's Nokia World was Clive Anderson. Ok, he's not known for his innovative views on technology, but provided a wonderful and insightful moderator. One of my favourite comedians is Stephen Fry and his recent blog posts / tomes, have proven that he's no slouch when it comes to geekery - for all those with a spare hour or three, peruse his thoughts on smartphones and the like here. So, my second invite would go out out to Stephen Fry. Stephen - fancy a chance to deliver your message to the heart of the borg?

6. Shiny, new things. Aka more signal, less noise.
Demos and launches are always noteworthy, and make people think there is something new and unique happening at the event they are happening to be at. Nokia World happens just once a year at about the same time, so why don't we make a point of launching a bunch of cool products here, rather like Apple does at its annual conference. Even if we don't launch products, let's make announcements that people are looking for, and issue a blizzard of statistics - people love data. Think Mary Meeker at Web2.0. Less of the fluff, and more of the "Phwoar, that's so cool!".

7. Breakout the backchannel
The audience voting worked ok in the end using WAP in other sessions, though i still prefer SMS. What was missing, and something we discussed ahead of time since we'd had this in some internal conferences, was a "hecklebot" to display comments from SMS or in an IRC-type format. This can be quite disruptive if managed badly - people tend to be quite unforgiving if they're not impressed, but it does make for a real sense of electricity in the room, and can work wonders at creating a sense of inclusiveness.

Funnily enough, looking at these ideas, it seems that the new Nokia values have them embedded (these are, btw: Engaging You, Passion for Innovation, Achieving Together & Very Human). Hmm, maybe should have brushed up on them in the planning stages...

Anyway, we live and learn. Let's hope we take some of these learnings into account next time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Looking for videos of kids talking about mobiles

Am giving a presentation at our biggest conference of the year in December - Nokia World and I thought it'd be quite cool to open it up with a few videos of kids (which I guess is 5-20) talking about their mobiles.

I guess there'd be 4 questions:
- How do you use your mobile today?
- What do you like best about it. What don't you like?
- What would you like to see happen to mobiles in 20 years time?
- What do you think about paying for stuff on your phone? Would you like to use it instead of money?

Am only looking for a few (10-15) seconds on each issue and they'll probably be edited down anyway. The more colour and enthusiasm the better. The video montage would be shown to hundreds of Nokia's customers and employees as an interesting - and hopefully amusing - intro to a bunch of innovation related presentations.

As it happens, I don't really know any kids of that age, and am a little reluctant to stand around school gates with a video camera. So if you know of any telegenic kids with loads of opinions about this stuff, feel free to point a camera at them and email me the resulting video (should be under 5MB) to stephen dot johnston at nokia dot com.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nokia's innovation story part 2 - Internet innovation

Apologies for the tardiness of this second and final installment of this gripping story - a 2 day USA business trip has turned into a 10 day one, and my admin has gone to pot. Now back in UK, the advantage of jet lag is it gives you odd windows to do stuff. Carry on...

So, we could go on forever counting trends, but rather than just watch the world spinning ever faster we need to act. In the pulsating, chaotic maelstrom of today's globally connected economy, we need to put a stake in the ground, and I think that starts with defining what industry we're in. This is not as easy a question as it once was - we used to be in the telecoms industry, but no more. It's probably best described as the converging digital industry, and that now touches almost every sphere of life. Or to put it another way, we used to be a product company, and now we're a product and services company.

The red thread running through this is, in a word, the Internet. It brings accelerated innovation into disparate industries - fashion, travel, finance and sport to name just a few, and combined with mobility, heralds disruptive potential in a host of new markets. As such, the focus of our current innovation activities is the Internet. That's what lies behind our somewhat strange-sounding statements about becoming an "Internet company" - we are talking about the way we work more than about what we produce. It's about learning from the most innovative companies, especially startups, who have the Internet in their DNA. Of course, a big established, product-focused company such as ours will not have the agility of a fleet-footed startup, but heck, even bigger brutes than us have been learning the steps for years. And even that's not the point - you ask any garage full of pizza-scoffing, code-writing 18 year olds how they're going to scale their startup globally and the answer will probably be that they don't know, or "get bought by Google" (unless of course one of them is called Zuckerberg). Ensuring that Nokia's history, expertise (esp in mobility), size and scope is an asset not a liability in the Internet era is for me, the challenge du jour.

However, Internet innovation is an unwieldy beast, and I'll divide it up by stakeholder group - customers, employees and partners / developers. I leave out shareholders here, since they are the outcome, not the input to these efforts. So, what does Internet innovation mean to each of these groups for Nokia?

- Customers Internet brands have a deep relationship with their customers - either on the individual level (e.g. Amazon) or the aggregate (e.g. Google). They collect data about the service relationship and use it to improve the offering. Needless to say, Nokia currently has little or no relationship with the end users (customers, consumers punters, peeps...) of our phones. Our efforts here need to be about establishing a relationship with the end user to learn more about them, and helping them improve the experience of connecting with what matters most to them. One of the interesting angles to all this is IPR - how are we going to develop solutions together with customers, and not just expect them to hand over good ideas to us for free. Innovations in this area, together with payments to our customers (in cash, in kind or in kudos) will be key.

- Employees We need to ensure that our employees are as informed, motivated and effective as those in a startup. In a small company it's easy for everyone to know everything that happens, however siloes emerge naturally as the company grows. Information velocity matters - the right ideas need to find the right people, quickly. Motivation is an interesting topic - Nokia currently sits lower down the risk / reward axis than a startup. Should that change, if so how? And finally effectiveness - we need to figure out a way to let individuals take control and see that they are making a difference.

- Developers and partners Our external network of developers provides the content - the applications and services, that make our stuff better. We have certain core offerings, but we need to be as open as possible for web developers to build on our platforms. Our external developers need to be able to make money. And they need to be able to scale their applications to connect with the installed base of Nokia phones (one of our greatest assets) and find it easy to connect with the technologies and people inside the company. Our internal developers need to be free to innovate quickly and get rewarded for their efforts above the call of duty.

So, here's a selection of ongoing innovation activities we're doing that relate to the above areas.

1. Customers
This is probably the most visible part of the Internet innovation story - since it is about the products and services that we ship. This can be seen in two ways.

First, bringing "today's" Internet onto our devices, so that people can connect with their existing web services. This means that our browser needs to be the best in the world at squeezing a normally big screen web into a small screen real estate. Our current browser is damn good at this, and as an open source effort and shares much of its codebase with the iPhone one. It also means that the web needs to be natively integrated into our software, to turn what used to be known as applications into services. The core of the phone - contacts, calendar and call history need to benefit from web connectivity in ways they don't today. Another issue is that people are fed up with "empty icons" - which when pressed ask you to "enter your settings". This is offputting and intimidating for users, and dumb from a business point of view because we are fragmenting the valuable attention and real estate, distracting the user from using other things that work well. This is the result of a fragmented value chain that was not organization not user-centric. Hopefully it is changing now as operators, distributors and device makers realize that if they don't get figure out how to make a smooth, joined up user experience they'll wither on the vine.

