Dalton Caldwell provides a nearly-insider view of one of Nokia’s biggest flops:
How bad did things have to get for Nokia to flush every piece of software they have ever built down the toilet and adopt Windows Phone across the board? There were many disastrous projects that Nokia embarked upon to counter the existential iPhone threat, but I would like to talk about one part of Nokia that I had constant exposure to: Comes With Music.
During my year with Nokia I was repeatedly told that they were transforming themselves into a services company, but nobody seemed to really know what that meant. The group I was with, Point & Find, did an elaborate mixed-reality game called “Conspiracy for Good” with Tim Kring, creator of “Heroes,” that ran through a large chunk of London in 2010. Unless you’re a big Nokia fan or you were living in London and annoyed by this a couple years ago, you probably didn’t hear of it. Caldwell describes Nokia’s approach to music as “cargo culting” iTunes, but I think that described Nokia’s approach to everything. The sad thing is that Nokia’s boosters are largely correct when they piss and moan about how Nokia was doing fill-in-the-blank years before everyone else. Point & Find, for instance, was augmented reality before that was a thing, but Nokia put absolutely no effort into making it good until AR was suddenly a buzzword. They turned a two-year lead into a race to catch up. From what I can tell, that’s pretty much what they did with everything else, too.
The article I linked to inadvertently shows one of Nokia’s biggest observable problems, incidentally: it has a cheerful photo of Kring with his staff and the head of the Nokia Research Center, but the NRC didn’t actually work on Point & Find. They worked on their own projects that competed with P&F. The last project I worked on for Nokia was a relatively simple “search as you type” widget for the N8, much like the search widget in the iPhone (albeit theoretically with more smarts in ordering results). I don’t think my version of the project ever shipped, but it didn’t matter, because there were at least four other Nokia groups around the world doing exactly the same thing.