Developer Device Programs

I don’t have an N8. Apparently some folks at Nokia are surprised by this. Maybe they bought into the corporate line about Nokia really caring about developers these days. Nokia gave Om a phone at Mobilize (and his “Thanks, but do I have to use it?” response probably sums up one of their flaws in gauging the right avenues for promotion), a few of the business folks at Mobile 2.0 had one, but I don’t have one. Normally, this wouldn’t surprise me actually. Despite all the talk about companies who love developers, what they really mean is they love folks who blog about developing. Those of us who just keep building high value businesses and aren’t necessarily quite so vocal, not so much.

However, I interacted with Nokia because a few people had said “Oh, you should definitely have an N8, lets get you one.” So now that the time has been wasted, I’m attempting to draw at least a little bit of positive out of it by sharing back with those who care about such things.

First, the point of a developer device program is to lower the activation energy necessary for a developer to put something together for your platform. Meaning, if you’re offering a program to get me a $500 device to encourage me to make something of value on that platform, you can’t just replace that $500 with an equivalent amount of annoyance.

The kick in the crotch I suppose was that I fell for it. There was lots of talk about Nokia getting developers back up and running on their platform. When a few folks said I should be able to get a device, for a minute, it sounded good. Then I filled out a bunch of forms, got up to the section with an NDA, and realize this was a loaner program. Doh! Well played Nokia! You almost got me.

Now I’m just annoyed by the whole thing. Annoyed enough I’m not going to head out to the Nokia developer event on Tuesday at CTIA, where supposedly they’re giving away N8s for free anyway. The three dozen people I heard this from all say it’s a secret. So shhh! Don’t tell anyone. Me, I’m torn between being convinced that enough people know about the secret that it’s probably a Nokia ploy to get more folks to the event, and just not caring about the platform. So instead, I think I’ll just watch the numbers, see if the platform seems to be headed for a turnaround at all, and fork over the cost for the device if the numbers say it’s worthwhile. See how that works?

Om’s other comment on stage, about Apple not having to buy developer love with million dollar contests – they just built a platform that developers wanted to be on. That’s also something you might want to take to heart.

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6 Responses to Developer Device Programs

  1. shtolik says:

    >>they just built a platform that developers wanted to be on. That’s also something you might want to take to heart.
    Of course I agree with that one, but a word in nokia’s defence about loaner: they tell they will never ask it back, and that it’s just tax/law issue (at least that was with “mine” n900).
    And in symbian defence – it’s still has the biggest share in smartphone market – good reason enough to try it out…

  2. Hi Mike,
    It’s a shame that this is your takeaway from the short e-mail exchanged we had. Let me tell you what my view is. A few days ago you mentioned you were looking forward to playing with an N8. I thought I might help, so we chatted a few minutes and then I got you in touch with other people at Nokia. The day after you received an invitation to join Launchpad. We had two options, we could give you a phone, maybe lend it to you and let you play with it for a few weeks, or we could make you join Launchpad. The downside of Launchpad is that it’s a “program”, you need to accept some rules and accept an NDA. It does not seem overkill to me since you will get access to pre-release documentation and the possibility to loan devices and by loan I mean get them sometimes in advance and normally cheaper than the retail price. Yes, they cost money, but it helps you and Nokia not to break the bank.

    It seems a quite reasonable opportunity to me, for anyone who wants anything beyond a free phone to play over the weekend, it’s something for people that want to develop software and have plans beyond 1 month.

    This works for some, might not work for others, like you in this case. Either way, since you were invited by me and you thought Nokia was trying to pick money from your pocket, the least you could have done was ask, instead of writing this post with inaccurate information. Again, YES Launchpad also includes loaning devices, NO no one was planning to steal money from you.

    PS: check out the Developer Programs page, the Launchpad is FREE although it normally cost 300 Euro.

  3. miker says:

    Hey Andrea,
    I didn’t want to pick apart our interaction actually. The introduction you made was just the latest of a round of attempts. The point is that the whole setup is frustrating. I went through it when I said I wished the N900 had been released before I wasted time with the previous 3 generations of Maemo devices. And now I went through it again with the N8.

    Nokia has people out interacting with developers and shifting attention. Most of the “oh, we should get you an N8 to play with” responses were normally in reaction to me saying something about Android that I like. Folks at Nokia have the initiative but not the ability to make things happen.

    Rui actually puts it pretty nicely:

    Alienating is probably exactly the correct word. I wouldn’t have thought anything about it to not have an N8 at all. But my attention was shifted in this direction, and the reality of the situation fell way short of what I expected.

    So I ranted, yes, guilty as charged. I feel it was justified. Sorry you were caught in the middle of it. I hate to burn bridges at Nokia. But I honestly feel that unless Nokia fixes itself very quickly it’s not going to be around long anyway.

  4. Hi Mike, I’m in the Forum Nokia team based in Mt. View. I appreciate that the paperwork for our device loaner programs might be considered burdensome , however, we are making every effort to reach out to devs in U.S. to tell the Ovi Store opportunity (which has been massively improved through numerous initiatives and the proof is in the download and Ovi activation numbers we’re seeing globally), Symbian^3 devices like the N8, the Nokia Qt SDK, and the $10M Calling All Innovators contest that we are currently running with AT&T.

    At Nokia Developer Day this past Tuesday we gave out for free, with no strings attached or NDAs or anything else, N8s in a nice developer kit to several hundred real developers – not press, not bloggers. We made a concerted effort to get the devices into the hands of those who will build great content for Ovi Store!

    I urge you to give Nokia another look….and there is still a chance I can get you your own no-strings-attached N8. Let me know.

  5. James Pearce says:

    I think I missed the bit where Apple gave away pre-release phones.

    Apple’s mobile developer relationship may seem like it was always inevitable. But I also remember a lot of fevered talk about goldrushes and such like. Not to mention a $100m VC fund. (More stylish than loaning phones and contests, but still ‘buying love’.)

    Me? I think it’s also about the tools. Assuming you have a Mac, the iPhone development & emulation experience (web or native) is flawless and a joy. Assuming you have any OS, the Symbian one is a fiddly pain, and enough to discourage even the most determined Finnophile.

  6. Ted Shelton says:

    I agree with you Mike — Nokia needs to invest in the winning the hearts and minds of the developer community — they are playing catchup. James, your point is completely off target — Apple doesn’t need to give away devices because they already have something much more valuable — a way for developers to make money. Nokia developers aren’t yet (see our monthly developer satisfaction surveys at Open-First).

    When I was CMO for the Symbian Foundation I understood this and made sure we gave away devices to developers as part of our outreach — from at least one of the comments in this thread it sounds like this idea does have some traction within the current Forum Nokia team — but the bigger picture still seems to be missing, if comments from developers we survey are accurate — e.g. Nokia is still not investing enough in winning over software developers.

    What is it going to take? Yes James – tools, but lets make that a bigger point — Ease of development (that includes getting hands on a device).

    What else?

    Easy to get to market and get paid

    Lastly (not really – maybe the top thing):

    A reasonable expectation that you will actually make money as a developer!

    Latest results comparing Nokia, Apple, and Google here:

    sorry in advance for the formatting weirdness introduced by slideshare conversion…

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