Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Oct 2012 21:41 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless It's a long read - but totally and utterly worth it. After interviewing ten former and current Nokia employees, and combining their insider information with publicly available information, Sampsa Kurri has written a long and detailed article about the history of Maemo and MeeGo within Nokia, and everything that went wrong - which is a lot. It's sad tale, one that reads almost like a manual on how to not run a large company. Still, between the bad decisions and frustrations, there's a red thread of hope that leads to Jolla.
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I had the N800
by sukru on Thu 11th Oct 2012 22:30 UTC
sukru
Member since:
2006-11-19

I was very enthusiastic about my N800. It was before netbooks, and definitely before any functional tablets. I was able to ssh to my device, install Last.fm application, or experimental versions of Firefox.

On the other hand, the internal camera worked with nothing except the Nokia app (not even the included Skype). The on board OpenGL accelerator worked with exactly nothing (even after 4 years they were still discussing whether to open the drivers or not).

So I had to sell the device. Even though I liked it, my understanding is virtually no-one at Nokia did so.

Reply Score: 4

v Remember...
by jared_wilkes on Thu 11th Oct 2012 23:27 UTC
RE: Remember...
by earksiinni on Thu 11th Oct 2012 23:34 UTC in reply to "Remember..."
earksiinni Member since:
2009-03-27

"... only to be frustrated by incompetent management and bad decisions.


I love that "only". As if competent management and good decisions are minor factors in the success of a business.
"

No..."only" here is being used modally to mean "inevitably" with the connotation of "unfortunately". You are reading it the sense of "merely", as in "to be frustrated only by incompetent management and bad decisions."

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: Remember...
by jared_wilkes on Thu 11th Oct 2012 23:44 UTC in reply to "RE: Remember..."
jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

I understand Thom's intent and don't mean to distort it. I'm just playing off it because, even with his intended and the received meaning, those words still convey undertones of Nokia being great, ahead of their time, innovative, truly building something, truly innovating, and truly succeeding at creating a revolutionary new device/system -- not just through the subconscious undertones of "only" that I am playing off of but through the entire content of his post.

And in his final praise of Nokia, he then brushes away their massive failure as if it's a quirk of history rather than truly massive, systemic incompetence, lack of vision, and lack of software tools that could build a sustaining platform.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Remember...
by shmerl on Thu 11th Oct 2012 23:46 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Remember..."
shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

It wasn't the lack of resources or tools. It was a severe mismanagement of the former that led to the failure.

Edited 2012-10-11 23:47 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Remember...
by earksiinni on Thu 11th Oct 2012 23:49 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Remember..."
earksiinni Member since:
2009-03-27

+1. Your edit made that more clear; I had started writing before the edit posted =)

Reply Score: 3

RE: Remember...
by Neolander on Fri 12th Oct 2012 06:10 UTC in reply to "Remember..."
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Well, you have to give it to Nokia : while Apple just chose to throw away Copland altogether and produce yet another UNIX clone instead, Nokia actually managed to fix enough of the problems that they encountered during their development hell to release a working product (the N9), which I believe is a fairly unique achievement in the computer industry ! ;)

More seriously, I think that many people around here feel sympathetic towards the old Nokia because, as is apparent in the article, it was one of the few remaining tech companies with engineers in power. Though it is also made obvious here that this approach has its problems, especially in large companies, there is something saddening about the way executives don't understand what their employees are doing these days, and can only think in terms of paying the bills and selling to the largest number. That may be a safer way to keep a company afloat and profitable, but it is alienating for workers and surely does not help innovation.

Edited 2012-10-12 06:15 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: Remember...
by moondevil on Fri 12th Oct 2012 07:35 UTC in reply to "RE: Remember..."
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Being a former employer in the German units, I can attest that the article describes pretty well how things work there, and still do.

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: Remember...
by moondevil on Sat 13th Oct 2012 13:06 UTC in reply to "RE: Remember..."
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Apple just chose to throw away Copland altogether and produce yet another UNIX clone instead


Those were the days, when open source and open standards were foreign words at Apple.

Mostly unknown to the kids today, that think only Microsoft was a bad boy.

Edit: forgot to write the quote

Edited 2012-10-13 13:08 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Remember...
by jared_wilkes on Sat 13th Oct 2012 13:33 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Remember..."
jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

Apple is a bad boy for using open source? Huh?

Reply Score: 0

RE[4]: Remember...
by Drumhellar on Sat 13th Oct 2012 16:58 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Remember..."
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

I think he meant that people today don't remember that Apple was just as bad in that era as Microsoft.

Reply Score: 5

RE[5]: Remember...
by moondevil on Sun 14th Oct 2012 07:08 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Remember..."
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Exactly!

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Remember...
by moondevil on Sun 14th Oct 2012 07:14 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Remember..."
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

No, before the NeXT was on board, Apple did not care about open source and open standards.