The second and more interesting way that the web will be coming to our devices is when it moves from "stateless" to contextually aware. The experience that you will get from your web service will be different because that service is interacting with the intelligence in the device. This will make services much richer, but also involve the consumer more directly. Companies will need to figure out what deals will entice them to give out their location information in order to receive tailored offerings for example (anyone thinking of doing this without their permission, better find a new job). This is in essence the three dimensional web (as in the title of this blog) and I see it involving 5Cs - context (e.g. location, proximity) contacts, calendar, call history and content (stuff you've made, recommendations and linkages you've created).

One other point to mention here - we'll be seeing a lot more use of the phone to merge people's real world with their online and virtual personas.

Nokia doesn't talk about future product (or services) releases, so there's not much detail here, but now that there has been a major reorganization to create a services and software group, new acquisitions (Gate5 and Navteq for navigation, Loudeye for music and Twango for social networking) as well as a new brand vehicle to launch consumer services (Ovi), expect to see a lot more in this area in the coming months, and check sites such as womworld and noknok and other forthcoming blog sites for details.

2. Employees
Nokia's culture and values are one of its major assets - there is the assumption that people from all over the company will help you out if you ask them, and there is a mountain of stored knowledge in the employees' heads. However, as with any big company, it's not always easy to know who to ask, especially if you're new (I remembered with dismay when I started they didn't have photos next to the names, and I was constantly befuddled by long Finnish names that seemed to consist entirely of Ks and umlauts). Information sharing - often and early - reduces the danger of not invented here, duplicative products and repeated mistakes.

This can be done as a one off event or as a process. We worked with IBM's innovation team last year and held a "Jam" - when each of the employees was asked to contribute to the creation and dissemination of our Internet strategy during a 3 day online meeting. This will probably continue on a regular basis, and meanwhile, at the micro level, we've been making heavy use of blogs and wikis. One story illustrates how this came about: A colleague from the research group, Harri Lakkala, was fed up with using the traditional knowledge management and collaboration tools, so started hosting his own wiki solution for his projects on a spare computer under his desk back in 2003. Word spread about these new tools - which are basically just simple web pages editable by anyone - and soon he was hosting hundreds of wikis with increasingly business critical information under his desk. Happily our IT group figured out that if you can't beat them join them, so now wikis are supported internally and used regularly by over 6000 of our employees. Similarly we've got about 300 internal blogs (and a bunch of external blogs) which have helped to change the culture to become more open and collaborative.

You don't have to be a psychologist to realize that cash is not the only motivation for employees. I'm constantly amazed at how much discussion and active participation there is on the mailing lists about issues that are not on people's short term objectives plan. So, while innovating the compensation will undoubtedly be one of the actions discussed, the most obvious motivational efforts are about giving people the feeling that they are in charge of their own destiny and recognized and rewarded for going beyond the call of duty. This is what happened to Harri - he was given an innovation award, saw his project go mainstream, and is now working on a new team dedicated to bringing about wide-scale change across the company.

On a more systematic basis, we have created a process that allows any employee to have the chance to create a new application or service: Nokia Labs. This was the top recommenation that came out of an Internet innovation conference we organized last year, and is intended as a handy place to showcase they many early stage projects around the company, share the ideas, improve them and engage the creator as "intranpreneur". This has now grown into the public Beta Labs and the internally facing, earlier stage Alpha Labs, which is where many Beta Labs ideas come from.

3. Developers / partners

The third leg of our innovation story concerns developers, and here we have an organization that is devoted to serving them full time - Forum Nokia that is leading most of these efforts, together with our research centre. Some of the more exciting web efforts here are the web runtime and widgets (and widsets for a J2ME service) and the contacts book extensions (e.g used by Gizmo). There are many open source efforts going on, such as the S60 browser, Maemo development platform, Python for S60, Affix (a bluetooth protocol stack for Linux), Hildon touch screen app framework, Carbide development tools, the mobile web server, and Open C which which allows web coders to more easily code for S60 using C and C++ libraries.

In this category we'd also include outreach to universitites, academics and researchers (such as via and through our collaborative work at the NRC office locations of Palo Alto, Cambridge, MA for MIT, and Cambridge, England where there is a nanosciences lab). Also, corporate tie ups abound, with both the gorillas (e.g. IBM) and the startups as either developers or technology partners and vendors.

Forum Nokia starting to extend beyond the traditional developer demographic with more consumer focused platform MOSH, and the regular Mobile Mashups have started a discussion forum with VC's and start-ups in Silicon Valley, the most recent on on 1 Nov on the subject of Mobile Social.

So, probably time to draw breath and leave it there. I'm fairly confident that this review only partially identified the range of Internet related innovation activities going on around the company, so more than happy to be put right by well meaning readers, and hear about areas where you think we might not be doing enough. But for now, there's quite a bit to be working on.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nokia's innovation story, Part 1 - key trends

Blimey, this is turning into being quite a tome. It looks like there's going to be two parts to this story - first, some of the key trends that set the context for the discussion, and second a selection of the innovation activities that we have been working on recently to ensure we accomodate these trends.

During the conference mentioned in the previous post I only got to talk to about a few of these ideas, but I wanted to document them while fresh. It's worth bearing in mind that everyone at Nokia will have a different take on this universally discussed, but rarely adequately defined theme of innovation - since there is an assumption that innovation is owned by everyone. In terms of what innovation is, this was a topic of the night before, and the Editor of the Economist's favourite definition, courtesy of Goldman Sachs, was "fresh thinking that creates value". That works for me, since it reminds us that new ideas alone are nice but irrelevant if they don't have an impact.

So, to the trends. As a company we are grounded in fundamental trends. Nokia is full of fact-loving engineers, and there needs to be data and evidence for what we do. We're unlikely to jump like a jitter bug to the latest shiny thing. That means that sometimes we may be seen as cautious, and may not get it right first time, but when we do it, we know we're doing it for the long haul. (N-Gage comes to mind). When I joined Nokia in 2003 in the delightfully named Insight & Foresight group, one of my tasks was to write the macro economic section of the annual Nokia WorldMap of the top trends in the converging digital industry. This was organized in terms of consumer, business, technology, macro trends, and some overall disruptions, and had about 50 trends that were the summary of a year's worth of analysis of the team. These are updated every year, and I picked a selection that I found most compelling to set the tone: the net generation, the search for authenticity, the information wake, harnessing collective intelligence, mass customization, consumerization of the enterprise (aka Enterprise2.0) and leapfrog innovation. So, now to provide more meat on the bones:

The demographic shadow of the baby boom generation is the net generation, today's 14-30 yr olds that are globally the most influential demographic, accounting for 25-40% of populations (highest in India and Pakistan) and something like 80% of consumer tech purchases, since they advise their parents (data from Don Tapscott's Net Generation project). They live in a polychromatic world (one of Joi Ito's favourite phrases) - vibrant, instant, colourful and multichannel, sharing their lives, often in breath-taking technicolour intimacy with the world, but more often just the people and communities who matter to them. These are people used to being exposed to 3000 brands a day, but not letting them stick. They filter out noise and froth, as if reared subconciously on the Cluetrain. They're the teflon generation, which drives traditional marketers crazy. They're used to being intimate with each other, and ironically, can also be intimate with brands, in particular those that demonstrate authenticity. Authenticity here can be defined as tranparency coupled with high performance, in areas such as environmental sustainability, provenance, employee relations and conversations, not marketing. It means cutting out the spin and the intermediaries between people and the things they want to connect to. Relationships - undiluted. Authenticity means people and companies articulate and share their own unique values, they don't just follow fads. And perhaps more than anything it means mountains of data. There is a high bandwidth for information, and the filters are expected to be client-side. The more blogs the better – not just from the CEO (unless he or she is interesting in their own right), but from the product managers who can talk with loving micro detail about obscure features. The data doesn’t need to be packaged – the rawer the better, otherwise it seems patronizing. Hence the carbon footprint of a packet of crisps – let the people decide. Data about the provenance of things and people is everywhere nowadays, and the smart companies are collecting and analysing it to create better services. Last.FM, Amazon and NefFlix filtering that learns your taste and suggests new things being a simple example. Up til now, these smart recommendation engines have been constrained by the paucity of useful, unique data sets that help the services know that your favourite thing and mine are one and the same. Similarly singers and their products, with the notable exception of a number of Stock, Aitken and Waterman clones from the 80s, are generally unique and different. Meaning can be layered on top, and smart algorithms do their bit. The most obvious (and bankable) recommendation engine to date is of course Google, that uses that wholly unique asset, the URL.

