I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Kiruba Shankar

Crowdsourcing Questions for Jo Harlow, Head of Smart Phones, Nokia

I’m at the Nokia Connection 2010 event in Singapore where leading journalists and bloggers are invited to preview the latest technologies from Nokia. I’m interviewing Jo Harlow, who heads Smart Phones for Nokia for my podcast show.

Long ago, I realized the limitations of my intelligence. I also greatly believe in the wisdom of the crowd and that the collective intelligence of the audience is far greater than just one person. This is the reason why I went to Twitter and Facebook and said I’m interviewing a top boss at Nokia and if anyone had a question for her, I would ask her on their boss with full credit given to them.

Here is what I posted on both Twitter and Facebook.

Am interviewing Jo Harlow, Head of Smart Phones, Nokia at 4 pm S’pore time. Have any quest for her? Will ask on your behalf with credits.

Within a few hours, I had a treasure trove of questions and quite honestly I would never have thought of them myself. I may not be able to ask all the quetsions to Jo Harlow considering that it is a group interview wiht 6 other journalists from India asking her questions and another factor that we only have about 45 minutes of time with her.

So, I decided to publish all the questions here so that you can take a look at it for yourself. I will also ask Nokia to help answer these quetsions at a later point in time even if I’m unable to get answers for all these during the face-to-face interview.

Here are the questions with links to the awesome people who have asked them.

Nimit Jain (FB) : How is their business shaping up in India with new players like MicroMax, Karbon mobiles etc in the market?

Ramaswamy Alwarsamy (FB): Apple has just one smart phone and its easy for people to remember. Nokia has a wide array of Smart Phones, way too many to remember all. Is it a disadvantage having a wide portfolio a disadvantage?

Kannan Iyer (FB) : Nokia has been clearly facing a problem with the time to market. They announced the N8, but then the launch is much later and that can affect the mindshare that people may have . What is Nokia doing to tackle this?

Kannan Iyer (FB) : Everyone is talking about iPhone and Android. But there is also the enterprise phone market where RIM has been ruling and almost … See Morea monopoly. The E-series was the closest Nokia came to challenging RIM- what are the future plans to fight in the enterprise phone space?

Kannan Iyer (FB) : Nokia’s developer strategy – How is Nokia thinking differently to get more developers to build apps for the Ovi store?

Bharath Yeshwanth (FB) The i-phone has changed the user experience through its well designed software with no major changes to its hardware.The strategy adopted by Nokia to cater to different genres of users is through changes with hardware. Can we expect a phone soon that will shall be one fit for all?

Bharath Yeshwanth (FB): Today’s news report read “RIM shifts focus from execs to teens”. Can this be seen as a threat to Nokia’s sales numbers?


(from Twitter)

@BalaSN : Why maemo is not available in the lower range mobiles ?

@talaivar : What according to her would be “the” compelling reason for one to buy a Nokia smartphone? Price? Features? Ovi Store? Why?

@talaivar : Being late into the game, what are the short term goals for Nokia Smartphones division?

@RameshYanthra : When we will get Augmented Reality based browser in Nokia smart phones? ”

@dipanshubehl : When will Nokia let go of its S60 OS in its low end smartphones/touchscreens??

@dipanshubehl : Will Nokia extend its Ovi Music Unlimited to other phones as well?

@jainnimit : How is their business shaping up in India with new players like MicroMax, Karbon mobiles etc in the market?

@mrnitishkumar : 1. When now days, we have very capable hardware in smartphone, why Mobile OS like Symbian even with there latest versions, not supporting widely popular DivX and Xvid video codecs?To be noted that possibility is already shown by their own maemo os that supported all.

@mrnitishkumar : We understand that people could have difference of opinions, but still Nokia sold amazing number of Nokia N900 that shows how popular maemo went even when price was unaffordable to be a smartphone.

@mrnitishkumar : What’re major reason to back off from their first geniunely praised and at least twice faster OS than symbian? Just straitegic partnerships with Intel and Qt?

@adityarao310 : Is Nokia looking at competing with new phones which specialise in in-built ‘social networking features’ benq / corby .. If yes. how?

@kursed : Why is Nokia’s software support, for smartphones, so weak? Specially in firmwares.

@vams21 : Can you please ask her if its possible to bring Smartphones in India in the range of 10K ($200).?

