2010-03-08

It Doesn't Exist Until the Media Says So

Skype's inclusion in the Ovi Store should really be a non-event, since s60 has had VoIP calls for a long time, and Maemo 5 even has contact list integration. The seemingly unwarranted attention could be thought of as a turning point in Nokia's advertising efforts in the U.S.


Ease of Use is What You've Been Told is Easy

Think back five years and recall the most common arguments against running Linux. Conventional wisdom held that Windows users are used to "simply" installing stuff from websites, and wouldn't understand package managers. Enter the iPhone, and a package manager is now the only acceptable way to install apps. How things change.

But has anything actually changed? The average user is still likely to have trouble installing software under Linux, but give him an s60 phone without Ovi, and he's equally likely to be confused about the lack of a package manager. Contradiction? No. Users don't actually understand the benefits of either method: they do things a certain way because they've been told it's how it's done.


News vs. Meta-news

Apple's app store received much publicity when it launched, and everyone heard about how installing apps is just a few clicks away. When people got their hands on the phone, using the store felt natural and intuitive, because they already knew what to do. Today, many apps receive publicity elsewhere and users know what to initially look for. Ease of use is only the second step, not the first.

In contrast, most widespread news about Ovi has been meta-news: how the store itself is failing to generate buzz, how the lack of applications is affecting its image, what the average selling price is, etc. Since Nokia is still struggling in the U.S., software reviews don't get the attention competitors do, and it's been easy for the media to latch on to the poor initial sales numbers. Negative or positive, this information simply doesn't tell the user what the devices are capable of.

This time, it's different. When the app store launched, it didn't matter that platforms like s60 had done it all before sans the package manager, and it's equally immaterial that s60 already does Skype calls. What matters is that Skype is big news and the media is now talking about what software is available on Ovi and how you can get it - not useless metainformation.

The news articles about Skype on Ovi:
  • Inform users they can save money by dowloading Skype from Ovi
  • Imply that the Ovi Store now has enough applications to be useful
  • Imply that even the average user can understand the process of installing apps from Ovi

The third is especially important, because users that approach new products with an open mind are more likely to succeed than users who are afraid things will be too complicated for them.

Even the "bad news" that followed is good, because it's real info and the user has now started caring. When we heard that American customers wouldn't be getting Skype from Ovi due to exclusivity agreements with Verizon, consumers learned that:
  • Verizon should be blamed for the missing app
  • You can easily work around it
  • Nokia devices aren't restricted to one store
  • It's easy enough to install apps even without a store - no need to be scared


Just two newsworthy events and installing apps from outside the official store has changed from something scary to something anyone can do. It'll take more than this to get everyone to recognize Nokia's strengths, but this could have been an important step for the company.

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