SonicMule and every other developer should watch Nokia carefully

A tweet from Lee Williams, top man at the Symbian Foundation, pointed me to this blog post at the Wall Street Journal Online.

Ty McMahan of the WSJ quotes Jeff Smith, CEO of SonicMule (the people who make the phenomenal music app, Smule) thus:

“Nokia isn’t on the shortlist of anything we do at Smule because we don’t think we can make any money.”

Unfortunately this is the view shared by absolutely everybody in Silicon Valley. There are about 8 exceptions that I’m aware of, perhaps a little more. I could name them right here, but doing so could risk iFascists with pitchforks turning up on their doors.

[iFascist definition: Someone who can only tolerate the iPhone, possibly Android and — at a push, Palm’s webOS. Anything other platform is deemed by an iFascist as irrelevant]

For a long time Nokia appeared confused at the growing iPhone and application furore. They’ve had applications for years — I’ve been using them for a long time. Indeed, striking the jackpot as a mobile developer before iPhone was really simple: Get Nokia to include your app on their millions of devices.

And for a long time, I have levelled a significant amount of criticism at the company. And I do mean significant. Just do a search for ‘Nokia’ and ‘Ovi Store’ here on Mobile Industry Review. Or, actually, just search Nokia. I’ve written some pretty biting things. It was a) how I felt and b) a reasonable reflection on reality. Rafe Blandford from All About Symbian (amongst others) would pull me down from the wall with good, smart ripostes. But fundamentally, I was right. Nokia hadn’t done X or Y. They hadn’t got this or that working. They’d released products or services into the marketplace that had silly bugs — with no easy way to remotely fix. Goodness me the list was as long as my arm.

Slowly, the company got round to it. The amount of times I internally rolled my eyes whilst I filmed Nik Savander explaining that the Ovi Store launch parameters had been missed and the company had entirely underestimated demand… I had to stifle a scream of angst when Savander then explained it would ‘take some time’ (words to that effect) to put the right. That stifled scream turned to a stifled wail when he clarified he was talking in quarters, not weeks or months.

I remember Rafe asking a question about Single Sign-On — a much discussed issue in NokiaWatcher circles — Nokia had bought all these companies, created all these services, and yet you had to have a different username for almost every single one. Silly things like that made the company look inept and positively last-century compared to the simple ease of the iPhone platform.

Installing an application was a sodding rigmarole. Ovi Maps was ridiculous (It couldn’t find the Colosseum in Rome, I kid ye not — I did that experiment).

But this is in the past. This is the problem with the kind of comments some of Silicon Valley’s finest are coming out with about Nokia.

Right now — *right now* — if you go and buy a Nokia N86, yes, you’ll typically have to keep on pressing ‘yes, yes, confirm, yes, use the 3G internet to connect, yes’ and so on. But the next generation… this is something to watch.

There are legions of consumers buying X6 and other such Nokia devices that are free from much of the friction of the previous era. It’s only going to get better.

Single Sign-On is fixed. The next stage will see Android-like unified login introduced to the startup procedure, automatically configuring everything from music, store, messaging, maps and so on. Try downloading an application from the Ovi Store on your bog standard N86 and, shock horror, it’ll simply install and run. No constant confirmations.

The next generation of Nokia devices — that is, the ones that hit the market in 6-8 months are going to be seriously relevant for developers, especially given the abject joy that the Qt development framework is bringing to many already.

Nokia has got the message, they’ve implemented the right changes and the next generation — well, it’s going to be really, really exciting.

The platform should be on every developer’s radar. But it should also be on ‘the shortlist’ as Jeff called it. Whilst developers are arsing around with Android, they should be evaluating and playing with Nokia’s Qt — their next generation development language. They should be taking baby steps right now by launching experimental toe-in-water apps.

There are over 130 million Symbian powered Qt devices in the market right now. Right now.

The latest version of Skype for Symbian just launched? Written in Qt.

Now, I understand that 130 million Symbian users cannot immediately search the Ovi Store for Skype and download it, because not all of them have the Ovi Store installed yet. But a lot of them do. And if you have Ovi Store installed (or pre-installed by default on all new Nokias), Skype — and any other app you’d care to develop — is a keyword search and a click or two away, just like it is on the iPhone.

Nokia is all about volume. 40 million iPhones/iPod Touches — that’s lovely and it’s delivering a lot of success for people.

Fast forward say 18 months… and let’s be a bit ballsy with some predictions… 500 million addressable Symbian devices in market? (Remember Nokia ships a million handsets before it gets out of bed every morning, ever day of the week) Hundreds of millions of users are all going to be looking for your app.

Get started now and avoid the rush.

And if you’re serious and you’d really like to be pointed in the right direction to get started developing with Nokia, I’ll help out. Drop me an email, ewan@mobileindustryreview.com.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/FSYJF)

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