@BaskarG : How will Nokia plan to differentiate itslef from the likes of iPhone and Android devices for the “emerging” market?

@prakup : With unlimited data plans being scrapped (proposed) what is the future for smart phones? Esp in a price sensitive market…

@achitnis : Ask her when the N900 will have an official Nokia supported Meego port. Don’t accept any evasive answers like “community supported”!

@anandan1982 : Most of Nokia’s high end phones face software issues in the long run. Can they do something to curb that?

@achitnis : Nevermind how Nokia will compete with Apple & Android – where does Nokia see A&a lagging behind Nokia, other than numbers

@max4974 : N900. Why did they soft launch this powerhouse product in India? Werent they confident of success in India?

@achitnis : Nokia’s numbers are in their established base/legacy. What is it that Nokia has now that A&a don’t, to stand out?

@max4974 : Will S60v5 users be able to port their devices to symbian^3? What other devices after N8?

@ankurdinesh : What’s next with Nokia which will lead them to next cycle of innovation?-the cycle which they started when they came to India

@bluethroat : Are smart phones making people dumb. They make people think and apply themselves lesser and lesser. Comment.

@max4974 : Is there any truth to buzz in community that Nokia might be towing with a limited windows 7 mobile foray?

@max4974 : What does Nokia genuinely believe is gonna be their WoW PRODUCT thats gonna help them gain traction in the US mobile market?

@sriganeshr : Can you ask Nokia executive what happened to Vertu. Is it in market and how is it doing. Was supposed to be the costliest phone!

@sriganeshr : A strategic Q. If they decide to create sub-brands? Hi-end phones by one name & lo-end something else. Might do good.

@msigeek : What is stopping Enterprises to adopt Nokia platform as a solution? Have they identified it and working towards it?
youmoveyoudie : Is Nokia planning anything new on mobile ads based on location services? its been there but not noticed.

What I See Common in Nokia and Dr.M.S.Swaminathan

The first time I heard about the Information Kiosks scheme in villages many years ago, it caught my attention for two reasons. Reason 1: The scheme was launched in a village in Pondicherry, not far from our village where my family hails from. Reason 2: Dr.M.S.Swaminathan. Yup, the genius behind the scheme. Ever since that eventful meeting I had with him at his office, I have had deep admiration for him and his vision.

What the Information Kiosks did was to help provide information like the existing crop prices and remedies for crop diseases. The experiment created a lot of interest. For many of the villagers, it was their first exposure to Internet and technology, even if it meant on pitifully slow dial-up connections.

Yesterday, when I heard about Nokia’s Life Tools scheme, it reminded me again of Dr.Swaminathan’s Digital Kiosks scheme. The difference is that instead of a PC, its happening on a mobile device. Instead of everyone coming to a room in a village to access, its now available in your palm. More importantly on entry level, inexpensive mobile phones. Now, farmers can get customized information on crop prices, fertilizers and pesticides based on the farmer’s location and his choice of crop.

I personally witnessed how rural folks cleverly use mobile. And almost invariably, it has to do with maximizing their income. During December 2004, as part of the Tsunami relief work, me and a bunch of friends traveled to MGR Thittu near Chidambaram in Tamilnadu. We noticed that the fishermen would venture out into the ocean and before they returned back with their overnight catch, they would call from their mobile phones and find out which markets have more demand and thus willing to pay the highest for their catch. They would accordingly steer their boats to that place. Simple phone calls helped them get better returns. The lesson is that folks will embrace technology if they see a direct monetary benefit.

Will Nokia Life Tools be a success? Yes, if it can help directly benefit like how the fishermen got benefited. While passive benefits like learning English better are good, it ultimately boils down to how can it help get better income. If that happens, the acceptance would be swift. Think of how the lassi wallahs in Chandigarh helped boost washing machine sales.

Any new initiative will take time to be accepted and it needs to be educated, especially when it comes to rural audience. That’s the mantle that Nokia seems to have taken.

One thing I have to agree outright is that the best way for technology to reach out to rural India will not be through PCs. It *has* to be through mobile phones. The amount of massive usuage of mobile phones in villages is staggering. I only have to look at my own village to see this. From that angle, there’s no doubting the reasoning and the strategies behind the Nokia Life Tools. This project is right now in a pilot stage and is expected to roll out during first half of 2009.