Network Protocols -> AppleTalk

3D Graphics -> Quickdraw 3D

POSIX -> non-existant

GUI -> Patchwork from former Pascal and C APIs

Video -> Quicktime

many other examples are possible

Reply Score: 5

RE[5]: Remember...
by shmerl on Sun 14th Oct 2012 17:31 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Remember..."
shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

Apple is open standards hostile now as well. Look at iMessage (why not XMPP?) and their hatred to open codecs (Theora, Vorbis, VP8 and etc.).

I'm not even mentioning hardware open standards. No USB ports on "i" devices in this day and age? Come on Apple, you must be sick.

Reply Score: 4

RE[6]: Remember...
by henderson101 on Mon 15th Oct 2012 10:18 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Remember..."
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Errr... well, no USB ports on the devices, but USB works so long as there are drivers. My Camera, USB mic and USB keyboard all work on both iPad and iPhone using the USB host adapter from the Camera connection kit. Indeed, the only reason I got the kit originally was because that was true.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Remember...
by shmerl on Mon 15th Oct 2012 17:16 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Remember..."
shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

What prevents them from using a standard USB port in the device, without requiring anyone to get adapters?

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Remember...
by zima on Thu 18th Oct 2012 23:40 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Remember..."
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Also, adding some related words of the messiah... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LEXae1j6EY&feature=player_detailpag...

Apple had its head in the sand for the last many years [...] missed out [...] attitude of arrogance [...] the rest of the world passed us by [...] we need to bring the Mac up into the modern world [...] because we weren't first, because we didn't set the standards [...] this whole notion of being so proprietary in every facet what we do has really hurt us [...] reinvent the wheel our own way; and yeah it might be 10% better but usually it ended up being about 50% worse

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Remember...
by zima on Sun 14th Oct 2012 11:13 UTC in reply to "RE: Remember..."
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Well, you have to give it to Nokia : while Apple just chose to throw away Copland altogether and produce yet another UNIX clone instead, Nokia actually managed to fix enough of the problems that they encountered during their development hell to release a working product (the N9), which I believe is a fairly unique achievement in the computer industry ! ;)

What was N9 OS if not "yet another UNIX clone"? (some of its fans even specifically focus on how it's more "really *nix" than Android) And while Apple did throw away Copland, 1) I think some of Copland tech found its way into ~OS9 2) some Classic tech definately found its way into OSX - it was a moderately smooth transition.

Also, "a working product" might be not the most precise description (for example: http://www.mobile-review.com/review/nokia-n9-2-en.shtml & especially in view of the enormous R&D costs and the time it took; not sure from where the perpetuated myth comes, perhaps some people wish to see it as better than it was; or, from another perspective: products can be also judged by their marketplace performance)

More seriously, I think that many people around here feel sympathetic towards the old Nokia because, as is apparent in the article, it was one of the few remaining tech companies with engineers in power. Though it is also made obvious here that this approach has its problems, especially in large companies, there is something saddening about the way executives don't understand what their employees are doing these days, and can only think in terms of paying the bills and selling to the largest number. That may be a safer way to keep a company afloat and profitable, but it is alienating for workers and surely does not help innovation.

http://kyon.pl/img/21355,smbc-comics.com,.html ;)

And many (often the same?) people can't seem to accept how the present situation of Nokia didn't come from, say, the saboteur Canadian - but is the result of wide-scale company dynamics present & quite visible for around half a decade, by now.

BTW, I'd say that not safely keeping a company afloat and profitable alienates workers much more, and really surely doesn't help innovation

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Remember...
by Neolander on Mon 15th Oct 2012 09:02 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Remember..."
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

What was N9 OS if not "yet another UNIX clone"? (some of its fans even specifically focus on how it's more "really *nix" than Android) And while Apple did throw away Copland, 1) I think some of Copland tech found its way into ~OS9 2) some Classic tech definately found its way into OSX - it was a moderately smooth transition.

Well, Apple and Nokia both found themselves in a similar situation : they had an OS that did not perform well enough anymore, and which for some reason they could not fix in a simple fashion. Thus, they started a project to build a successor to their product, and due to the well-documented second system effect that project was stalled.

What I'm impressed with is that Nokia managed to save the original project, while Apple failed so badly at it that they have to completely start from a new base, wasting most of the original effort, as too many software companies do.

Indeed, "yet another UNIX clone" is not quite the problem I have with that, rather I feel that Apple have less merit for what they did. That the Nokia approach to resist the natural urge to rewrite everything from scratch and try to make the project work instead was a more elegant approach. And I can't help but think that they could have saved Symbian too if they put as much effort on it, but that's another story.

Also, "a working product" might be not the most precise description (for example: http://www.mobile-review.com/review/nokia-n9-2-en.shtml & especially in view of the enormous R&D costs and the time it took; not sure from where the perpetuated myth comes, perhaps some people wish to see it as better than it was; or, from another perspective: products can be also judged by their marketplace performance)

On this front, I am of the more pessimistic opinion that new software releases that have not been tested by a relatively large user base are always bound to have problems. I think that Nokia did the right thing with historical Maemo releases by releasing "experimental" devices for tech-inclined people to beta-test the product with, as the way the ARM ecosystem works sadly prevents companies from releasing beta-quality software without associated hardware for "pure" testing purpose.

