The week before Matt Marshall opens a dedicated conference – MobileBeat 2012 – the founder and CEO of VentureBeat talks to us about the future of mobile and his views on Nokia’s place within it.
On the MobileBeat 2012 site, you state that “the most successful players are focusing on one thing: How to make products, services, and devices as compelling and delightful as possible – both visually, and experientially.” How’s Nokia doing in this regard?
Nokia has a great start in this regard. The Lumia 900 feels like it’s in a class of its own, as we’ve reported at VentureBeat, rather than being just a copy cat of some other device. Nokia is successfully drawing on its roots – and creating gorgeous phones.
The Lumia 900 falls into that tradition. The company employed the same unibody polycarbonate design it first showed off in the N9 MeeGo phone. It doesn’t have that cheap plastic feel of many of the Android phones.
Beyond that, it’s clear Nokia is pushing for an overall consumer experience that rivals other platforms, one that includes, seamless integration with apps, location and map services, ambient awareness and so on.
There’s been a big focus on the number of apps available on each mobile platform – please share your views on this topic
The appeal of smartphones to a lot of consumers is the wide variety of apps they can download. But developers won’t build apps for a platform until there is a proven consumer demand. It’s a chicken and egg problem, and it’s one that every platform has faced.
There’s a point at which a critical mass is hit, when there are enough apps on the platform where the sheer number no longer matters.
This may be 20,000, or it may be 40,000, it doesn’t matter. In the end, after critical mass is hit, what matters is the experience.
In general, what’s the next step for apps? How would they need to evolve to really improve the user experience?
Apps are becoming faster, more powerful, and easier to use every day. One trend we’re noticing, is that every electronic device is beginning to run apps on it in one way or another.
It’s not just computers, phones, and tablets anymore. TVs, sound systems, credit cards, and even cars are turning into platforms that can run apps built by third party developers. The logical next step is for all of these devices to talk to each other and remain in sync. The challenge for developers is going to be working with these platforms that come in all different shapes and sizes, and making sure their apps are simple and elegant enough to be used easily by consumers.
What would be your advice for a developer that wants to get started developing apps for Windows Phone and Nokia Lumia?
I would advise developers to jump in and give it a shot. The Windows Phone platform on the Lumia is getting rave reviews across the board, and seems poised to be a hit.
Right now, developers building apps for the Windows Phone have the advantage of getting in early and marking their territory. I, for one, am not going to bet against Microsoft and Nokia getting out of this space anytime soon. Their phones are already gaining popularity, and the user base is only going to grow from here. Now is the time to capitalize as a mobile developer.
How do you view the changing landscape for developers right now?
It can be a difficult and confusing time for developers right now. Everyone wants to have a solid mobile presence, but deciding which platforms to focus your resources on can be a challenge.
HTML5 is the promising wave of the future – when developers will be able to build one app that works across every platform – but the technology still isn’t quite there.
Consumers are still demanding the experience of a native app, which means developers have to make decisions. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and even Amazon are all major players in this battle, and it’s unclear which platform developers should be giving the most love.
Nokia is working hard to differentiate and improve the user experience through apps and services such as Nokia Drive, Nokia City Lens and Nokia Transit. What are your views on these initiatives and where do you think Nokia should focus next?
These initiatives are important steps to improving the user experience. People are becoming dependent on their phones to tell them what to eat, where to go, and how to get there. If you can provide that information in a beautiful and entertaining way, people are going to continue to engage with their phones.
I still think media and digital content is an important aspect of the smartphone experience that may warrant more focus. These phones are entertainment devices as much as they are anything else, and if you can distribute that entertainment in a seamless manner, you will have happy customers.
What big trends or developments do you think will define the mobile industry over the next 12-18 months?
As mentioned above, I think one trend will be more and more devices becoming “smart” and having the ability to talk to each other. All of the technology we use in our day-to-day lives will have to eventually be in sync.
Right now, we think of the mobile industry as our phones and tablets, but that will grow. Credit cards, watches, cars, and plenty of other devices that move around with us are all becoming more sophisticated, but there is still a lot of room for growth and innovation.