Music Powers the Mobile Growth

Disclaimer: I’m an invitee to Nokia Remix London as a tech columnist and blogger. In other words, Nokia paid for my travel and accomodation costs. While its natural to view my posts as ‘paid posts’, I’d like to emphasise that I retain full editorial control and Nokia has not hinted or requested me even once to write in their favor.

The venue for the launch of Nokia’s new music phone couldn’t be more appropriate. It was at the 120 year old theatre and now a club in Central London that has seen numerous performances by world renowned artists.

Nokia unveiled its latest XpressMusic 5800 to a packed auditorium of worldwide journalists and bloggers. There’s a strong reason why Nokia is so serious about its music phone and I witnessed it for myself when I travelled down London’s famous Tube. Nearly 70% of the folks in my tube capsule were plugged in.

Another strong reason – The Apple iPhone. Clearly, Apple has jolted Nokia bad. While Apple had swept the music market with the iPods, its entry into the phone market with its successful iPhone had made Nokia highly uncomfortable. Many times during the event, there were mentions about the iPhone, never once with their name but with thinly veiled references as ‘the competitor’s product’. While the latest phone is not publicly pitted as an iPhone killer, its the first salvo from Nokia in the touch screen space. In other words, its salvo against the iPhone. There are clear indications that there will be many more touch screen phones with advanced features in the pipe line.

Music is very personal and all of us would like to carry it along with us. And this level of personalization and mobility ties in perfectly into the very nature of a mobile phone. No wonder that companies that Nokia, Apple, Samsung and heck, even those Chinese phones are making it a mandatory feature in their mobile phones.

There was a time when I would carry my mobile, my Canon Powershot digital camera and an apple iPod nano along with me. Now I find my present phone quite capably taking on the functions of those stand-alone gadgets. Just one device and that’s all I need to carry along.

I asked Bill, who heads User Interface Design and the main guy behind the design of the Nseries phones, if music will become a standard feature of even entry level phones. He pointed to the example of cameras. Three or four years ago, you would have to buy a high-end phone to get a camera in your phone but now its pretty much part of all camera models. Similarly, he said that music will become part of a phone’s basic feature. He was also quick to add that there will be differentiating features from lower end to high end phones. Just like a lower end phone might just have a VGA camera and a high end phone has a 5 MP camera, music features will also vary. Fair enough, I’d say.

I played around only a little with the XpressMusic 5880 and my first impression is that it doesn’t have the Oomph factor of the iphone. However, its form factor and the usability has taken a big step forward. The user interface is a great improvement over the Nseries phones and that’s a welcome change.Touch is seriously the way to go and this is the route more and more of the Nokia phones will go in the future.

Oh, I have picked up an interesting question to add to my set of quiz questions. “Who is the World’s Biggest Manufacturer of Music Instruments?”. I know you can easily guess the answer with where the story is going but if I asked this question to another group, I’m fairly certain that they would either answer Sony or Apple. Four years ago, I remember Derek Obrien asked a question during the finals of the ET quiz which was quite similar. He wanted to know the world’s largest manufacturer of digital cameras. The answers were either Canon or Kodak. No one would’ve guessed Nokia.

I’m certain that in a few year’s time, Nokia WILL become the world’s largest manufacturer of computers. Right now, the Nseries phones arent the best substitureand I won’t throw away my laptop in a hurry, but that’s something that Nokia and the rest of the manufacturers will be vying for.

Just like how I never carry my MP3 player or my digital camera anymore, I probably won’t need to lug my laptop. Hopefully, at a cost that that won’t make me squirm.

The ‘Eat-All-You-Want’ Music Store Strategy

If someone told me that there is a place where I can download all the music I want for free, I’d have guessed it to be ThePirateBay or one of those torrent sites. But if they told me that I can download all the music I want for free LEGALLY, I’d be stumped for an answer. And then if they told me that, *THAT* place is Nokia.com, I would’ve been gobsmacked. And that’s exactly what I heard at the Nokia Remix in London.

If you buy any of the latest N95, XpressMusic 5310, or the latest 5800, you get the candybar opened up all for you. For the next one year, you get to download as many songs as you want and get to keep them for life.