"More seriously, I think that many people around here feel sympathetic towards the old Nokia because, as is apparent in the article, it was one of the few remaining tech companies with engineers in power. Though it is also made obvious here that this approach has its problems, especially in large companies, there is something saddening about the way executives don't understand what their employees are doing these days, and can only think in terms of paying the bills and selling to the largest number. That may be a safer way to keep a company afloat and profitable, but it is alienating for workers and surely does not help innovation."

http://kyon.pl/img/21355,smbc-comics.com,.html ;)

And you know as well as me that like all good humour, this is based on exaggeration. The idea that we need people specialized in selling products is maybe one or two centuries old, and we managed to build perfectly usable products before that. People who did not take the time to care about their users just failed once, and did it right the second time.

Conversely, the modern approach of going for the option that pleases the largest amount of users at the lowest cost has many well-documented problems, including a tendency to build products that all look alike, are not designed to last, are made in a harmful atmosphere where workers have to do more in less time so as to stay "competitive"... It becomes less about building the most awesome stuff, and more about how bad products and work condition can get before people stop buying into them.

Surely a sufficiently large amount of people will get fed up with this race to the bottom at some point, the question is when and what will happen next. Will we just go from an extreme to another and claim that everything was better in the past, or will we try to combine the advantages of the old and new approaches to company organization, such as by letting people freely move back and forth between administrative and technical positions as they feel like doing something new, with formations in the middle so that they always know what they are doing *and* what others are doing ?

And many (often the same?) people can't seem to accept how the present situation of Nokia didn't come from, say, the saboteur Canadian - but is the result of wide-scale company dynamics present & quite visible for around half a decade, by now.

BTW, I'd say that not safely keeping a company afloat and profitable alienates workers much more, and really surely doesn't help innovation

That is a given, but any interesting activity involves some level of risk that has to be acknowledged. If we are not ready to take it, or if the environment we work in is not flexible enough to let us do so, then undesirable side-effects like stagnation, quality regression, and Patriot Acts are bound to appear...

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Remember...
by henderson101 on Mon 15th Oct 2012 10:28 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Remember..."
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

What I'm impressed with is that Nokia managed to save the original project, while Apple failed so badly at it that they have to completely start from a new base, wasting most of the original effort, as too many software companies do.


How many versions of Symbian are there? Why does a version exist with touch? Why did Nokia screw up Maemo so badly in the process, changing the API and ABI with every new release and why was the development environment tied to LINUX and fairly non trivial to install up till Diablo? Why did Nokia lie about moving from GTK+ to Qt? I mean, really out and out lie? We were told "no, we will still support GTK+, you're efforts are not pointless", then it was dropped as the tool-kit. The fact that the N9 exists at all is a testament to the fact that someone paired down the specs for once and tried to make a product without the entire LINUX kitchen sink included out of the box.

Apple may well have squandered a large amount of cash and lost face on Copland, but dropping both Classic and Copland actually worked out for the best in the log run. More luck than judgement, but OSX is not bad.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Remember...
by Neolander on Tue 16th Oct 2012 14:13 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Remember..."
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

How many versions of Symbian are there?

Not bothering to support old hardware with new software releases is a common, although indeed despicable thing to do. I don't think it matters so much to the vast majority of end users in the end, judging by how little they cared about the very same thing happening to Android anytime the latest update bumped up hardware requirements.

Why does a version exist with touch?

It seems that there are enough people out there who like the feeling of fondling a greasy LCD for there to be a significant market for this. The question to ask in this case would probably be that of why it took them so long to release it and get it right.

Why did Nokia screw up Maemo so badly in the process, changing the API and ABI with every new release

I think the aim was to improve Moblin compatibility, but I may be wrong.

and why was the development environment tied to LINUX and fairly non trivial to install up till Diablo?

Apparently, Nokia has always have a hard time releasing quality development tools for their phones. I would bet that they made the mistake of not considering something that is important enough.

Why did Nokia lie about moving from GTK+ to Qt? I mean, really out and out lie? We were told "no, we will still support GTK+, you're efforts are not pointless", then it was dropped as the tool-kit.

Yet another standard and despicable business practice. I honestly can't figure out why it happens, but executives seem very kind of ignoring widely publicized product issues for a long time, either by not saying anything or claiming that it's users' fault for holding the failing product wrong.

The fact that the N9 exists at all is a testament to the fact that someone paired down the specs for once and tried to make a product without the entire LINUX kitchen sink included out of the box.

And since this is a very painful thing to do once your brain is stuck in the endless nefarious cycle of development hell, I was applauding the ones who did this.

Apple may well have squandered a large amount of cash and lost face on Copland, but dropping both Classic and Copland actually worked out for the best in the log run. More luck than judgement, but OSX is not bad.

Heh, we'll see how well that OS reboot option will work for Nokia with Windows Phone. But indeed, Apple did manage to get OS X right in the long run, though they also did take their time for that...

