After three years at Nokia, I have decided to move on and join a brand new Berlin-based startup. More on that later. The last three years at Nokia have been packed, and filled with change.
When I joined Nokia, Symbian–once a dominant force in mobile–was becoming more and more irrelevant. It was replaced with Meego and the beautiful N9 and then, finally, with the introduction of Nokia’s most-recent CEO Steven Elop, the company reorganized its smartphone product portfolio around a then-immature platform called Windows Phone.
It was a time of upheaval. When I joined it seemed that there are groups throughout the organization working on similar products with their own vision and setting their own direction. As these projects bumped into each other, like tectonic plates moving towards each other, the political squabbles became friction: one plate eventually dominating the other. And not without considerable disruption.
A project I was working on was no exception to this. When I first joined the company, I worked on the launch of a product called App Wizard. App Wizard took content from long tail publisher feeds, added monetization and metrics layers and created applications that could be run on any Nokia device. It was a simple service with a strong vision to drive value for publishers by creating new audiences in new markets.
App Wizard launched with a strong roadmap for the future and rapidly grew to a service used by over 26,000 publishers worldwide before being ramped down. The product became a casualty of this disjointed vision and, sadly, the version 2 of App Wizard was shut down before it launched.
I moved immediately into working with global app publishers to create apps for our new platform, Meego. The Nokia N9 was a beautiful device. From the experience of setting up the phone, to using apps, you could see the decisions that had been made were made with style and thought. You could see how those design decisions clearly impacted the usage of the phone in positive ways.
The N9 was an inspiring device that reminded me of those first heady days when the iPhone launched. The device came with that kind of quality and deep thinking about how a user would use the device on a daily basis. Something I can relate to.
It is no secret: even though Nokia launched the N9, they had already changed their strategy to focus on Windows Phone. I changed with that into a global partnering role. We worked to create apps for Nokia platforms with strategic partners.
At this time it was clear that, with Symbian still ramping down and the N9 born still, the company needed to go through a monumental change in mindset. Elop put that in place dragging the company to adopt what he called the challenger mindset. And he was very successful in this cultural shift.
The people at Nokia are great. I haven’t met a more independent, highly capable group of people than those I worked with. Despite so many languages, so many time-zones, and so many challenges everyone that I came into contact with was powerfully aware of how they could contribute to Nokia’s renovation and went out of their way to do so.
I guess what I saw in the last 18 months was a change in culture, a shift from disorganized groups with their own vision to the adoption of a more unified vision. It felt like people started pulling together, finally.
Nokia still has a long way to go: it is hard to go from the dominant manufacturer in an industry to being perceived as a marginal figure. The teams I work with have done phenomenal work in pushing the adoption of Windows Phone by publishers and have outdone themselves in pushing the limits of what people expect from a Windows Phone application.
On the low end, it has been a great ride seeing the quality of applications and the surge in demand for apps in the Asha range. It has been a great run since we celebrated 1MM downloads/day and now we’re over 17MM downloads/day on S40 devices.
One thing has become clear over the last three and a bit years: the importance of quality applications for any emerging ecosystem is not to be undervalued. It isn’t a question of how many but whether users download them and use them.
It was time to leave and I am happy to be moving on. I’ll miss some of the exciting app projects that I was working on but am confident that the team I leave behind at Nokia is the right team to continue to drive the importance of award-winning apps on Windows Phone and, increasingly, S40.