Nokia Should Switch to Mac OS X

A little different from my recent posts, but this is something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now believe it or not. Nokia should switch to Mac OS X.

OK, I don’t mean they should switch their phones over to running Mac OS X, nor for that matter even their new netbooks. I mean they should switch their application development environment from Windows to Mac OS X.


Aside from it simply being a much, much better platform to use for development in general, it is also the platform that a large number of mobile application developers already use. Over 125,000 registered mobile app developers out there today are using the Mac platform to write apps for the iPhone platform. The majority of those developers are not going to think of switching to a Windows box to develop on. If Nokia wants to court some of them into developing for its smartphones too, it needs to have a development environment that runs under Mac OS X.

XCode or Eclipse

It doesn’t matter as much as the platform choice, but plugging into XCode as well would certainly make the process more familiar to iPhone developers.

What really matters though is that the tools are simple to install, run smoothly and allow for rapid development (including simple, fully operational device debugging).

Nokia’s tools people need to spend a few days working with the iPhone SDK and getting a feel for how smooth the development process is. (OK, I know the certificate stuff isn’t great, but it is still integrated into the build process, and the newer releases of XCode have made it a little easier to deal with.) Then make sure the Nokia platform is as simple to use, no matter what tools it is based on. This is about a complete system.

S60 or Maemo

While we’re talking about cleaning things up, S60 has gone beyond its useful life. I used an N95 for two years from when they first came out, and believe me that was already stretching S60 beyond breaking point. The newer phones are being seriously let down by S60.

If Nokia could just accept that Symbian is dead, and move their vast momentum behind Maemo, a platform they’ve been developing and proving in the field for several years now, but still don’t have the courage to stand behind 100%, they’d actually have a platform that could compete with Android for sure, and perhaps even Apple.

There are some simple rules for success here though (and something that Android is already failing on):

  • Own your platform. Define it, and keep it consistent. You can mix up the peripherals a little, but keep the screen size the same, and make sure the OS abstracts the interface to things like keyboards so no matter what the hardware supports, the apps don’t need to change.
  • Simple, clean UI. Given where we are now, it is going to be a touch screen interface, so design it as such. Don’t worry about the existing S60 apps – they’re history. Make it clean and simple for all the exciting new apps.
  • Powerful APIs.Let me use things like the network, the location services and the maps without having to jump through hoops, several times, with my hands tied behind my back.
  • Single API.While the APIs need to let me access the full power of the device (and this is the iPhone’s achilles heal), there should also be just one API for each function. KISS matters.

A clean, standard, C++ API based on the Trolltech technologies, and a solid, secure OS like Linux would make a very solid platform.

What About the S60 Apps?

What about them? The folks developing apps for the S60 are going to move on. They’ve probably already moved on – to iPhone or Android. The rest will happily follow.

This idea that you can’t disturb the value chain is nonsense. Even the name implies that: it is a chain, attached to a leader. Where the leader goes, the chain follows. It is how they make money. And realistically what are the alternatives? They’re going to have to change platform regardless, why change more than you need to.


Perhaps this quarter’s massive losses at Nokia will be enough to shock them into activity. The saddest part of all of this is that they have been sitting on the answer to many of the issues with their smartphone platform since before the iPhone and Android were even players in the space. Ironically, they’re also the one company that should feel completely comfortable backing a Linux solution: it is, after all, a Finnish OS.

If, even after all these years with Maemo, FOSS issue is a problem though, how about using NetBSD or licensing a true microkernel like QNX Neutrino? Trolltech’s UI would run on both of those very easily (one of my last demo projects at Wind River was to port the open source version of Trolltech’s code to run under VxWorks AE – it was a simple port, and ran very well).

Location Tagger, AT&T Wi-Fi and Twitter

Starbucks, AlamedaI installed a new app on my N95 the other day from the Nokia Beta Labs: Location Tagger. This is one of the things that should have been built into the camera application from day one on a GPS enabled phone, but I’m glad to see they’re catching up.

The photo on the right is my first test of this new feature. The photo was automatically geo-tagged (so, if you visit the photo’s page in Flickr, you can see it placed on a map). Flickr seems to be confused about the city (it thinks Alameda is Oakland!), but it shows up in the correct place on the map.

Why was I at Starbucks? Well, I stopped by to see whether AT&T had disabled the free Wi-Fi for iPhone users. The special free login page has indeed gone, replaced by the older iPhone login page, though it did still let me on using the iPhone credentials I had stored in my Devicescape account 🙂

Finally, I finally signed up for Twitter, and added the Twitter feed to the left column on the blog. Since it is connected to my IM client (Adium, for those wondering), I can send it short messages about what I’m up to, and they’ll end up here on the blog as well as on my Twitter page.