Edited 2012-10-16 14:21 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Remember...
by zima on Thu 18th Oct 2012 23:55 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Remember..."
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

> How many versions of Symbian are there?
Not bothering to support old hardware with new software releases is a common, although indeed despicable thing to do. I don't think it matters so much to the vast majority of end users in the end

Though I don't think Nokia can be really blamed much for this one, throughout most of Symbian history - the times when mobile hardware was making great leaps (proportionally) across generations. Probably a) last year hw would be typically to weak, anyway b) the OS was quickly accreting features (which ultimately contributed to its downfall, IMHO - at the beginning, S60 wasn't that much more than S40, for the user, and fitting the hardware of the time; but eventually it outgrew that UI model)

Plus I've heard Symbian isn't particularly flexible or comfortable when adapting it to new hardware - might explain why later models were stuck, or little hardware variety within generation. Or that no Chinese manufacturer picked it up, they all went Android.

> Why does a version exist with touch?
It seems that there are enough people out there who like the feeling of fondling a greasy LCD for there to be a significant market for this. The question to ask in this case would probably be that of why it took them so long to release it and get it right.

S60 probably shouldn't be made touch in the first place - how it was for the first 2 years or so (S60v5, on the popular 5800, 5230), it possibly alienated many people.

>The fact that the N9 exists at all is a testament to the fact that someone paired down the specs for once and tried to make a product without the entire LINUX kitchen sink included out of the box.
And since this is a very painful thing to do once your brain is stuck in the endless nefarious cycle of development hell, I was applauding the ones who did this.

But was that what the engineering types wanted?... ;P


PS. Surely you joke here http://www.osnews.com/permalink?538675 ...Vista, failure? It still has more users than all OSX, and an order of magnitude more than Linux. So some ~fans wanted to see something in how Nokia doesn't announce sales numbers ...but Nokia wasn't ever very forthcoming per-model about them.

Generally, this approach of "it's their fault" WRT Elop - while the article shows wide institutional issues in which plenty of engineers surely also played a role. Above in the sub-thread there's "it was one of the few remaining tech companies with engineers in power" and yet we still put the blame at "the management" - at "them"...

Edited 2012-10-19 00:14 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Remember...
by jared_wilkes on Mon 15th Oct 2012 16:39 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Remember..."
jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

What I'm impressed with is that Nokia managed to save the original project...



What did Nokia save exactly?

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Remember...
by Neolander on Tue 16th Oct 2012 14:18 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Remember..."
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

What did Nokia save exactly?

Before : Meego developers struggling in endless development hell, rewriting stuff as soon as it starts to get relatively stable.

After : An actual device is released, and is pretty successful in sales and reviews compared to other products which have went through similar development issues (Windows Vista, Mac OS 10.0...)

Sure, Elop ended up blowing everything up because like all new executives arriving in power somewhere, he knew better than anyone else what should be done. But the Meego team can hardly be blamed for that.

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Remember...
by jared_wilkes on Tue 16th Oct 2012 15:44 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Remember..."
jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

So they saved nothing and were not successful. Thanks.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Remember...
by Neolander on Tue 16th Oct 2012 15:57 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Remember..."
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

So they saved nothing and were not successful. Thanks.

Surely you must consider every other product which has been discontinued after some initial period of commercial success as a failure, too ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Remember...
by henderson101 on Tue 16th Oct 2012 16:34 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Remember..."
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Isn't that more to do with Elop blowing everything up and Meego becoming a stale project? I honestly believe that the only reason things calmed down was that Elop "cancelled" the project, so hardly anyone was working on it.

Historically, since I've been associated with Nokia Internet Tablet OS (aka Maemo/Meego) there have been at least 5 versions. NITOS2007, NITOS2008 (which saw two releases, second one being "Diablo"), whatever the N900 ran and this N9 Harmatten release. Every one broke the ABI (though the two 2008 versions only slightly broke it) and along the way lost older apps and made development in total flux.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Remember...
by zima on Tue 16th Oct 2012 23:47 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Remember..."
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Well, Apple and Nokia both found themselves in a similar situation : they had an OS that did not perform well enough anymore, and which for some reason they could not fix in a simple fashion. Thus, they started a project to build a successor to their product, and due to the well-documented second system effect that project was stalled.
What I'm impressed with is that Nokia managed to save the original project, while Apple failed so badly at it that they have to completely start from a new base, wasting most of the original effort, as too many software companies do.
Indeed, "yet another UNIX clone" is not quite the problem I have with that, rather I feel that Apple have less merit for what they did. That the Nokia approach to resist the natural urge to rewrite everything from scratch and try to make the project work instead was a more elegant approach. And I can't help but think that they could have saved Symbian too if they put as much effort on it, but that's another story.