So, here I believe lies the potential of the mobile web – opening up new datasets for analysis and recommendation, with monetary values far in advance of the pennies that vendors pay for the click of a potentially interested surfer. If Amazon can use its smarts to get me to a buy a book based on my behaviour, why not allow someone to recommend what car I should be driving based on an analysis of my actual life, not just the slice of me inferred by my purchasing habits on one book-orientated website. The beauty of the mobile device is that it's not only smart, but connected. According to a China Mobile study, 91% of owners keep within 1 metre of them 24/7. Unlike traditional surfing through the web, this mobile device is moving with you through the "three dimensional" (i.e. real) world, leaving an information wake. The mobile device has the ability to capture and deliver a vast number of different data streams, such as location, who are your real friends (ie those people in your mobile phonebook, not the pale imitations found on social networking services), who do you call the most, and even in future, what you buy, what you eat or how you exercise. This data is created by the user and as such is – or should be - owned by them - getting them to part with it in order to receive useful and services is one of the primary innovation and creativity challenges of our generation. So far, I don’t see clarity in the industry on this and it’s dangerous. We allow Microsoft to create the tools that allow us to write novels, but do not expect them to claim ownership. Similarly, we hire the phone companies for the reason of connecting us with people we chose to connect to. If in doing that, we create a digital trail of commercial value, it would be folly not to assume that most of this value resides with its creator.

Smart companies will figure out how to get the customer to let them tap into these data streams, and use them to generate collective intelligence about what the customers want, often before they even know they want it. Automating data collection and feedback on products will be a breakthrough in terms of productivity, and here again the mobile has the potential to be part of this story. I often wonder why on earth the operators don't actually do something useful with their aggregate view of mobile users. How hard would it be to deliver very powerful real time traffic reports, just based on observing the anonymized progress of the swarms of phone-toting commuters?

Product innovation will be a lot easier when every product has an online service component providing usage information to improve the experience. Who would have expected that rowing machines - a product if ever there was one - would be turned into a social-networking compliant "rowing experience" by bundling net-connected service with the product, allowing you to race against other strangers and friends around the world. With products that can now talk back and among each other, it's a lot easier to have an aggregate view of what is actually happening around your customer's world, and how to fill the gaps. However, this is happening everywhere, with a surfeit of products and services clamouring for the every drop of customer attention.

The natural response to this is to dive into a niche, ever closer to the customer. And it is here that mass customization starts to become both necessary and ubiquitous. With the provision of a service layer on top, even the most anodyne, commodtized product can be differentiated. Telco companies have been trying for years to inject higher level valuable services over the creeping commoditization of connecting bits that is happening to their communications services. Whether its Nike's online service for creating a unique pair of shoes, or the 3D printer that can create a product while the customer waits, people are expecting their products in any colour they like, including black.

However, this supply chain flexibility does not come cheap, and will be another factor that puts pressure on profit margins, in addition to declining entry barriers and commoditization. As such corporate managers suffer quarterly performance anxiety, and face intense pressure to control every moving thing, and cut costs to the quick. Letting go of control and allowing innovation to meander throughout an organization, unencumbered by ROI concerns, must be very hard for people in this position. However, this is exactly what needs to happen in some cases, as in any event, corporates are losing control of their employees. Consumerization and Enterprise2.0 means, in short, Web2.0 principles and processes coming to the workplace, and the resultant empowerment of the edge (in this case employee rather than employer). Employers are learning they are often only coming second (or third or fourth) in the prioirity of their employees. No longer poorly designed collaboration, knowledge management and communication services stand up to scrutiny - employees now have more advanced collaboration technologies in their personal lives, and will expect to use them in the workplace.

Employers letting go of control of their employees is just one element of Enterprise2.0, the changing shape of the corporation being another. Why do we need marketing if a product sells itself and manages the customer support through its own Satisfaction-like community? The only interaction a customer may want with a company is to speak directly to the product manager themselves. As mobiles become more contextually keys for advertising, how will companies be able to accomodate the switch from mass, non specific advertising, to micro, personalized conversations with an audience of one. Finally, not only with corporate hierarchies change, but geographies too. Micro-multinationals mean that companies can locate anywhere, and take advantage of different cost structures and innovation clusters to become worldclass on a shoestring budget. In this vein, leapfrogging occurs - innovations happen first in the developing world as they are driven by creativity inducing constraints. Hence the best place to get cataracts done is in India, and most advanced mobile payments services in Africa.

So, here are a handful of the key trends that I feel are most important in shaping our competitive space - some more relevant than others, and some still debatable. Anyway, next post I'll take a look at some of our innovation activities that we've been putting in place to meet the challenges posed by these trends head on.

Economist Conferences: how they all should be

My colleague, fellow brit, sailing enthusiast and co-conspirator on some dangerously interesting ideas, John Clarke, is the CIO of Nokia. Unfortunately for him his role means he has real customers to keep happy, vendors to whip, and crises to solve.

Fortunately for me, a perfect work storm hit him this week, and he had to grudgingly hand over to me his attendance at the tremendously interesting Economist 6th Annual Innovation Awards Ceremony and Summit. As a peon normally labouring several layers under the public radar screen, I normally just hawk my wares to an internal audience where I do only limited damage. Hence, when handed this opportunity I was a little nervous. The idea of sitting up on stage with bulging-brained business editor of the Economist, Tom Standage, the CTO of BT and a VP at P&G and talking to a press-strewn room of senior execs about Nokia's innovation story was a little disconcerting.

But actually things went rather well, I think, and my next blog post outlines roughly what I would have said, had I not been answering questions the whole time. But first, it's worth describing the context of this uniquely colourful and interesting meeting. The night before the Summit is an Awards Ceremony at the Science Museum. As a Speaker, I was invited, albeit last minute, and brought along my bemused friend Daryl (who I had planned to meet up with). He had great fun in trying to embarass me in this esteemed company, and fracture the delicate artiface of grownup professionalism that I wear rather awkwardly. However, as the champagne flowed, we started to get into our stride - we buttonholed famous Peruvian economist Hernando do Soto for 15 minutes. He's one of my heroes (I think I may have actually used that phrase to him) - his work on identifying the importance of property rights in developing countries has had a profound impact in his lifetime, and as such he now consults to 21 heads of State. His think tank is described by the Economist as one of the two most influetial in the world. We were seated at the table of Economist editor John Micklethwait, and inches away from the procession of Nobel laureats, billionaires and brainiacs that were honored in this year's awards. My shoulders were brushed by some pretty impressive midriffs: scientists who developed a way to do AIDS tests really quickly, the Chairman of India's outsourcing marvel Infosys, the founder and CEO of RIM (garage tinkerer to hero in 10 years); pioneers in LEDs; the guys who invented GMR (memory storage) which made my iPod possible, and finally an African telco entrepreneur who just sold his corruption-free business for $3.4bn. Phew.

