On Thursday (Day Two of Open Mobile Summit) thanks to Nokia and WOMWorldNokia, Iain, Sergejs and I had the privilege of an unscheduled Q&A with Nokia’s EVP, MeeGo Computers: Alberto Torres who had just finished a Keynote Speech on “Transforming Nokia” and a panel on “Platforms Vs Networks”.
Video is below along with a transcript. We weren’t in the best place for sound recording so some things in (parentheses) are those where I’m not sure what’s been said. Feel free to add corrections to transcript in comments.
- MeeGo phone being announced this year
- MeeGo phone will push the boudaries of processing power
- MeeGo phone will be a very high end product
- MeeGo is an opportunity to create something well beyond what others are doing
- MeeGo phone is step 5 of 5 and intended for mass market
- MeeGo phone will be something everyone wants to own
- MeeGo phone will try to satisfy all needs into one plate
- MeeGo phone will be capacitive, more stylish and more beautiful with simpler UI that average users will find as equally compelling as tech leaders.
- MeeGo has potential to be something deeper than typical smartphone
- Maemo apps not directly backwards compatible with MeeGo
- Nokia N8 will be Nokia’s flagship in a few months
- All future flagships will be built on MeeGo
- MeeGo phone will be on Nseries (not rumoured Sseries)
- MeeGo will have higher experience level than Symbian
- Symbian^3 and MeeGo will have certain minimum base level specification to ensure apps created on one device works in another.
- N8 is first step in reclaiming momentum at high end.
- MeeGo is the next step.
Iain: I’ve a question that kinda relates to your talk earlier. You talked a lot about encouraging developers, you feel this is important for expanding Nokia ecosystem -that’s great-you talked a lot about the developing markets. You’re selling millions of devices, but they want services on their devices not just the phone. But what you didn’t talk about is the (gap?). How are you going to encourage developers who are predominantly developing for high end devices in the developed world, how are you going to educate them or enable them to target this massive developing market that you can quickly put devices in the hands of millions of people
Alberto Torres: So two things. First of all we believe we need to encourage those developers that are building for the high end to build for Nokia too. So we are not just tryign to say “Ok the high end guys (control losing me out?)”. We believe that particularly with MeeGo we have a chance to attract top developers in the world. But then I think there’s a couple of aspects interesting for us as well is that one, we are building quite a sort of regional, almost sort of local network to support developers in different places.
Iain: So, my follow up question: Are you supporting development in these local markets:
AT: Absolutely, and I think also at the same time we’re going to create some (event) in places like Silicone Valley, and there’s a lot of people from certain communities; a lot of people from India, a lot of people from Israel, and some of these people also want to develop for the phone market. So we are having first focus on all best developers but then really taking a role for localized focus. Then the third thing is perhaps, beyond regional developers, I think you’ll see even this afternoon, this app wizard. I think the App Wizard is one example to bring essentially who have a website and want to (monitor?) that website without knowing how to program.
Jay: We have some Questions from the community: [@TheMeeGoBlog] Considering work on MeeGo UX has already started, will the MeeGo phone from Nokia be announced this year?
Jay…OK. Nice and short. Fantastic [I expected the line of - we can't comment on that.]
Sergejs: Is the recent restructuring in Nokia mean that there will be a shift again from services and software back to the devices?
AT: Not necessarily. I think what we are, what was done already with the solutions unit that was created eight months ago is now taking the next step to really recognize that the majority of the value that we’ll provide with services is going to be delivered through our devices. So they have to be working together very closely. And I thin kthere’s going to be more focus into integrating the devices and services to be more similar
S: Is there gong to be an increase in numbers of high end devices..
S:..Like now I only see Nokia release more and more mid tier Symbian smartphones to developed markets. Is there going to be like a shift to the higher end again?
AT: Absolutely, without a doubt. We recognize that we have a lost some momentum in the high end. It’s not necessarily about the number of devices but just getting those devices to become as good as selling in very competitive volume, so that’s very much the focus. I think the N8 is the first step and MeeGo in my mind is the next step.
I: I have a question that leads on from that. Going back to something you said in your presentation where you mentioned constraining the device roadmap to reduce fragmentation. Does that mean it’s going to be artificially imposed as it were (sling?) on the limit to ensure that developers aren’t coding for functionality that’s only in a subset of hteir handsets or like the wiindows phone approach where they’ve said there’s this minimum hardware specs in windows phone. Are we going to see a minimum baseline..
AT: Absolutely, I think essentially what’s going to happen. If you think about Symbian today, the strength of Symbian has been the ability to create so many different variations but from a developer perspective this is a bit too much, but then you have different screen sizes, some of them have certain buttons some have other buttons, so it’s quite difficult to write an application that works in more than one or two devices. So I think what we’re doing already with Symbian^3 is all the devices that are going after N8 are essentially going to have a minimum configuration…
I:…Nice big nHD screen..