Ultimately, maybe it taught them similar thing, they ultimately did something very alike: as it stands now, both Apple and Nokia brought their new OS from outside the entrenched company structures... (hey, many would defend the "trojan Canadian" hypothesis, which says pretty much exactly that, with their life; for Apple & NeXT it was definitely a sort of managerial reverse takeover, killing a lot of existing projects)

Because, really, Nokia didn't manage "to save the original project" ...NVM how Nokia largely threw it away more than once (Maemo -> Meego transition alone was not trivial; and the Hildon UI of Maemo was birthed on Symbian, on S90 - oh yeah, and that's not even getting into numerous abortive Symbian directions; even in S60 alone we have ~2 compatibility breaks)

As to which path had more merit... look, Apple probably could easily try to go further into Copland, for a few short years (the really visible effects of NeXT acquisition needed that much time to show up) ...sinking more into it ...possibly ending kinda like Nokia now? Might be not the best path to follow.

WRT "yet another UNIX clone" - I forgot to point out previously that Nokia actually moved away from non-*nix OS, in more recent times... ;) (earlier: GEOS, Nokia OS S30 & S40, EPOC/Symbian S80, S90, S60; but the fabled Meltemi - so also *nix - was supposed to largely replace those that are still alive)


There possibly was something very broken with Symbian (some time ago I mentioned that you can explore it: http://sourceforge.net/projects/symbiandump http://code.google.com/p/symbian-incubation-projects/ ...unless you don't want to be "contaminated" or smth*) - look how S40 improved recently (curiously, under Elop; the usual suspects tend to overlook it); it's basically surpassing Symbian now.

BTW, open-sourcing of Symbian can be probably seen as one of the greater exercises in cargo cults, the thought process probably being something like "so, Android got successful ...well, hm, it's open source; let's make Symbian OSS, too!" (and so they probably wasted perhaps half a year, perhaps a year for code reviews, setting everything up, and such)

> http://www.mobile-review.com/review/nokia-n9-2-en.shtml
On this front, I am of the more pessimistic opinion that new software releases that have not been tested by a relatively large user base are always bound to have problems. I think that Nokia did the right thing with historical Maemo releases by releasing "experimental" devices for tech-inclined people to beta-test the product with, as the way the ARM ecosystem works sadly prevents companies from releasing beta-quality software without associated hardware for "pure" testing purpose.

How ARM is set up (which perhaps isn't harmful at all... brings more variety, more lively ecosystem; shouldn't you be defending that, in context?! ;) ) concerns mostly the OS kernel, drivers, and such - but the whole mess of Maemo was also/especially at higher levels, of toolkit and user interaction.

Generally, this (and the link - plus note that the webpage is... sceptical about Elop) was about how N9 Meego isn't as polished as many want to believe.

> http://kyon.pl/img/21355,smbc-comics.com,.html ;)
And you know as well as me that like all good humour, this is based on exaggeration. The idea that we need people specialized in selling products is maybe one or two centuries old, and we managed to build perfectly usable products before that. People who did not take the time to care about their users just failed once, and did it right the second time.
Conversely, the modern approach of going for the option that pleases the largest amount of users at the lowest cost has many well-documented problems, including a tendency to build products that all look alike, are not designed to last, are made in a harmful atmosphere where workers have to do more in less time so as to stay "competitive"... It becomes less about building the most awesome stuff, and more about how bad products and work condition can get before people stop buying into them.

Humour is, of course, often based on exaggeration - but with "there is something saddening about the way executives don't understand what their employees are doing these days, and can only think in terms of paying the bills and selling to the largest number" you also exaggerated, and not in a humorous way.

Our entire modern civilisation is, more or less, built on the division of labour concept, of course those at the top won't know most of the stuff their minions are doing, it's impossible and inadvisable - might easily lead to micromanagment, missing the greater picture (also not dismissing pet projects of some small group of engineers). Maybe it's even safe to say that most companies led by ("really") engineers don't go anywhere...


Past wasn't a time particularly known for innovation as rapid as we had recently; lots of "secret knowledge" was long locked inside guilds, it was largely about maintaining the status of their members.

Yeah, and about that "building perfectly usable products" or "try again" - some cathedrals folded more than once, more than twice, before their builders got them right (while collapses of residential buildings were nothing out of the ordinary; try to imagine that for a minute, being quite unable to trust if the room in which you are won't collapse on you during sleep).

Generally, this isn't about small projects, trinkets, craftsmanship - but large undertainkings, strategic efforts which can... sorta kill a company (like Nokia?), if they fail.


*how's your OS going along BTW? (driven purely by ~engineering considerations, I bet ;p )

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Remember...
by zima on Tue 16th Oct 2012 23:55 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Remember..."
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

(hm, not sure I hit a limit before - oh well, the post continues...)

Surely a sufficiently large amount of people will get fed up with this race to the bottom at some point, the question is when and what will happen next. Will we just go from an extreme to another and claim that everything was better in the past [...]

Yeah, I see an issue of sufficiently many people believing myths about their past, hence also ultimately about themselves (and acting and/or voting on it)

A quote before, you're looking at the past through very rose-coloured glasses already. This is how it actually often looked like a century or two ago:

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phossy_jaw ( http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~belghist/Flanders/Pages/phossy.ht... )

- the peasantry in many places was effectivaly in a state of slavery right up to XIX century.

- France also had ~colonies, with widespread forms of - effectively - slavery; and even Algeria war was quite dirty.