AT&T Wi-Fi Free for iPhone Users

AT&T Wi-Fi iPhone Login PageWell, to be more accurate, free for AT&T iPhone users. If you have your service through AT&T still, then you should get this login page when you connect to the attwifi SSID at Starbucks, or anywhere else. Enter your 10 digit AT&T mobile number and you’re online.

Devicescape users can add the special ‘AT&T Wi-Fi (iPhone)’ credential type to their account, and they will get online automatically.

There have been rumours around that the same will be enabled for anybody with an AT&T mobile data plan at some point; I expect the iPhone is being used as the test platform here since they already had mobile pages for the iPhone (my N95 still sees the full page).

Update, May 4, ’08: Seems that the web page has been taken down now (guess too many folks were abusing it by changing their browser agent string and getting online with non-iPhone devices).

Nokia N95 Cartoonise

Saturn Sky (Cartoon)I love the iPhone for web browsing and email, but the Nokia N95 wins hands down when it comes to photos, and that’s important for me because I just can’t carry my Canon 20D everywhere I go. I can, and do, carry my mobile phone!

Tonight, as I was walking up to the ferry terminal in SF, this bright red Saturn Sky pulled up on the footpath area and paused. Long enough for me to get the N95 out and snap a couple of shots, but probably not long enough to have unpacked the SLR.

But then, while sitting waiting for the ferry to arrive, I discovered that not only can it take stunning photos (there is no comparison to the iPhone’s camera in terms of quality), but there’s also an image editor on the phone that can crop, resize, sharpen, adjust colors and even apply a cool cartoon effect. Oh, and then I can upload the full size image straight into my Flickr stream, all from the phone.

Saturn Sky (Cartoon 2)Update: Check out the punched up version (created using the Gimp to adjust the levels a little on the original image).

Now I just need to work out how to get something similar to that from the image editor in the phone, which is a lot less sophisticated than the Gimp or Photoshop 🙁

Nokia Maps & the 3D View

3D ViewEarlier this week I was playing with the maps function built into my Nokia N95, which it seems is a version of Smart2Go. Aside from the slow start on the GPS (even with A-GPS it is not always that quick to get a location), the mapping works well and I’ve used it a lot.

My reason for looking at it in more detail was wanting to know whether the paid option has the one feature that is annoyingly missing from the free version: automatic recalculation of the route if you miss a turn. I didn’t get an answer to that, but for less than $15 I can enable the feature for 30 days and see how well it works on a test drive I guess.

The other thing I discovered is that the maps have a 3D view option (hit ‘0’ to toggle). I’d never noticed that option in the menu before. Switching to it revealed something odd though – the cross hairs that mark the GPS position adjusted to the new perspective. The box that normally keeps track of the GPS location until you move it manually away, did not take the new perspective into account. Take a look at the 2D version here!

The big thing with the 3D view, which is also a problem with the 2D view on the phone, is that it doesn’t rotate based on the direction you’re traveling. That gets very confusing when you’re heading south!

Devicescape Updates

I have a couple of Devicescape updates for everybody tonight (and I’ll also post some more photos soon, but you can check most of those out in my Flickr stream anyway.

Nokia Videos
The video to the right is a video shot by our friends at Nokia that shows Devicescape logging in automatically at a T-Mobile hotspot. Here’s another one shot at San Jose airport.

Both of these videos used the T-Mobile network, but Devicescape also works on most of the other hotspot networks you’ll find around the world.

SF New “Mobile” Tech
The other thing I wanted to mention was that I presented at SF New “Mobile” Tech last night here in San Francisco. If you were there, thanks for coming (especially all the folks who already had Devicescape running on their devices).

Nokia N95 vs Apple iPhone

iPhone & Nokia N95I’ve had the iPhone for a few days now (and the N95 for over a month), so I thought I’d post a little comparison. There are plenty of other places out there with reviews and comparisons, and the N95 is the obvious phone to compare it to.

The first surprise with the iPhone though is how heavy it is. The N95 feels like a hollow shell by comparison!

Purely from the specs, the N95 has the iPhone beaten. That topic has been beaten to death everywhere, including a series of amusing YouTube videos in the Apple Mac vs PC style.

The UI though leaves the Nokia in the dust (and I’m not even going to talk about Windows Mobile – that should just be purged from the earth). Most of the apps make good use of the UI too, especially the flick scrolling.

Both devices are amazing, but both have their flaws too. The N95 interface is clunky at times, though even the stunning UI on the iPhone has problems – the keyboard is really hard to use. The camera on the iPhone is terrible, though the N95 one has issues at times too (I’ve had days, like today, when the auto-focus just refuses to lock).

The biggest thing that is missing from the iPhone though is simple: no third party applications. It comes with essentially 13 applications on top of the basic mobile phone behaviour. My N95 comes with over 20 applications, and I can add more very easily. I currently have Opera Mini, Google Maps, ScreenShot and, of course, Devicescape.