AT: ..exactly, the screen is going to be within a certain limit so you can scale it rapidly so you won’t have to rewrite everything, The capability, the memory is going to have certain limits. I think that’s going to be exactly the same as MeeGo The limit that we will have – so we will set the experience level higher on MeeGo – it’s the same approach with Symbian.
I: So would you restrict, so from a personal view, I like Nokia phones because of the high technology in them now, excellent cameras, things like this, N95 for example – successful as it’s so much better than anything else. Is there going to be an artificially high limit, an artificial sling on the limit on the limit of technology on the devices because you don’t want devices that were so vastly different from one another…So to give a hypothetical example. Arm are currently trialling a dual processor cortex chip right?
I: So twice as powerful as N900..if you’re doing a phone like that now and someone developing something that would run on that but wouldn’t run on anything else because it doesn’t have the power, are you going to be artificially capping…
AT: No, no, not at all. Absolutely not. I think we need to keep at the forefront of innovation. Particularly with MeeGo we are going to be pushing the envelope for processing power. But at the same time, it’s just a matter of finding the right balance. You don’t want to introduce at the same time 8 devices and all of them so many small differences that make it very difficult to develop applications. But at the same time you have to evolve. Every time you risk capabilities you leave something behind.
J: Will MeeGo be on Nseries or on a rumoured other series [Sseries]
AT: Yes. Today we have N900 which is Maemo Nseries..
J: Also, when people think of high end devices a lot of the trend now has not been to think of Nokia. Will MeeGo change that so that when they think of high end smartphones….
AT: Absolutely, I think Symbian^3 is already a big step to change that. But I think MeeGo in my mind is the opportunity to really put something out there that is well beyond what others are doing.
I: Actually it just made me think of another related question, because currently, Adobe and Apple are having this big fight about Flash and Adobe are saying we can have Flash on phones. You can have Flash on a N900, why aren’t Adobe shouting about the N900 on your behalf
AT: That’s a good point, that’s a very good point. I know those guys so I’ll make that point to them…
I: There’s a lot of publicity
J: Will MeeGo claim the high end for Nokia, because at the moment Symbian is the one thatclaiming the high end, Symbian (phone) is the one that’s regarded as the flagship, e.g. N97 is called the flagship even though N900 has more power. Will the flagship now when MeeGo phone is released, will the flagship title be given to the MeeGo phone
AT: The intent is to build the flagship product on MeeGo. But I mean of course in the mean time we have a lot of really good products coming out on Symbian. And certainly the N8 will be our flagship in the next few months. But I think it’s very much clear that MeeGo has the potential of creating something that’s deeper than you find on a typical smartphone.
S: Is that going to be aknowledged though as flagship or is it going to be a true all in one solution of everything in combination of everything that’s best in Nokia
AT: Absolutely, I think it’s important – I try to make a point that this will be a very high end product or will be at a high end position but it’s not going to be..the N900 today I think it’s a relatively niche product for technology leaders The intent is not to do just that. We want to create a product that everybody will want to own. And it’s really sort of satisfying all those needs in one plate.
I: Sorry – I just have a brief follow up question to this: So does this mean we’re going to see Eseries devices running MeeGo?
at: We don’t have..we’ll have to see how it goes. It’s not really, for the moment on the enterprise side, particularly with collaboration with Microsoft, there’s really good plans for Symbian for easier devices. B ut you know, of course, who knows,
J: Last year at Nokia World, the N900 was said to be step 4 out of step p5 in the path to..
J:…Is the MeeGo phone going to be finally step 5 of 5.
AT: Yes. MeeGo one, I mean we’re not going to do another separate step.
J: So this is the final one ready for the mass market.
S: I’ve got a question for Maemo, so how will Nokia handle the (transition) of existing Maemo community to that of MeeGo.
AT: I think it’s happening as we speak. We are very much, there’s already quite some overlap in Maemo Community, Mobilin community. I think their architechtures are very similar. I think it would be natural for the community to move to MeeGo where there’s a lot more opportunities there.
S: Is the Maemo apps going to be backwards compatible with MeeGo.
AT: Not necessarily. Our simple answer is no. We might have some applications that could be transfered but we’re not looking at that capability.
S: It will need additional work from developers for it to work.
AT: Exactly, and we’re not going to keep the comparability.
S: So I have this question: What is your phone.
AT: At the moment I have two actually. I have a N900 and E72. And I’m also trialling a N8.
S. So maybe you won’t be able to talk about N8, but maybe you can talk about what you like and dislike about Nokia N900.
AT: I think that the N900- I’m going to have to go after this one – what I really like about the N900 is so many things. I think the multitasking as an element to the UI is very powerful. I think the browsing experience is excellent. I think the speed that it works is very good. I think there are some things I don’t like so much. The resistive screen, the touch side is not as good as it needs to be. Obviously it will be better in MeeGo. The interface is good but you can get lost occasionally on that. And I think again, it was really developed for technology leaders. We are going to make it (MeeGo) just a touch simpler so your average consumer can find it equally compelling. That has to be the key thing. And then the other bit are two things. Make it more stylish and more beautiful.