ETRE 2008 – day 3, part 1 Antti Vasara, Adam Hagman, Enrico Salvatori and the March of the Networked Robot

ETRE 2008 – day 3, part 1
Antti Vasara,  Nokia Corporation
We’ve been talking about globalisation this week, and Nokia really showed everyone that you can go from rubber boots to global high tech consumer domination. While Apple may be shaking the handset world right now, Nokia got there first and show every sign of still having the magic. Antti has no real title – but it is his job to deliver the magic. I’d really like a job like that. Really, really.
Antti has worked for Steve Jobs on the iPod project, and clearly has the touch. Being in a corporate giant like Nokia, he can be quietly confident that he has the brand value, the technology and the distribution to mount a pretty strong challenge when and where he might choose. The E71 shows that Nokia can really make great phones, and they can stick to the market. (You can go find your own links to the mad world of E71 bloggers.)
Nokia have also appeared to lag behind the corporate user. They used to have the only serious corporate device in the Nokia Communicator, but RIM came from nowhere and the Blackberry swallowed corporate users wholesale and shows no sign of coughing any of them back out (even to iPhone). With Blackberry apparently about to deliver touchscreen / keyboard hybrids, then the new Nokia 5800 with a focus on music lovers does not yet seem like a challenger to either party.
Is Nokia at risk of “falling between two stalls?” Are we seeing a large, highly controlled, corporate giant being out manoeuvred by a more agile “corporate mammal”? Actually, Antti has a great push back on this: Nokia has the lowest cost base, highest volume and best distribution, and it serves a far wider range of niches in the phone world. For a while he can afford to let iPhone dominant the blogosphere and the pockets of the nouveau riche. He also has a fantastic team which has years and years of experience in really delivering what each consumer wants, in every territory and at many points in time.
The long term global view, focus on niches (who else would have thought that a flashlight on Nokia would sell millions of phones in India?), and Open-ish Source credentials with Symbian all together make Nokia a formidable competitor. They saw off the ‘Razr’ challenge pretty quickly when they chose to react, and have maintained their position as number 5 brand in the world for years.
One brain shake came when Antti said that designing for the grey (60+) population does not work as young people want to be cool, young and trendy as well. Now there is a scary thought!
Nokia just think about more things than almost anyone else – from the impact of cheap, rugged, low power mobile handsets on Africa, to the way in which 14 year old Americans use phones and social media. That is why Nokia are still at the top.
Hey, I wonder, are they Nokia phones that the US Government is giving to Afghans? ‘cos I bet the fiesty mountain people of Afghanistan don’t want anything less!
Given the whole global warming / mineral exhaustion scenario we are facing globally; I’d be upset if Nokia tried to make us change our phones more frequently, and I was personally delighted by the idea of two things: pairing phones to people (not to SIMS) and longer lived phones (perhaps with software updates to refresh the experience. I’ve thought for a very long time that the artificially short churn cycle of mobile phones was not only wasteful, but terribly economically damaging for the consumer and the telcos who subsidise it. It may not be a great thing for Nokia’s turnover, but creating more durable, less environmentally damaging solutions has to lie in the near future for a company like Nokia that thinks in such a long, long timeframe.

Adam Hagman – Robotdalen

Not sure I need to know about the emergence of assistive care robotics. I probably will be cared for by a robot when I am 80, but then I am the post-Azimov generation and have no fear or concern about that what so ever. (Unlike Robotdalen’s  promo, which appeared to set out to frighten the crap out of everyone who viewed it). Bring on the robots. It’s the damn fools in government and national health managers who frighten me.
They do have some really cool robots though. Go check out the videos on their site. I want one that plays me at Wii games as I age disgracefully and will survive a whack around the CPU from me if it ever dares to win.

Enrico Salvatori – Qualcomm

Nice to know that someone is working real hard so I can get a decent wireless broadband experience all over the world.  1GHz embedded stuff on dedicated cores seems cool, but a little bit  boring engineering driven (pace, engineers, you know I love you really). I’m also not really concerned with the intricacies of the licence model adopted by telecoms patent holders and their handset and telco partners. Sorry, not really for me.
I’ve been struggling with the line up today. Seems a bit ragged and disjointed, but I have spotted a trend. And it goes like this:
1 – the world is getting more mobile
2 – data is not only desired, but will become life supportive and therefore essential
3 – we are in sight of empowering our data to move under its own volition and to act and to interact with us physically.
You might want stop and think about that. In a world where we have ubiquitous airborne broadband, high powered chips, massive data access, rapid advances in robotics, fantastic advances in embedded OS (Zebor), and new sensors and displays (see Penny AB) then we are on the very near edge of a massive, world changing revolution. It is inevitable, it does not have a keyboard and is not flat.  
The robots are coming, and they are going to be smarter, better, stronger, faster and harder than we are. Not only that, the network is going to know them, and they are going to partly or completely live in the network.
The march of innovation is barely going to miss a step because of the Credit Crunch. I’m going to make sure I spread the word on the web that I love the idea of robots and distributed computing sentience. Because real soon now, it is going to want to know who its friends are.
Now the nice man from Qualcomm did not say any of that. But he is not an idiot, and he wants to ensure his chips deliver huge bandwidth and get embedded in absolutely everything. So he, for one, is going to be on the side of the Robots. Where will the rest of you stand?