- hell, Sweden was responsible not-so-long-ago for the death of a significant portion of, for example, Polish population... (wars of XVII century)

- recently at my place I had somebody who was deeply convinced in ~"something like PoznaƄ 1956 protests could never happen in the West, in the US" ...thing is, it could and it did:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludlow_Massacre even also had, well, a tank
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lattimer_massacre this one also rang a bell with him, considering the ethnicities... (many more in the table at the bottom)

And those are quite recent times, when we were already becoming moderately... civilised (plus, surely not the only nor the worst examples - but some I could quickly recall and find, because they were memorable or in recent browsing history)

any interesting activity involves some level of risk that has to be acknowledged. If we are not ready to take it, or if the environment we work in is not flexible enough to let us do so, then undesirable side-effects like stagnation, quality regression, and Patriot Acts are bound to appear...

But, overall, it's a question of finding the right balance. And Apple for example (of which you seemed sort of dismissive here) seemed to find that balance much better than Nokia...
(I stumbled once on comparison of their budgets from 2 or 3 years back - Symbian division alone consumed more funds than the entire R&D of Apple... Symbian never even beeing, IIRC, the primary cash-cow of Nokia - S40 was it throughout the last decade)

Reply Score: 2

earksiinni
Member since:
2009-03-27

Ah, Nokia, I hardly knew ye!

I own a 770 and an N800, and I loved both devices to death. I even ended up volunteering as a package maintainer and backported the latest version of the Glib stack last year (though I never released it). As the above poster mentioned, this was before netbooks and decent tablets. The cachet that came with an N800 with a portable Bluetooth keyboard folded out and Abiword running was indescribable. Many turned heads.

Unfortunately, I could hardly recommend it to anyone. Maemo was constantly plagued with bugs, some that seemed incredibly trivial and would take almost no time to fix with some specialized knowledge of the internals. The community was always perplexed when Nokia employees would report that they couldn't replicate widespread issues. Now that I know about the internal divisions and the heavy reliance on subcontractors, it makes perfect sense.

Pre-N900 Maemo also represented the ultimate in a now forgotten vision of tablet computing, that of the stylus-based tablet. N800/N810 tried to make the Hildon UI more touch-friendly, but it remained primarily stylus based and was very, very good at it.

Back in 2007 when I got my N800 I was the coolest kid on the block. Now I'm just another chump waiting for a pay raise so that I can buy the Samsung Note II when it comes out.

Reply Score: 7

Comment by shmerl
by shmerl on Thu 11th Oct 2012 23:28 UTC
shmerl
Member since:
2010-06-08

Very nice historic review. It helps to understand many things which just seem very bizarre from the outside.

Though in the end fails to outline the history of Mer (which Jolla is using as base), which came out of Meego ashes as a community driven and meritocractically governed project. At least it mentions it in relation to Jolla.

Reply Score: 3

Complacency killed the cat
by manjabes on Fri 12th Oct 2012 06:38 UTC
manjabes
Member since:
2005-08-27

This only solidifies the impression that the complacency of Nokias Symbian crew bundled with the belief that "we R Nokia, teh king once & for all!!11one" is what killed all hope for Nokia. Not to mention the actual quality of the software the symbianese were putting out. In that light, it becomes more and more difficult to feel sorry for the laid off staff. Kinda makes it very hard to not say that they had it coming. Although that makes me as a hard-core Nokia fan very sad.

Reply Score: 3

I wish this would end
by arsa on Fri 12th Oct 2012 09:07 UTC
arsa
Member since:
2009-10-26

When it comes to computing, I seem to have some strange attraction to tech visionaries who went bankrupt for non-tech reasons.
I always choose the electronics I love, not just use, and then have it in plural. When I started to deal with computers seriously, it was Amiga several of them throughout years. My first job was to work with several AlphaServers. Then I started using mobile phones, and they were and still are Nokia only. During all that time I specifically picked Hi-FI and A/V almost solely made by Sony. At my current employeer, I deal with the leftovers of the Sun microsystems.
This long article about Maemo describes in details what I felt over and over again. All those companies had unbelievably great engineers and equally great organizational mistakes. I have always bought their products because of technical value and I was always let down by their managerial decisions. It's like some mental disease spread over mankind long and deep enough so neither engineers nor managers can see it and heal it. Or maybe I think like this just because I was born and live in a former communist country and can recognize the pattern? :-)
I just wish this would end. The way I see it, free and open software (and hopefully hardware, too) is the only way out.

Reply Score: 3

RE: I wish this would end
by zima on Thu 18th Oct 2012 23:54 UTC in reply to "I wish this would end"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

When it comes to computing, I seem to have some strange attraction to tech visionaries who went bankrupt for non-tech reasons.

Non-tech? The tech which Nokia put out regularly sucked a bit... (even Meego in its shipping N9 form had issues nobody seems to want to remember http://www.mobile-review.com/review/nokia-n9-2-en.shtml ) And the article under discussion basically describes how engineers caused problems, by favouring their pet projects.

Love does cloud judgement, you know...