At the end of last night it was obvious that I'd already had more than my money's worth and was starting to enjoy myself. The event was expertly managed, with delicious food, crisp timing, inspiring surroundings and ridiculously bright and successful people at every turn. Encouraging words from Tom Standage put me at my ease, and all I had to do now was think through what was the Nokia innovation story that I wanted to tell. I soon realized that actually, we've got a lot to say, the question was picking the right bits. Whether I did or not, you decide. That's the topic of the next post.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I want to build a tool for hate

I want to build a tool that allows spittle-fuelled invectives, deep dark howling rants and purple prose that takes your breath away. But relax, this isn't a story of bad hatred - of people, politics or puppies. No this is about good hate. Good hate is hatred of bad things. Crime, corruption, inefficiency, lawlessness, thuggery, treachoury, cantankerousness and deeply bad service.

What started this train of thought was a specific incident last week as I ate the gruel of tatty "service" that the beleaguered Heathrow airport serves up cold. Arriving late night in Terminal 4, there was a long queue of several hundred people waiting for passport control, and a separate queue for the iris scanning machine. Now, having had my iris scanned I went up to this shorter line, pleased with the prospect of a sharp exit. After about 5 minutes of waiting around and realizing that the line wasn't getting any shorter, it was clear that the system wasn't letting people through. An official overseeing the mess from the command center then saunters up and says, Nope, the machine's not working, so we'd better go back to the line. By this time, a few other hundred people have arrived, so we stumble back, with more of our lives wasted. So bad enough that the machine wasn't working (happens on about 1 out of 3 times I've tried these machines) but nobody could be bothered to even put up a sign saying sorry, don't waste your time. Just one example, there are countless more, at that airport alone.

My annoyance at the appalling state of our airport is mashed with embarrassment that any foreigners should be exposed to this as the first thing they see, liberally sprinkled with utter helplessness - both due to not being able to do anything about it but also because of my inability to vent my frustration in a satisfactory way. Of course there was huffing and puffing by my co-victims in the queue but we're all in the same boat.

I should shrug it off, toughen up. God knows, as a Londoner I have ample opportunity to feel frustrated with what goes by the name of our public transport service. I felt like jumping up and down and screaming NO, THIS IS COMPLETELY SHIT!! However it's been about 30 years since my last public tantrum, and civil society impedes a direct 1-1 relationship between the rages in my head and my vocal chords.

But, let's leave aside this dark story - the reverse, happier side is also true. I also want to create a tool for Love. Heaping large amounts of love on a person should be easier than it is today. I want to say that I love that building, that organization, that hero that I've never met.

And to an extent the Web does give me a voice to do exactly that. However, it is not really well designed to deal with real things - it prefers to deal with URLs. It organizes by [http followed by indecipherable code] rather than [that which we commonly refer to as...]. Having a naming convention built around real things and real places would be really helpful. Where do I go if I want to complain about Heathrow? Well, if I wanted to complain about a restaurant inside Heathrow I might be lucky, and find something on Yell or Timeout or Squaremeal or LondonEating or wherever. But what about Heathrow itself? This creaky, wheezing behemoth is a major part of our lives, but its online presence is an anodyne, sterilized boilerplate, which clearly has no intention to allow us to peak behind the curtain to the conversations that real people are having with each other about this infernal place, and attempting to have with Heathrow.

What I think we need is a place on the web that can be the hub of discussions around an airport, a brand, a government, a city, a product or, well, just about anything, whether or not the owner in charge likes the idea. Of course these conversations are happening in a fragmented way today, and Google is doing a good job at knitting these together for those who search for them, but this is ad hoc. Each of us enter queries differently, and the results that Google delivers are generally between them and us, with few search terms on brand names delivering the genuine voice of the people rather than the PR department. However, there's no denying - it would be nice to have a global directory of things that we all use and refer to.

Happily, am seeing some small steps in this direction. People-powered customer service directories is not something I knew existed until recently, and now there are two. The founders of Silicon Valley startup Satisfaction were over in London last week to speak at the Future of Web Apps conference, and I've just heard about another startup from South Africa called HelloPeter, which has been doing the same kind of thing for a while. I had a good chat with one of the founders of Satisfaction, Lane Becker, who was also one of the founders of the rather wonderful Adaptive Path. I was struck with the simple proposition of their site - they're going to help your customers have conversations about your brands, so you might as well join in. This level of transparency requires a company to feel good about their product, and their customers, and some impressive, customer-focused companies such as Timbuk2 are already using it to have even more open conversations with their customers.

Well, you can guess the rest. Reared on a Hollywood addiction to happy endings, I'm hoping that need for hate will disappear. So I created a channel for Heathrow at Satisfaction ( noted my problem, and now wait, patiently and ever optimistic (like those in the line for passport control) that Heathrow - and bad services around the world - will start to listen. And maybe even respond.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Speaker Series: Sean Moffitt on Wiki Brands

I met Sean Moffit, the founder of Canadian word of mouth marketing company Agent Wildfire, a few months ago at one of Don Tapscott's seminars and he gave a convincing talk on the need for brands to be more defined by customer interactions - hence the name Wiki Brands. He came over to Nokia House a few days ago and delivered a well-received presentation that delivered a blizzard of case studies and statistics in a compelling way that left most people with a clear picture of some of the major changes happening in branding today.

We also had a few of Nokia's own word of mouth experts in the room (we've got a fairly active programme) who shared what they'd been up to.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Your favourite 2.0 pundits?

Quite a few people are asking me for recommendations about good social networking and 2.0-type thinkers and speakers, not necessarily just from the mobile space. Most of the requests are UK/Europe, so probably makes sense to start there.

Have you heard someone you think is good recently that you'd like to recommend? Or - no time for modesty - are you yourself interested to be "on the circuit" and willing and able to share your strong opinions about matters 2.0, social networking and / or enterprise 2.0? Would be great to hear from you. Either leave a comment or ping me on stephen dot johnston at nokia dot com.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pablos comes and stirs things up

"Pablos" is quite a well-known hacker, security expert and futurist, who I saw give a great presentation at the DLD Conference earlier this year, so invited him to come to Helsinki and talk to Nokia.

He's worked on numerous cool projects, such as OQO and the hackerbot - which drives up to people with open wifi and shows them their passwords. We had a roundtable brainstorming with him afterwords and my key takeaway was the many overlaps that exist between the murky world of hacking and the gleaming prize of innovation. As we start to launch our new internet services, we're going to need to learn how to be fuzzier, murkier and more willing to embrace the hacker ethos that Pablos and his uni-named friends embody.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Enterprise2.0 - what does it mean for mobile?

