The Road To Nokia World 2011 Part 2: Why Symbian And Meego Still Matter

Nokia World 2011 is scheduled for next week in London and it is undoubtedly the most hyped and the most important event in recent Nokia history. Throughout this week, FoneArena will take a look at expectations, realities and myths related to this particular year, in preparation for the big reveals that will come on October 26th and 27th. Join us in this journey, comment, share your thoughts, and feel with us the excitement as the big days approach!

If you happened to read some of the Nokia N9 reviews blossoming online as of late, you might have noticed that there is a general consensus from those who weren’t historically known for being gentle with the Finnish manufacturer, that the N9 is a wonderful marvel but that they wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Well, at least the opinion is not 100% negative anymore, which is always a step forward from pure hatred, huh? And although I have yet to get my hands on an N9, this has been my own opinion for quite a while.

See, in a world that is governed by giants like Apple and Google, where Nokia has lost countless amounts of mind share, from the general public as well as the tech journalists, reviewers and reporters alike, battling with an N9 won’t cut it. It is a wonderful phone, and the simplicity, the beauty, the intuitiveness of the Swipe interaction, is phenomenal. However, these audiences have come to know ecosystems as the basis of their definition of a smartphone, with applications, services, accessories, investors, developers… The N9, as much as all Meego/Nokia fans would like to believe, does not offer an ecosystem. Or at least not a strong one. It has support, and that might grow into the semblance of an ecosystem but it can not, will not, and shall not become a full-blown ecosystem.

So yes, reviewers will marvel at the N9’s innovation, they will wish to use it as a primary device, but they never will buy it nor will they ever recommend it to their friends or readers. Because Amazon most likely won’t release a Kindle application for it, their local restaurant won’t add it to its list of supported devices, few cases and stands will ever be built for it likely by Nokia or low quality manufacturers, and even though we might see Dropbox, Read It Later, Instapaper, Twitter, Facebook,… support for it, it will be either developed by Nokia themselves or some very involved coders, not by the official service providers. No big-shot will care for the N9. And that’s why the N9 isn’t built with the mass population in mind.

However, the N9 and Meego, as well as Symbian, still matter for Nokia. Because as much as they would like everyone to adopt their Windows Phone grand vision, there will always be open source fans, loyal Nokia-only lovers, and mainly people craving a pure vanilla Espoo flavor, no Redmond additives, please. And in the small circle of what’s left of the Nokia-involved bloggers, twitterers, and fans, these people make a LOT of noise. Their opinions are heard, respected, and looked for. Plus, these are those who believed and supported the company through its toughest recent times, who loved it for what it is and can do, not hated it for what it couldn’t do to compete with iOS or Android, and who were smacked in the face with the Windows Phone partnership announcement.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those, I bailed on Nokia when things got rough (and I do not regret that one bit), but I kept loving, cheering, waiting, until the Windows Phone announcement was made. For me, that was a big bold ray of light, a promise of a drastic improvement, but, had I been on the still-loyal side, it would have been a dismantlement of everything I believed in. So in order for Nokia not to lose those few faithfuls (and I say few knowing full well that a “few” for a company with billions of devices shipped is a very, very big number indeed), Meego and Symbian need to be part of the current strategy somehow. These two operating systems can cater to the long time lovers, while Windows Phone will appeal to the children who strayed from the path like me or those who never even considered a Nokia smartphone before. Symbian, more specifically, can continue to fill the gaps in the lower-end segment, until Windows Phone evolves down the food chain to be able to fit on a 100$ phone.

I say this, knowing full well that Meego is probably no-more, with Intel bailing out to build Tizen with Samsung and with Symbian spun-out to be managed by Accenture. Both operating systems are only the interim solution to the problem Nokia faces, and the recent rumors of them working on another homemade OS to cater to the lower-end segment where Android has been eroding their market share makes a lot of sense as a long term strategy continuation. I sure hope for their sake that this isn’t introduced this year though, God knows we don’t want more confusion! Hence, as a conclusion, for now, it will be Meego for the loyals, Symbian for the mid and lower-end, and Windows Phone… well… that’s another story altogether and we will talk about it tomorrow.