WRT Amiga - the tech is what killed it. Yes, the 500-generation was impressive, for its time - but the optimised hardware, tightly coupled with software, severely complicated progress (made it slower and more expensive). 1200-gen was, really, not much better - and already lagging behind PCs of the era, rapidly progressing thanks to their more loose architecture and economies of scale.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by ukki
by ukki on Fri 12th Oct 2012 10:06 UTC
ukki
Member since:
2005-08-29

This is quite a sad read for someone once heavily involved in Maemo (have 770, N800, N810, N900 and N950). For me the N900, after all the rumors and speculation, felt almost magical to hold. And the effect hasn't really worn out. I still use it as my phone and haven't really found any potential alternatives to it. Sure some features on other phones make me envious sometimes, but N900 for me has too many advantages to list.

At the Maemo summit in Amsterdam they made Harmattan seem like something special. After receiving my N950 I pretty much lost all hope for the platform. For me N9 is just a bad iPhone copy. Swipe UI alone doesn't save it from total lack of originality. Aegis (which can be disabled nowadays) ruined the rest. And the WP decision meant the whole platform was a dead end anyways.

I guess Nokia can only blame itself for the situation it's in and as a finn it's sad to see it go. But nothing lasts forever and I still have my memories. And killer Nokia rubber boots that will probably outlive the company.

Edited 2012-10-12 10:07 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by ukki
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 12th Oct 2012 10:18 UTC in reply to "Comment by ukki"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

You have an N950?

:o

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by ukki
by ukki on Fri 12th Oct 2012 10:29 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by ukki"
ukki Member since:
2005-08-29

Yes, I have it for development. Too bad they never gave us the official pr 1.3 or even 1.2.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by ukki
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 12th Oct 2012 10:31 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by ukki"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

They're basically impossible to get by these days. Would love to have it in my collection, but I doubt there even ARE people in The Netherlands who own one, let alone who are willing to sell it.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by ukki
by MOS6510 on Fri 12th Oct 2012 10:38 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by ukki"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

If I had one you could have it.

Not sure that makes you feel better or even worse though.

Reply Score: 2

All I have is the WiMax (US Sprint) N810
by tomz on Fri 12th Oct 2012 22:08 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by ukki"
tomz Member since:
2010-05-06

I used to use it on my Harley Davidson Motorcycle - the orange/black matched ;) .

The only problem is that Sprint/WiMax was only then available in Chicago, Las Vegas and may be a few other US Cities.

I used a Novatel Mifi on Verizon instead.

But it was an incredible device.

Except for an update it could do Flash video chat! (I wrote a software shim to enable it). Skype - video calls. Flash in the browser. In 2007-8!

I still have both the WiMax and original N810, and the N800. They are so incredibly good.

The N900 added a phone but took away a few things. The N9 won awards. The N950 adds QWERTY so could have blown away almost everything else other than a few things like Droids with QWERTY (Blackberry has that!).

Reply Score: 2

Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 12th Oct 2012 10:37 UTC
MOS6510
Member since:
2011-05-12

My experience with Nokia is that the hardware is often let down by the software.

The software on their dumb phones was fine, easy to control, fast to use.

I liked EPOCH on my Psion 3a. It was clever, could do what you wanted to do, but when it morphed in to Symbian it became less convenient, slower.

My Nokia 9500 and E90 often felt sluggish. Surfing, ssh'ing, it wasn't very pleasant.

Also the screens of S40/60 phones and other systems often felt very crowded, too small.

WP works much better on their Lumia range, but then again that wasn't made by Nokia.

Reply Score: 3

small team?
by zhulien on Fri 12th Oct 2012 11:05 UTC
zhulien
Member since:
2006-12-06

a few dozen employees isn't a small team - that is a huge team. a 1 man band is a small team, 2-3 perhaps, 10 a stretch.

Reply Score: 2

Gives a perspective.
by dsmogor on Fri 12th Oct 2012 12:35 UTC
dsmogor
Member since:
2005-09-01

From this story hiring and outsider seemed a good idea.
But hiring one that has trouble telling best interest of his present employer apart from the former wasn't.
It validates the story of SW not being ready until late in 2011. On the other hand it proves "only one device" argument as present in the Feb 2011 cover story was twisted as it was the conscious choice, not platform induced necessity.
From the hindsight it now looks Google made a mistake by not offering any incentive for Nokia. They would at least have a counterbalance to Samsung and didn't have to buy Motorola.

Reply Score: 2

Outsourcing & Infighting.
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Fri 12th Oct 2012 20:37 UTC
Bill Shooter of Bul
Member since:
2006-07-14

Those two will kill you everytime.

Outsourcing projects is okay, if you understand that the final code you get will have to be heavily modified at the end of the day you are responsible for anything your company ships with your name on it. I've been involved in overseeing outsourced projects a couple of times. Its ranged from complete disaster with no usable code returned to a highly unpolished messy/buggy code base.

