Published by Rafe Blandford at 10:32 UTC, February 23rd 2010

At Mobile World Congress, I sat down with Anssi Vanjoki, EVP of Markets at Nokia, to talk about the Nokia N97. The highly anticipated device was released last summer and while it has been a commercial success for Nokia, it has been subject to a great deal of criticism from consumers for its software and underpowered hardware.

With the release of version 20 and 21 of the firmware, many of the software issues have been resolved. In the video, Anssi Vanjoki acknowledges the issues and explains how Nokia has learnt important lessons, which have been fed into the process of creating Symbian^3 and Symbian^3 devices. He says that “we have taken the learnings and when Symbian^3 comes out you can rest assured it will be perfect”.

Key points

  • The N97 was a success for Nokia in terms of sales and the margins (money collected) on the device, but “it has been a tremendous disappointment in terms of the experience quality for the consumers”.

     

  • This was not anticipated by Nokia. Nokia has been able to repair the situtaion through the release of version 20 and 21 of the N97 firmware. Nokia acknowledge that it “has been an unbelievable cycle of things for us, that has taken far too long to repair and mitigate”. Moreover they say, with regards to Symbian^1 / Symbian^1 family hardware platform, that “we stretched for too long, something which should not have been stretched”.

     

  • Nokia have learnt from the experience. The lessons learnt have been applied to both Symbian^3 generally and individual Symbian^3 products. The timescales for changes of this type are between major point releases of the platform (i.e. not between different devices within a point release). Nokia say, “we have taken the learnings and when Symbian^3 comes out you can rest assured it will be perfect”.

 

Video – Anssi Vanjoki – part 1

Comment

Over the years I’ve spoken to many Nokia executives, but this was an unusual interview. Having such a frank discussion about a device and its relative merits in in terms of consumer experience is almost unheard of. Think of other personalities and companies in the mobile industry – can you imagine them going on the record with such a statement? It certainly demonstrates Nokia willingness to listen and their belief that they will not mistake such mistakes again. It also constitutes a considerable endorsement for Symbian^3. 

At the end of the session I asked Anssi Vanjoki how confident he was that the processes were in place to ensure a similar occurrence did not happen again. “Extremely sure”, he said, “check back with me next Januray and you will see”.

We’ve got further parts of this interview to come including a section of how Symbian and MeeGo fit together in Nokia’s software strategy, a future vision for mobile computers / devices, the importance of open standards and the three types of competitors for Nokia.

Transcript

A rough transcript of the video is provided below:

Anssi Vanjoki [Nokia]:

So we’ll start with the N97 and I’ll give you some current stuff on what we are doing there. The N97 has been a tremendous success for us when it comes to how many we have shipped and how much money we did collect, but it has been a tremendous disappointment in terms of the experience quality for the consumers and something we did not anticipate. It happens every now and then in a big company, like Nokia, even if you have the most stringent quality control mechanisms. Something slips, and you notice one thing, [it] leads to another thing, you fix that, and actually you make things worse and so forth… and this has been an unbelievable cycle of things for us that has taken far too long to repair and mitigate.

But now I can tell you that it is over. Now we have a software that is properly tested not only by our engineers and labs, but [also by] normal people out in the marketplace.

We actually launched this, before we let it to any other market, in a market that is very easy to control and is very distant: we launched it in Norway! So the Norwegians have had the software in their hands before anyone else, and now we have all the feedback for it. Both for what it does for the product – so how much better N97 comes. As well as for the firmware over the air delivery to those people who have bought the product and who had been wondering ‘how did Nokia release anything like this’.

So finally we are at the place where I can put my sleepless nights behind me and say that the agonising experience is over. So your readers and other readers of other places will now see that we are able to repair the situation we have caused and moving forward what a tremendous experience for learning this has been. We have taken the learnings and when Symbian^3 comes out you can rest assured it will be perfect.

Rafe Blandford [All About Symbian]:

The obvious question, with the N97 it was a combination of hardware and software. Have you made any changes to the quality control process to make sure this does not happen again? 

Anssi Vanjoki:

Yes, actually, it is exactly like you say – it is quality control process. These things are not quality control at the end of manufacturing; they are quality control measures that are taken at the outset of setting up a program to deliver this whole thing.

And that is exactly the learning we have taken and that has gone into Symbian^3 as well as the products that are coming based on Symbian^3. 

Rafe Blandford:

And do you feel that the timescale to doing that sort of thing is between the major point releases of the underlying platform?

Anssi Vanjoki:

Absolutely, that’s where you need to do it. Because, you know, what we did in terms of the software that was there for N97, we stretched for too long, something which should not have been stretched. And when you stretch from every single corner, the thing does not hold together any more. And therefore even the patching of this was much more laborious that what we ever thought.

Baptiste Martin [Symbian France]:

Regarding the N97, most of the users do not understand why they did not get any answer from Nokia. When you are an early buyer, you spend a lot of money on this device, and you get no answer…

Anssi Vanjoki:

Like I said, that was a surprise to us. It was not expected. When you are taken by surprise you usually say er… er… er… er…er. And now, painstakingly slowly, we are in position where we can both answer and remedy the problem.

Good to know that Nokia has taken notice on their screw ups and seem to want to improve. Now wanting to improve and actually improving are different things. I hope they do improve though as more competition is ultimately good for mobile consumers/users.

Advertisements