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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RE[3]: Remember...
by Neolander on Mon 15th Oct 2012 09:02 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Remember..."
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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: & 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.",,.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...

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