2010-07-23

Bet It All On FOSS

Are you as sick of hearing about firing Nokia's CEO as I am? He's not the problem. Or rather, his problem is that he hasn't fired the real incompetents. See this excellent article at The Register for more. I'll look to the future.


Nokia's strategy is still rock solid. The company is simply running out of time, because it's so slow to move, and execution is crippled. It now has no time to code new software, no time to design new software, and certainly no time to replace key people. This is what they have to solve the problem with. Maybe.



Release early, release yesterday


Assuming that MeeGo and S^4 will introduce a revitalized product line, that still leaves all the high quality supporting software that Nokia is missing. That hole is much deeper. But wait, isn't this the same company that owns Qt, has its own GNU/Linux distribution (now with Intel) and is a patron of KDE?


What are you waiting for, Nokia? Find out what major FOSS contributors happen to be unemployed, get them on your payroll, and start submitting patches for Ovi-compatibility as fast as you can. Find the most inventive ones, and have them come up with cool new features for software that could either run on or support your devices. Screw the standard approval process - the recipients of your patches will be happy to evangelize your hits and mercilessly bash your misses. You have no time.


With a focus on mature Qt-based software, you could have aggressive betas in Linux users' hands before the N9 is released, and stable Windows ports shipping with your devices in Q1. More importantly, the tech media would have something shiny to point at even while it's being tested, and the most vocal crowd would stop fawning over Google.



Why So Half Hearted?


Nokia clearly sees the benefits of Free software. Why else would not one, but two Nokia operating systems already rely on it? The problem is that the strategy has remained so half hearted. Instead of fully taking advantage of all opportunities, Ovi is still massively reliant on bad, unimaginative software with excellent FOSS equivalents. Just like other Nokia initiatives of late, the base is set up for huge potential, but none of it is realized in practice. Is it because of internal politics? Maybe. But the time for tiptoeing has ended. It's time for extreme aggression, and proprietary software just won't cut it.


You might worry about competitors taking advantage of software you've developed. That boat has sailed. They're all ahead of you. And even if they weren't, what's going to prevent them from using the same software without your contributions? Nothing. What you need to do is create excellent compatibility with your products in excellent existing software. There is no time for new solutions, just new features.


Let the internal development teams keep doing what they're doing for now. Stopping will only make things worse, yet again. But you will very quickly discover which of them are being badly outcompeted by FOSS equivalents. Once you've picked the winners and stabilized your market situation, it's time for a new round of layoffs.



And please, put someone from Maemo in charge of this. Who else can you trust at this point?

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