Starship enterprise

In the past few weeks I’ve been having a number of interesting conversations about “Enterprise2.0”, what it means for mobility in general and for Nokia in particular. Despite a handful of productive and insightful commentators, it’s rather an anemic oeuvre compared to its Big Brother Web2.0 with very little written on the mobile aspects – as we could probably expect, given its U.S. origins. So, I’ve had some chats with some reliably smart folk such as Marc Orchant and Ajit Jaokar (who has also started musing on the topic), done some exhaustive research (yes, dear reader, minutes not seconds), and am liking what I see. It seems that many of the defining elements of Enterprise2.0 are a natural fit to the mobile space, in particular the possibility to capture and more easily transmit new kinds of data (for example putting location, context and communication history as an integral part of E2.0 services), the modular architecture of web syndication (RSS and user-defined filters work well on mobile) and, not least, the opportunities for the mobile to replace the PC, in particular for small businesses and / or emerging markets.

All is not rosy however. The mobile industry faces major obstacles in being part of this interesting arena, for example i) fragmented mobile operating systems, most of which are not built from the ground up to be web native ii) the default PC-centric approach towards enterprise2.0 applications (big screen, keyboard and sophisticated browser) and iii) despite some signs to the contrary, still slooooow progress by the mobile operators to get out of the way of innovation and introduce transparent pricing and proper flat-rate tariffs.

So I’d propose that the mobile industry should stop scrapping over who gets which share of an ever dwindling consumer pie and instead target the bigger prize – helping companies go 2.0. And that means a new, open and collaborative approach with a much wider range of partners than the mobile industry normally works with, so that we can figure out how to bake mobility into Enteprise 2.0 from the start.  

Defining moments – people, not process

Definitions are often tricky, but in the case of Enterprise2.0, it shouldn't be hard - since it is really just Web2.0 goes corporate – from the frat-room to the boardroom. Harvard’s Andrew McAfee, one of those most active in the paternity battle for this new babe, defines it as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”. A more expansive view would also take in the people dimension, such as this summary from a recent Enterprise2.0 conference: "a radical change in the way businesses operate and is as much about the people, the culture and the processes as it is about the technology, tools and platforms.” So either way, this is a story of socializing the enterprise (not a word that comfortably fits in most capitalist dictionaries). But if this approach puts people front and centre in companies, rather than inflexible processs and acronyms, I’m all in favour.

McAfee provides a helpful acronmyn (SLATES) which highlights key 2.0 characteristics that will generally be found in these solutions: search, links, authoring, tags, extensions, signals. More explanations in his original paper. Social software is a key building block for Enterprise2.0, and it is starting to attract IT managers’ attention. Gartner’s July 2007 research paper, “The Emerging Enterprise Social Software Marketplace” predicts a compound annual revenue growth for social software of 41.7% through 2011 (from $120m last year to $700m in 2011). They say it’s now moving beyond the traditional blogs and wikis to include “social software platforms, bookmarking, communities of practice, discussion forums, expertise location and information feeds”.

The timing is right for this discussion, as Enteprise2.0 is rapidly going mainstream. McKinsey found three quarters of executives planning to increase investment on these kind of collaborative tools. A Forrester survey of 119 CIOs found 89% “had adopted at least one of six prominent Web 2.0 tools - blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS, social networking, and content tagging - and a remarkable 35% said they were already using all six of the tools.”

So, to the mobile angle. Mobile has generally been the ugly duckling of the 2.0 world, but things are changing. Just when we were finally seeing mobile browsers tackle full Ajax-y web pages well and start to convince people thinking that the mobile web and the real web aren’t really that different, along came rich browsing applications that raised the bar still higher for our already fiendishly creative geeks. The Big Browser paradigm is inimical to mobile, and if we try and squeeze it into little screens it will end in tears. One example, while reading a NYTimes piece on how your friends can make you fat, I noticed that you’re able to double-click on any word in the story and pull up a definition of it, without that word being in hypertext. That is a fairly new concept to me, and if it becomes widely adopted, could pose yet another challenge for mobile, as today’s mobile browser user experience do not seem to allow such doubleclicks. However, we all know the world is going mobile. The interesting question is whether the mobile element will be an afterthought, tacked on with limited functionality, or will be a fundamental part of the experience from the beginning. So I looked back at the Web2.0 principles Tim O'Reilly wrote in 2005 that seem to have weathered the discussion well and have now become part of the furniture. Most of them as we can see are relevant to the enterprise space, but what do they mean for mobile?

1. The Web as a platform

On the consumer side, the Web is now clearly the global platform for developers, entrepreneurs and individuals. Consumer-focused startups now need a fraction of the money they used to in order to get up and running, and scale with relative ease. MySpace, Bebo and Facebook have brought social networking to the masses – people who neither know nor care that such a term exists. That this trend is going corporate is one of the tenets of Enterprise2.0. Consumerization of IT is afoot, and consumer-focused tools (IM, VOIP and social networks) are appearing either neat (19,337 Microsofties on Facebook) or diluted to taste (LinkedIn and other less colourful offerings). However, the fuzzy, beta-nature of many of these services mean they’re not suited for business critical functions such as the software that runs our big manufacturing plants. Also, it is still hard for web-based startups to break into the big corporate accounts – you can’t yet code a business lunch or round of golf in Ajax. Supporting this, the Forrester survey found that 71% of companies would prefer “tools to be offered by a major incumbent vendor like Microsoft or IBM [rather than] smaller specialist firms like Socialtext, NewsGator, MindTouch, and others”. So, the web is not yet as advanced for enterprise offerings as for the consumer side.

As for the mobile industry, let’s be honest – we still have a way to go. Fragmented operating systems, screen sizes, resolutions and capabilities frustrate development efforts, few entrepreneurs are making real money out of the mobile internet or seeing large scale service adoption, and few people would chose their operator (or handset maker? let’s see) to provide their social network rather than their fresh-faced, agile web innovator. However, let’s remember that the mobile is much more recent arrival than the PC, and there are uniquely challenging constraints regarding form factor, UI and battery life etc. It is worth mentioning here that Nokia has been focusing like a laser beam on this topic in recent months – it has dominated recent corporate strategy dicussions and is now at the core of our recent reorg and new company structure. Our CEO has made “we’re an internet company” pronouncements whenever he’s been offered a microphone; Symbian is taking great strides in becoming more developer and web-friendly, and our browser is one of the industry’s best kept secrets (and incidentally, shares most of its code with the iPhone). We’re also starting to deliver some rather funky new apps, including a mobile web server, real-world browsing and of course the web tablet and open-source Linux platform (Maemo). Advert over – but worth saying, and no doubt other mobile players are being active here. As an industry however, we’re still playing catchup.

2. Harnessing collective intelligence

Amazon is often held up as the first example of a service provider that lets users benefit from collective intelligence through their collaborative filtering engine. So, why would this not also work in areas other than books? For example, "intelligent" CRM software could scan the salesperson's customer responses, and suggests appropriate product offerings based on large numbers of other interactions, potentially also outside the company. (Actually, maybe it does already, it’s been a while since I worked in the industry). Most sales people are inherently mobile, and providing lightweight usable tools that expose this collective intelligence at the right time and in the right context, could be a very valuable offering to mobile users.