Now, you’ll realize the importance of this when you look at the kind of people offering this music. Take a look. Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music, EMI, The Ministry of Sound. Gosh, do you realise what you are reading? These are the biggest music companies in the world. Between them, you have pretty much the entire list of big name artists.

Let me throw you a real-life example, just so you understand this well. You go to a cell phone shop, let’s say ‘The Mobile Store’ in Spencers Plaza. When you make the payment for the phone, the lady at the counter says that there is a ‘Free Gift’ that comes with the phone. And that free gift is that you can walk into Landmark, Odyssey or any music store in India, and pick up any CD or cassettes you want. Yes, there’s no limit. You can fill up your car’s entire trunk and if that gets filled, you can fill up the back seat too. That’s not all.You can come back to the store everyday, if you want, and continue the swindling. All this is legal and the securiity guard will let you go with a bow and a smile.

Now, why would Nokia and the Music companies want to give away the music for free? Considering that Nokia sold an estimated 100 crore music phones, isn’t the music companies going to lose billions of dollars?

Look beyond the obvious. Lets first look at Nokia’s angle. It’s a coup de grace. The BEST ever marketing strategy that I have heard this company do. They are giving you an offer you can’t refuse. And its an offer that the competitors cannot easily replicate. You can copy mobile phone features, but you can’t replicate relationships. And its never easy to do that with the world’s biggest music companies.

Another reason what Nokia wants to do is hook you. It wants you to get familiar with its music store, which is part of Nokia’s big business revenue strategy. One look at Apple’s iTunes success will tell you the reason why Nokia is after this market.

But Nokia knows that the majority of the folks don’t like paying for music. When you can get free music from torrent sites, why pay? Tell me about it! 🙂 And so they are taking piracy head on with the most potent weapon, the FREE. Now, there’s nothing holding back from downloading songs. Once you know how easy it is for you to use, you get comfortable first and then get hooked to it. So, when your one year free license expires, there’s a fair chance you might continue to pick up music by paying a reasonbaly small amounts of money. It may be small money for you but multiply that small money into multiple millions of users and suddently, you are looking at huge money. So that’s the strategy.

What’s in it for the music companies? Simple. They’ve realized that they can’t fight piracy. They know they are fighting a losing battle which they can never win. So, the smarter thing is to flow with the tide. They know that the days of buying CDs is gone. Internet is the future and the mobile phones will be the biggest gateway. Hence it makes sense to tie up with the world’s largest producer of mobile phones. They immediately get a fantastic distribution system. So, when the free period finishes, they can hope to share the revenue pie.
To me, Its a wonderful case of win-win-win situation.

Shah Rukh’s New Nokia Ad

This is the latest Nokia ad featuring SRK that will hit the TV screens soon. When I heard about the new advt, I asked the Nokia team if they can pass on the video to me. It was a 5 MB video and never made it past their email system. The logical thing was to have it uploaded onto YouTube.

I was under the impression that most promos/video are typically kept under wraps until it hits the TV or the big screen and so it was a pleasant surprise when they let me have the video. It’s a sure shot sigh that the big companies are waking up the power of blogs and social media.

The video was shot by Pradeep Sarkar, the director of Parineeta and the new Rani Mukherjee starrer, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag.

I was able to get some interesting tid bits about this video. Shah Rukh Khan agreed to devote 8 hours for the shoot amongst his schedule and that’s all the luxury that the ad team had to play with. In order to maximize the usage of the 8 hours, simultaneous sets were erected in the same studio at Mumbai.

The script required 7 sets to be built. If you see the ad, there’s a different set of almost all major scenes (living room, the baby room, railway station, Hotel promenade, Red carpet premiere, Discotheque and the Balcony with the city skyline view). Apparently many production houses refused to take up this shooting contract because they felt 8 hours was too short a time to shoot the entire ad. Pradeep Sarkar was one of the few ones to take up the challenge and that’s how he got to make it.

The team started with the sets since mid-November and the actual ad was shot last week. The shoot started at 3:00 PM and closed around 11 in the night. SRK was having a temperature and wasn’t keeping too well but you never get to see that on the ad.

I’m told that SRK has been a Nokia phone user for the last 10 years (his current phone is a E90) and that was the one of the major reasons why he agreed to do the ad. The other factor, I’m guessing, would be the money! 🙂