I’m playing with the Nokia’s new service Nokia Friend View as I type this. I downloaded the software on my phone this morning and been using it through out the day.
In short the service wants to be a location aware microbloggin service.
I’m not blown away, nor have I completely lost hope with Nokia. They are trying fairly hard. The service is very Nokia-like in that it’s not very user friendly compared to some others that have emerged from the west coast of US. The UI is rather ugly and after you start using it feels that someone has designed it on paper, but never really used it herself as it’s not logical all the way through. Similarly the service is still very buggy, not loading the map on the web browser, eating one’s battery in no time …the list goes on and has still some really retarded features like the fact that the nick name is case sensitive. I registered as villevesterinen and now wondering whether there will be another VilleVesterinen. Does not really help you finding your friends from the service if there’s two of each name.
I won’t go into the nitty gritty, data portability etc. yet as Nokia is still in developing the service and I haven’t used it long enough to get down and dirty with the features. Similarly, I won’t go into how it could be integrated with Nokia Chat and the Ovi.com service in general for the simple reason that I don’t use Ovi.com, since it only replicates other services I use like Flickr and MobileMe. Who knows, maybe Friend View lures me to use all of Nokia’s services, but I’m not there yet. Nor is Nokia for that matter.
It’s not all downhill though and this, after all, is still an early Beta. I don’t know how my Nokia Friend View usage will evolve and where it becomes the most useful. I’d imagine I’d like to use it when I’m traveling and planning to meet people in a city at a given time. It would be very nice to see where their train is coming or see their plane above the Atlantic, but there’s still a bit go before that. That said, it would be nice to see when my girlfriend is coming from work and see when she’s just behind the corner or if she hasn’t left from the office yet. But as many (In Finnish) communicated, they’d like to be able to control the level of privacy between the different contacts. The more of these services advance, the more privacy they invade. Nevertheless, I can find uses for the service already.
The sad part of this new service is that Nokia once had ‘the next big thing’ right in front of it: Jaiku was build right on Nokia’s front porch and is doing much of what Nokia Friend View tries to do without the location bit. Add location to Jaiku and Voilà! One of Jaiku’s co-founders and the father of the idea, Jyri Engeström, even worked at Nokia at one time, but of course it was too risky for the mobile phone giant at the time: It could not possibly put its weight behind a venture that is not already ubiquitous like microbloggin services now. That would be risky, which does not go very well with the Finnish management ideology. To make the irony complete Jaiku conversation threads are currently the best places to find out about how the Friend View works (or does not work in many cases), and Jaiku is still better service than Nokia Friend View, Twitter, Plazes and FriendFeed combined.
Now that Nokia has found the new focus for its strategy from the online services arena to go along with the hardware business, it should also embrace the new ways of working. Jaiku went to Google and nothing wrong with that, but if Nokia wants to be an innovative player in the online services field it needs to embrace different kinds of risks compared to ones it has before. This does not deal with mobile phone design, but rather with new behavior in communication as the web evolves. This risk involves betting on smart people, but not in a way Nokia has done before. I’m not talking about hard core MBA heavy hitters that can manage the hell out of any firm, but rather people who are the real pirates of the Internet. I’m talking about entrepreneurs.
Nokia needs to look at how Google has approached this issue by acquiring early stage startups and getting a boat load of smart people along with it. Nokia should start seeing the value in these energetic and smart people who want to change the way we communicate and won’t stop until they do.
Similarly, Stefan Constantinescu, who’s telling about the service in the YouTube clip made by Nokia, is also one of the best evangelist Nokia could hope for as the guy is super active and vocal in for example Jaiku. Let’s hope that Nokia has learned its lesson and sees the value in what Stefan is doing and tunes into the Jaiku channels for community feedback.