Wikis are great at capturing user-created intelligence and are rapidly becoming mainstream in the enterprise space, but if you’ve ever tried using one of today’s wikis from your mobile, you’ll appreciate the inherent problems here. Socialtext have been making moves in this regard, but here is a standard chicken-and-egg problem – limited demand resulting in limited development time, begetting limited offerings. UI and synchronization are the key issues to solve. As noted above, services requring smart and big browsers face an uphill struggle on the mobile. Today’s wikis often suggest side-by-side version control review, and require a big screen to see the differences. Synchronization is a key conceptual challenge with mobile, since they generally are not always on. Wikis rely on having one version of the truth – two people making changes to the same item when offline then syncing later makes would vex Schrödinger himself.

Today project managers in Nokia that I work with will generally just create an empty wiki space as they start a new project. This example is being played out across the corporate landscape, and could well disrupt collaboration applications that are built on the assumption that the designers – cut off from the action – know what’s right for each project. Here Nokia’s interests are well aligned with the wiki companies and web services companies in general – do away with the need for a PC and keep the smarts in the cloud. Once bottom up “architectures of participation” are in place, powerful learnings can then be harnessed - enterprise-focused social networking tools (Ryze, Tribe, LinkedIn) are able to unearth links, activities and dependencies around the organization which traditional hierarchies and organizational structures miss.

There are plenty of ways that mobiles could be used as both in-the-field data gatherers, providing relelvant context, or being the mobile manager’s tool of choice for viewing and interacting with the wisdom of the crowds who have gone before.

3. Data is the next Intel inside

A key element of anything with a 2.0–suffix is about shift of control and content creation to the edges. In most companies, ours included, there is a lot of valuable data being created by our employees and customers that is currently not captured or utilized. As the locus of value moves from product to service, capturing and understanding these conversations is becoming a key requirement. These customers and employees at the edge now have the tools, techniques and – significantly – expectations about their ability to make change happen. Wikis and blogs are now full-to-bursting with valuable first-person thoughts, reflections and data - some unstructured, others in an array of formats. This data is now the beating heart of today's enterprise, and often a unique repository of insights from the key experts in the company. Few senior managers will fully appreciate this resource because it has arrived via the back door.

Nokia's own efforts at promoting wikis and blogs internally continue and are now reaching mainstream. There is still however plenty more scope for their use in the harder-to-reach, business critical areas of the business, such as the sales teams and factory management. When you’re making 300m+ phones a year, the fuzziness inherent in wikis needs to be selectively applied. Also there is room for more innovation on top of the many tools that are available. TiddlyWiki (recently purchased by BT) integrates IP-communication plug-ins to the wiki framework, thereby allowing in-house IT executives to hack together innovative IP & mobile communication experiences, without needing long requirements lists, lead times, operator involvement or large amounts of money. They used to burn people at the stake for such heresy.

I expect to see companies doing more with wikis and blogs, using them for key product and customer data, with relevant user-level access controls if necessary. At Nokia we are using the open source MediaWiki engine used for a Nokia Infopedia, to make it easy for people to find and then use the key data about our products, solutions, organizational change initiatives, pricing, strategies, marketing initiatives etc. Often overlooked is the change of pace that needs to take place when the early adopter tools move mainstream - today's wikis are still too complicated and hard to use, so a top-down campaign to encourage wiki use will fail without adequate thought and resources being given to training and education, as well as experimenting with new simple UI developments such as drag and drop and other concepts that people are already familiar with.'s AppExchange and Jive Software's clearspace are interesting in this regard. We need to get the balance right between innovation and communication in order to bring all employees along this path.

Customer conversations that happen around our products represent the possibility to collect insanely valuable data, and engage in genuine conversations with the people who buy our stuff. Currently, as a product company, we don’t yet do this on a large scale – just a few pilot initiatives and ad hoc discussions around individuals’ blogs. Contrast this to Google - every second their search engine receives primary user data, about terms that matter to them, and the effect of every change that Google makes to its site can be callibrated immediately, and they can get a sense of the pulse of the world in real time.
Moving from the source of data to the type of data - we are going to be seeing next generation web services start to be built for a three dimensional world, and one in which context is king. This will massively increase the number and type of data-sources available as inputs in the creation of web services. The scope and type of services that can be built using this data are difficult to imagine, because so much of the web today is in two dimensions - when you are reading your email client, the email sevice provider does not know if you are in Sydney or Sidcup. 

Data can be defined broadly here - from active, user generated tags (modular, and easy to submit, so perfect for mobiles) to specific data, captured in the background such as usage and communication metadata. How easy is it for users of our devices to access their own data - where they've been, who they've talked to, what applications they've used the most etc? In short, not easy at all, yet.

Nick Carr highlights a critical piece of the puzzle suggesting that Enterprise2.0 may have a better chance than other new fangled technologies – they make life easier not harder. In particular, the system gets smarter as people use it normally. “Knowledge is captured, in other words, as it's created, without requiring any additional work”. The classic consumer examples here are’s music recognition and Amazon’s collaborative filtering – both services allow your profile to become smarter and more helpful to you over time, if you give it access to what you do. So the incentive to use it increases. A fascinating question to me is to what extent can relevant data be automatically captured from the mobile device that you carry with you 24hrs a day, and itself be an input to new Enterprise2.0 applications. 

It is the different types of data available to creative entrepreneurs that should make the mobile industry sit up and take notice. Location information is one key ingredient that is trapped and lying dormant for want of a ha’penny of innovation. An entrepreneur I spoke to recently said he would have been charged €0.15 for each call that his application made to the operator to get a location fix from their cell ID. What a wasted opportunity to add value. He is obviously now routing round the roadblock and using GPS or consumer-created information database. Location is just one piece of data, but there are many others on the phone – which companies you call the most, who your friends are, who was in Bluetooth range over the past few days. With careful management and consumer-friendly usage, such data could lead to new technicolour applications and services that will make today’s Enterprise and Web2.0 services look black-and-white.

4. Perpetual beta

The mobile industry has unwittingly delivered plenty of betas in the past (WAP, MMS…), but they weren’t marketed as such. Instead of failures, they might have been seen as tentative first steps. But then it’d have been hard to justify charging consumers so much for them. Few in our industry seem to have recognized that the value of rich, direct feedback from users can far outweigh the minimal revenues that are captured by overpriced and underwhelming services. This requires a change in attitude, and a more open conversation with customers. This will in turn require changes in our transparency and "corporate voice". It is not about shipping and forgetting, but about partnering with customers who are trying to maximize the value of their investments. The Web2.0 software company 37signals does this well - a product-focused blog keeps news of almost-daily upgrades flowing and rapid and personal customer support for paying customers results in a high comfort level, and willingness to engage.

The beta mindset is coming to mobile: recent examples include Orange’s coding camp in August for developers in San Francisco (which perhaps included some marketing element to boost the launch of their Bubbletop web/widget service) and Vodafone R&D labs’ Betavine which aims to “encourage collaboration in the area of mobile and internet communications”. At Nokia, we’ve launched Nokia BetaLabs for the public and internally we have a service called AlphaLabs which now has about 75 applications and services for employees to test and provide feedback on. However, I see most of these activities as table stakes – we’re not really raising the bar of innovation beyond what is happening on the web, and in any event, it’s often far more challenging to be a beta tester on mobile – installation is harder (though our PC suite product is now actually pretty usable), user numbers are lower so there’s less feedback, and there’s always a danger that we’ll alienate (and bankrupt) our users who download data intensive applications without a decent data plan. Another challenge here is the current community forum experience on mobiles – it’s fairly poor, and most examples are just web-based forums squeezed to a small screen.