One of the things that people keep pointing out with Apple is that they aren't afraid of killing sales of existing successful projects by introducing new, better ones. The classic ipod was pretty much killed by the iphone. Ipad's may be eating into macbook sales. They aren't afraid of letting the better product they make be successful. Mameo, outsourced warts and all was a better future platform for Nokia. If they had moved more resources towards it and just let symbian go, they'd be doing much better right now. So maybe in a sense Elop came in the middle of a turf war between two warring factions and didn't choose sides by going in a completely different path. Perhaps looking to unite the company and avoid similar situations in the future.

Reply Score: 4

v ...
by Hiev on Fri 12th Oct 2012 20:56 UTC
RE: ...
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Sun 14th Oct 2012 06:50 UTC in reply to "..."
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Well, yes and no. The article does talk about an particularly new / unused part of qt that led to some delays in creating widgets. Although, I'm not sure they were really necessary. Nokia seems like its a company that was trying to release a great product with version 1.0. That's admirable, but sometimes just shipping a good product with version 1.0 is better. Release early and often to get feedback from devs/users. The UI and design can be less than perfect and be improved in later versions. Look at how much Android and even IOS have improved. If you ask me the big sin of Nokia was not releasing Maemeo 6 before starting Meego. I hope Samsung isn't really counting on their intel collaboration from being any more fruitful, it really seems as if they only added red tape and chaos to the mix.

Reply Score: 3

everybody's fault
by enx23 on Sat 13th Oct 2012 07:42 UTC
enx23
Member since:
2008-12-17

Certainly, Nokia's management shares the largest part in today's situation of Nokia _but_ they are not alone. Engineers at Nokia have their share of fault too!

From what I know directly from ex-Nokia engineers from Finland is that there many times was no negative feedback (i.e. somebody to say this will not fly) and therefore the higher management were removed from reality because nobody told them that this and that is/will not work(ing). Many engineers were silent especially during the meetings even though outside of work they had strong opinions ( for example nobody had the courage to give negative feedback about Symbian even one could see that in the same time iPhone were selling like hotcakes; indeed Elop did this later but he was too extreme in the way how he did it). This was a feature of Nokia in at least in Finland which bewildered me.

P.S. I have never worked and I am not working at Nokia, Apple, Samsung, HTC, Siemens, Erricson, Sony, LG.

Reply Score: 3

RE: everybody's fault
by quackalist on Sat 13th Oct 2012 17:46 UTC in reply to "everybody's fault"
quackalist Member since:
2007-08-27

Surely a culture of engineers not giving negative feedback has to be laid at management in the end. Sadly, too common in many organisations, public and private.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: everybody's fault
by jared_wilkes on Sat 13th Oct 2012 18:26 UTC in reply to "RE: everybody's fault"
jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

Why? Many engineers love to carve out personal fiefdoms, championing their own tech at the cost of others, portraying their work as the best. Many engineers knowingly exploit and thrive under bad management and fear good management.

Edited 2012-10-13 18:27 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: everybody's fault
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Sun 14th Oct 2012 06:53 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: everybody's fault"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Too true. Its tough to give a project to a fellow coworker and have him fix all the stuff you missed. its a blow to the ego. The better engineers realize that while others will always find their mistakes easier, they become better by having them discovered and by finding their peers mistakes as well. You have to look for the bad parts as well as the good parts.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: everybody's fault
by lucas_maximus on Sun 14th Oct 2012 13:29 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: everybody's fault"
lucas_maximus Member since:
2009-08-18

I worked with these developers/engineers and there is a lot of NIH syndrome, which pushes up costs quite a bit.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: everybody's fault
by Soulbender on Mon 15th Oct 2012 02:59 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: everybody's fault"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Why?


Because it is managements very *job* to make sure things work well and goals are met.

Many engineers knowingly exploit and thrive under bad management and fear good management.


This is a management failure. If they did their job this situation would not exist.

Reply Score: 2

A very interesting read...
by daedalus on Tue 16th Oct 2012 10:33 UTC
daedalus
Member since:
2011-01-14

And one which repeatedly brought the Amiga to mind, with colossal management issues ultimately leading to the loss of a platform right when it should have been flourishing. Still, like you say, there is a ray of hope from the Jolla team, and with a bit of luck they'll have something to market worthy of replacing my N9 when that time inevitably arrives.

Reply Score: 1

RE: A very interesting read...
by zima on Thu 18th Oct 2012 23:59 UTC in reply to "A very interesting read..."
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

It was pretty much inevitable with the Amiga, and not because of management... ( http://www.osnews.com/permalink?539079 & its minuscule at its height share compared to the PC http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/total-share.ars & note how none of such platforms survived - except for consoles, but their manufacturers have a matching business model, of extracting money from dev houses, which couldn't had been introduced for Amiga once the cat was out of the bag - people would really dislike that, everybody ignored CD32; Apple just sells PC tech, the new "Amigas" are really just PCs with weird CPUs for no good reason)

Ehh, this will be the next Amiga myth (seems it's cool now to clung to the stretched-ipod-nano N9 ...myths about its sales numbers, and smooth experience of the OS)

Edited 2012-10-19 00:08 UTC

Reply Score: 2