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Handhelds Portables

Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago 272

An anonymous reader writes "Here's another story of a tech gadget that arrived before its time. Nokia created a web-ready tablet running EPOC (later to be renamed as Symbian) thirteen years ago. The tablet was set to go into full production, and they actually built a thousand units just before it was canceled. The tablet was scrubbed because market research showed there wasn't demand for the device. The team got devices for themselves and the rest were destroyed. The team was then fired. The lesson: Don't try to be pioneer if you're relying on market research studies."
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Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

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  • by Altus ( 1034 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:02PM (#46771727) Homepage

    Honestly, looking at the design of that thing, I am not so sure it had a viable market. There were few wireless networks set up in 2000 it wasn't a given that every home had one. Cell data was expensive and slow. The device seems unwieldy and large and the controls don't look like they would be particularly easy to use. Also, what OS does it run, can it do anything but surf the web? Was the web on its own interesting enough in 2000 to make this a killer device? No streaming movies and TV shows, Spotify or any of those interesting services.

    Finally, what was the price going to be? Back then 500 would have been a tough sell and I would not be surprised if this device was more expensive than that.

    Timing really is everything. The tech needed to reach a certain level and honestly the web had to reach the point where having it in your hand and on the go was valuable to consumers. Sure you can't just ask people what they want but you also have to consider that a lot of things were different 13 years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:30PM (#46772123)

    They never knew how to commercialize products that well.

    Speaking as an ex Nokian here; though one who escaped around 2004 when I realised things were had gone downhill and were going much worse:

    Nokia was excellent at commercializing many things. What made Nokia win over Ericsson and everyone else was logistics, advertising and sales; the fundamentals of commercialisation. The product handling was perfectly designed to deliver the best, most reliable (== lowest support cost) thing at the least price. Then the management went onto a "five phones every six months" cycle and paused any chance of making things that win. They; sorry; OPK specifically; believed that technology and quality was irrelevant. That the brand was all that mattered and that you could sell anything with the Nokia brand. They did wake up later and start to produce excellent things like the Noka N9, however most of the Nokia Mobile Phones people still don't understand why that was better than the windows phones (hint; try having 2000 contacts in a windows phone) and just believe in shiny shiny.

    It's not enough to commercialise. If it was, Lumia would work. You just can't easily sell crap. You have to have a good product that people serious users start to deeply love. An old, original, Nokia 6310 is still a better product than any phone on the market today. In some places the sales price for one of those is much much higher than the price of a new Lumia. If the people who made and marketed the 6310 had pushed the N9 and especially the N950 in the same way then the story would be completely different.

  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:38PM (#46772223)

    While timing did play a part, I'd suggest it's not so much timing as it is execution that made the biggest difference, in this case.

    Android and iOS tablets operate in broadly the same ways as each other and are wildly successful. Windows 8 tablets, which work in much the same way as the Windows tablets that preceded them (i.e. trying to bring the feel of a desktop OS to a tablet form factor), are failing to gain any significant presence in the market, despite having the right timing and loads of marketing. To me, that's a strong indication that the thing holding back tablets prior to iOS and Android arriving was not that people weren't ready for them, but that the tablet concept simply wasn't executed properly.

    Same deal with smartphones. Smartphones were around since the '90s, but they only represented an incredibly small portion of the cell phone market. Fast forward a few years, and we get Android and iOS, which, when they first came out, had most of the same features as the smartphones that preceded them, yet they implemented and executed those in a drastically different way that made them much more compelling to users. Blackberry and Palm had the right timing, since they were there from the beginning. What they lacked was proper execution to bring it to the general population.

    You're right that there wasn't a market back then, but there wasn't a market because there wasn't a product done right yet. Ideas are cheap. Execution is what matters.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:57PM (#46772571)

    I did not say their products sucked. But when you have end users preordering product by the millions before anyone had a chance to try it out what can you call those people but gullible?

    Pre-orders didn't start until 2 months after the iPad had been demonstrated by Jobs. 2 months in which all the tech press reviewed it. And it was hardly an unknown to everyone who's already experienced iOS on an iPhone.

    Compared with the lack of knowledge which most people have when they buy products, they were pretty well informed.

    There is a reason why people claimed Steve Jobs had a reality distortion field you know. The fact is the products are not that good right now to justify the demand even if they were at points.

    That's not a fact. That's your ill-informed opinion. Big difference.

    I call them early adopters. I call you an imbecile.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:59PM (#46772611) Homepage Journal

    But it didn't mean there was a booming market for them.

  • by slapout ( 93640 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @04:28PM (#46773079)

    The reason that the iPad succeed was because they already had plenty of apps (from the iPhone) available for it when it launched.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:13PM (#46774831)

    That is a big reason, but it also mattered that the device itself was not OSX shrunk to a touch-screen tablet (some people thought that's what it would be instead of using IOS). That was the mistake Microsoft made.

    But it's also related, Apple had the luxury of not just plopping desktop OSX on a tablet because they knew iOS developers could produce a good range of software out of the gate. Microsoft apparently never trusted in the development community enough to take that leap of faith.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."