The more interesting issues relate to the topics that today’s beta aspects can’t handle well, and here mobile connectivity makes continuous feedback possible, and smart contextual awareness means that feedback can more easily be provided automatically. As mobile platforms mature and become more integrated with the web, expect to see greater use of the mobile as both a direct channel for feedback on mobile services, and a feedback tool integrated with existing web services (an example could be the integration of music recommendation service with the music player on the phone).

5. Lightweight Programming Models

New open web standards are being deployed across the enteprise in particular to enable richer user experiences (e.g. AJAX), mashups (XML) and syndication of content (RSS). These allow individuals to create personalized feeds based on information that is important to them, but may not have a critical mass in terms of numbers of users, to get a tailored solution built for them. Related to this is the concept of "hackability" - how to make sure that the individuals (either employees or the customers-themselves) have enough control over the system to create their "own-label" solutions, and then, ideally share with others and improve for the benefit of the whole ecosystem. The concept of hackability is anathema to the mobile industry, and there are some pretty solid reasons for this: sensitive personal data and the ease of running up large bills being two obvious places to start. So clearly there needs to be some thought given to what is opened up and what is locked down. I’ve heard a number of people say that J2ME is not that interesting as you can’t do very much with it – such as accessing the calling and connectivity features. However, I’m a business guy not a technologist, so I can’t add much here, apart from to say that the mobile industry doesn’t have the luxury to sit on its hands and do nothing in this area, as our customers’ communication needs are increasingly being met by internet players who are embracing hackability.

One obvious example here are the core applications of the phone. How many fabulously interesting consumer and enterprise applications would be developed (within 24hrs) if web developers using lightweight protocols such as XML could easily gain access to the phone book’s contacts book, call log, message archive and calendar?

One test for lightweight programming models will be the extent to which "presence" becomes mainstream in corporate usage. Still the preserve of the young, IM-reared generation, and considered somewhat sceptically by incumbent executives, this is expected to become more mainstream. Alex Saunders has some good thinking around what he calls "new presence" with new value-enhaching applications such as call management, advertising, and enterprise solutions that are enabled by lightweight, interoperable web based standards such as XML. It is unlikely that the pace of innovation in this space will fit within the traditional top-down standards bodies processes; the mobile needs to allow innovators in to access the data and create new applications and services on top.

So, again, lots of potential IF the mobile industry embraces these lightweight models. In addition mobiles would work well with “loosely-coupled” services, such as mashups that tailor and filter data before it reaches you, helping you reduce information overload (one example would be an enterprise proximity social networking app that would display the current status of customers’ accounts that you are about to bump into at a conference). Maps mashup showing houses to rent within 500yards of where you are now). RSS is also well suited to mobile – not only does it deliver modular, packaged stories that work well on the small screen (or headset), but a feed reader or podcast client can load up a full days’ worth of content using free wifi.

6. Software above the level of the device

This issue shares many similarities with the “Web as a platform” principle, and if it is not handled well could represent a great sucking sound of value leaving mobile platforms. There is little point in having just a mobile platform – your services should be available on the mobile, just as they are on your colleague’s computer, or your car on the drive home. The mobile industry can no longer make phones that treat the web as a place to go, but needs to make devices that seamlessly extend the services available on the web, and provide the benefits of physical form.

Tim O'Reilly himself uses the example of the mobile industry’s biggest (unused) asset to date, the contacts book, to demonstrate how this will be affected:

"It's easy to see how Web 2.0 will also remake the address book. A Web 2.0-style address book would treat the local address book on the PC or phone merely as a cache of the contacts you've explicitly asked the system to remember. Meanwhile, a web-based synchronization agent, Gmail-style, would remember every message sent or received, every email address and every phone number used, and build social networking heuristics to decide which ones to offer up as alternatives when an answer wasn't found in the local cache. Lacking an answer there, the system would query the broader social network".

We cannot just decide not to lose control of the contacts book – again, we do not have the luxury of choice. We need to actively ensure that core functions have an internet strategy including but not limited to: have the web as a back up, channel for access and platform for innovation.

The calendar function is similarly powerful, and there seems to be an opportunity here for a really good cross-device core application suite - seamless syncing the user’s core information across multiple devices and platforms, with a core offering that lives in the cloud.  Again we can turn to the web for lessons in innovation – Zyb, Soocial, Fidgt, Tabber, Anywr and of course Plaxo are doing fun things with contacts, 30boxes, and SyncMyCal making calendars work better, and RememberTheMilk and TaDa for task lists.

Apparently 93% of cameraphone photos never leave the phone – clearly because the software so far has not been above the level of a single device. This is changing too – companies such as Sharpcast and Shozu, and of course Nokia’s own Twango and Mosh, are intent on making it far easier to move media off the phone and on to the web.

In additon to core applications and one’s media taking to the cloud, the browser is also going agnostic and making the entire PC go virtual. Soonr allows you to access the contents of a remote PC from your mobile browser - something that shifts value away from the PC to the mobile. In the enterprise side, companies such as Zoho, DesktopTwo and ThinkFree are natural partners to mobile companies that seek to commoditize PCs – turning any of them into your own personal machine is true commoditization. So, again while it is still early days, the potential for mobile is strong – here we should aim to be a central part of an ecosystem in which intelligence lives in the cloud and uses the most appropriate device at the right time to allow the customer to intreract with the service.

7. Rich user experiences

Finally, the concept of user experience is key, and has been the driver of much of the shift towards consumer tools in the workplace. Compare the experience of using Skype with using our IBM-supplied IM Sametime-client and you see the point: one is fun, the other is grey. As Nokia we need to move beyond grey and give these tools a human face, this is perfectly consistent with our new tagline of creating “very human technology”.

The emerging "Millenials" generation (teenagers – 30yr olds) are looking to connect on a personal level with others, and more at ease with a meritocracy of ideas than a hierarchy of job titles. Creating visually appealling and accessible solutions (Second Life job interviews, Skyping the boss, AJAX interfaces on corporate websites) is going to be just another part of what it means to be Enterprise2.0.

What does this principle mean for mobile? Well, as processing speeds, screen resolutions and speaker qualities increase there is a natural tendency to make the phone sing, dance and perform to the nth degree. There’s certainly room for that in some consumer experiences, but when it comes to the enterprise space, a rich user experience gives me only what I want at the time I want it, and delivering this is the job of many of the principles above. is a good example – almost everything on the page is there for a reason, and a click can filter and slice the data in intuitive ways. Efficient functions, no wasted space, no flashing gizmos – perhaps a good starting point for mobile service design?


Above I’ve reviewed O’Reilly’s original principles with my enterprise hat on, and with a mobile in my hand. It’s worth noting that these original principals were extended in a more indepth (commercial) report here, which gave a nod to Web2.0 poster child Chris Long Tail Anderson, and Dave Small Pieces Loosely Joined Weinberger. Dion Hinchcliffe notes that this report doesn’t change the substance of these principles, but does provide more context and affirms the link with Enterprise2.0 by providing more discussion of the enterprise impact.

Looking at it this way, the mobile seems to be an Enterprise2.0 story that is not often told, but one rich in potential. I’ve picked out a few potential implications for Nokia – and the mobile industry – that fall broadly into two categories - internally focused on improving our transparency, collaboration and speed, and externally focused, market orientated solutions, encompassing opportunities for both devices and services / solutions. I think this is a good time for us to take the initiative here - show the Internet incumbents (GYM) that we can match them at innovation, speed and customer-focus, and beat them solidly when it comes to helping companies adopting enterprise2.0 strategies that have mobile as a central element, not an afterthought.


Some related resources:
Introductory slideshow to Enteprise2.0: 
Andrew McAfee:
Dion Hinchcliffe:
Mark Orchant:

Don Tapscott on Enterprise2.0: 
Ajit Jaokar:
Umair Haque:

Conference, Boston, 18-21 June 2007
- presentations here:

Office2.0 Conference: 5 Sept 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dan Gillmor speaking at Nokia

Dan Gillmor is rare in that he is both a leading commentator, as well as a creator, of the next generation of the Internet culture and business, having been a reporter for San Jose Mercury News for many years, and more recently as the founder and face of Citizen Media.

Given the obvious connections between increasingly powerful and Internet-connected mobile devices (sorry, computers) and empowered individual journalists, I've been trying to get Dan to come to Helsinki for ages and talk to us, and just before the Summer we managed it (video below). The slides don't really come out, but most of the info is in his talk anyway.

(In case you're wondering about his opening remarks, he slipped and fell over the carpet 2mins before this video started, spilling water over his laptop. Happily, damage to man and machine was not fatal.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Looking behind the car seats to find half a trillion of value

Here’s a hypothesis: One of the most interesting places to look for new business value for the mobile industry is in the other industries that can be disrupted by the selective application of mobile intelligence.

The taxi industry is one such – an industry that is crying out for a dose of efficiency (or rather, has customers that are). How many people take cabs from any airport to the city centre, while the person behind them in the cab queue is about to do the same thing? Funnily enough, it again comes down to a communication problem – make it easier for the right information to pass between the right people at the right time, and you’ve got yourselves some savings, some of which could be turned into value (the way that Skype turns saving telco bills into willingness to pay).

My colleague Stephan Hartwig published a paper earlier this year about this that’s worth a read if you’re into this stuff. The intro says it all:

There are 500+ million privately owned passenger cars worldwide, thereof 236 Million in the US. These cars travel in the magnitude of 5 Trillion km per year. Let’s assume 2 empty seats per car and a small hypothetical value of only 5 cent per km and seat, the potential value of empty travelling seats amounts to 500billion€.

Of course, there are some pretty formidable social, technical and business model challenges to plugging into these opportunities, but that's what entrepreneurs are for. I wonder where else the selective application of mobile intelligence could also have the potential for change? Government tranparency and charitable donations could be candidates, and journalism and media in general surely have lessons to offer.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My MoSoSo preso

Just gave this presentation on mobile social networking to the Mobile Social Networking Conference here in San Francisco.

The deck lists 6 big ideas that I think will shape the space:
- Intimacy not irrelevance
- Push not pull
- Filters
- 3D not 2D
- Marketing not advertising
- P2P = Pocket to pocket

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Business Week on Nokia

A nice piece about Nokia in Biz Week:

[Nokia] seems to be doing everything right these days. Nokia's supply-chain management may be the best of any company in the world. It has a big head start in fast-growing markets such as China and India. And it has $9.5 billion in cash and practically no debt, so it can invest far more than rivals on developing new products or conquering new markets—and thus build even more intimidating economies of scale

The guys at HQ can savour this for approximately 2 seconds, and then get back to being paranoid. Things go down as well as up, and we're not likely to forget it. My $0.02:

- The story focuses only on the "phone as the product" market, and the 40% market share that we've been chasing for a decade (and seems to be tantalising close). But I wonder if when we reach it, the concept will be meaningless. What will the definition of a "phone" be in 2-3 years? Is it because one of the multiple wireless engines (wifi, bluetooth, wimax), happens to use government regulated cellular spectrum that it counts as a phone? Despite the current iPhone boost to the concept of a product business, in the long term, margins on all such products are declining, and the key test for our future competitiveness is the extent to which we can nail the services that build on top of, and extend, the devices.

- Let's bring some of that prodigous Indian innovation back to our markets. The pieces highlights a "$45 model [that] can go more than two weeks without a recharge and has a built-in flashlight" and "[a Nokia van that provides] instruction on how to use mobile phones. Two ideas we should implement in UK asap! :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Stop the misguided visionaries in Westminster Council before they do real damage

I thought this story must have been a joke when I first heard it. Apparently some bright sparks in London's Westminster Council are going to remove parking meters and instead rely on mobile phones for payments. The arguments, such as they are, suggest that it will be cheaper not to have to send people round to empty the meters, and it will be so much more convenient for the motorist, because they can for example add more time on by phone without going back to their car.

Unless there have been major usability improvements since I last was unfortunate enough to encounter Westminster's mobile payment parking process, I think this will be an unmitigated disaster. Clearly, saving money by axing parking attendants will be one benefit, but the real revenue will come in from fines for cars whose owners have failed to master the technology to book their slot. The usability of the scheme is so far away from acceptable that I'd be surprised if it doesn't result in a minor revolution (or the English equivalent thereof - a letter writing campaing to the Times).

Looking at the guidance material, it is clear that nothing has changed. The instructions for setting up payment are painfully complicated:

Call 0870 428 4009 and follow the touchtone prompts.
Using your phone keypad you will need to enter the following:
Your credit or debit card number
Card expiry date (2 digit expiry month, followed by 2 digit expiry year)
Card start date or issue number (debit card users only)
Vehicle registration number (VRN)*
*In order to enter your VRN, you need to press the key on your phone which displays the first character of your VRN followed by the number which represents the order it appears on that key. For example, for the letter ‘C’ you will need to press 2, followed by the number 3.

Have you got that? I had the unfortunate experience of trying out this mobile payments misery a few weeks ago, and after 5minutes of pain, gave up and went off to find a new non-mobile bay. Westminster Council helpfully provides a log-in option on their website to allow people to create accounts, and this seems to me the greatest ever folly. People who know about, and have registered in advance for the Westminster Council online membership scheme are probably locals, whereas logic suggests that the majority of those needing to pay for parking are from outside the borough, and have not the faintest idea of any of this.

I do applaud the ambition, and mobiles are wonderful things, but forcing people to use them when the technology and usability is not there, is just plain wrong. (As is assuming that everyone has them, and they haven't run out of battery or credit.)

We laugh at the futurists who expected all of us to be zooming round in our jetpacks by now; just because the technology is in place, it does not mean the experience is ready for the mainstream, be it in personal jet propulsion or mobile payments.

I do suspect that the secret agenda here is to make parking so terrifically complicated and painful, that people will leave the car at home. But if that is not actually the case, my suggestion would be to do as Oyster have been doing and trial NFC which seems a logical answer for mobile payments, and allow that to be an alternative channel, perhaps with a discounted rate to encourage adoption. Killing off cash at this stage would be premature, will unfairly penalized those with less tech savvy (am putting myself in that category) and, I predict, lead to far higher levels of pavement-rage, resulting in huge hospital bills that dwarf any short-term savings.

Westminster: Relent, before it's too late!