Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Direct UI madness

Last September I blogged about Direct UI, Orbit and Qt. I drew my own conclusions based on the information publicly available and said that Direct UI will be a bridge between Maemo and Symbian. I'm sorry to say I was wrong. Not because of actually being wrong but because this is actually pretty bad news.

To make the story short, Qt alone is not enough for modern mobile user interfaces. New UI paradigms require new widgets to be built. Essentially these could be built in Qt to be fully cross-platform but unfortunately we are not there yet. The way Qt handles look and feel on different platforms nowadays is done via Qt styles and there should be nothing preventing creating a style for both S60 and Maemo. After all, Qt works seamlessly on different desktop operating systems already.

The first problem is that there shouldn't really be need for any framework on top of Qt. Having a new layer on top of it not only breaks the compatibility to every system not supporting the new layer but also feels like a totally unnecessary layer on top of Qt.

The second and the more severe problem is that somewhere in the middle of process of creating this new layer the paths between S60 and Maemo got separated. This shows that building products is more important to Nokia than getting a decent development platform together. Breaking the compatibility to every other platform but S60 and Maemo I could have somehow accepted even though I wouldn't have liked it. However, not taking the full advantage of Qt between S60 and Maemo seems just extremely stupid and shortsighted.

You'll still be able to create plain Qt applications that work between platforms but you won't be able to take advantage of all the widgets available on the platforms. At least not until (if it will ever happen) Qt actually provides the same functionality.

I stand corrected and remain somewhat disappointed.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What if Nokia would offer an aggregate service which would combine all tracking services?

I've mentioned multiple times that popular SportsTracker will be introduced way or another in near future. I started thinking what if it would contain a feature which would allow users upload their information from other tracking services also?

I strongly believe that different tracking services will become more and more popular. I've been using SportsTracker for quite some time and report most of my sport activities. It is convinient, if you go jogging, you just carry your phone and it shows distance, your route etc. If you go to play football, you can report the time and date. Phone is always with you, so you don't need to log-in to computer to report these things. If you are using some heart rate monitoring, e.g. from Polar, you could upload this information after you've sent it to Polar's Personal Trainer.

You can ask why would users want to use SportsTracker if they are using Runkeeper on their iPhone? My answer is "their friends". It is common situation that I'm using SportsTracker, some of my friends are using Runkeeper, and some are using Polar's Personal Trainer etc. If there would be an easy way for aggregating this information, I bet that kind of service would have lots of users.

Now you ask why Nokia would do something like that? My answer is "to sell more phones and make profit". If an iPhone user is using already Nokia's popular service, he might choose Nokia phone next time. Services are, after all, one of the main focus area for Nokia.

There is a Finnish start-up called Heiaheia, which tries to aggregate different activities, but does this manually. I mean user needs to login, type his/her activity to service etc. This manual part is quite cumbersome and I keep wondering why would I type these things because they are already in my phone, device, or other service.

This kind of service doesn't need to focused on tracking sports, but it can be used for tracking your everyday life. You could track your holiday route, take pictures and it would be straight-away available for your friends. If you have old parents, you could see where they are at or where they are going. Of course there are lots of security and other issues, but I believe they could be handled.

What do you think, would this kind of service be a hit?

A follow-up of Ovi Maps vs. Google Maps

I compared Ovi Maps and Google Maps in my last blogpost. I thought give a follow-up regarding it because I borrowed Nokia N97 from my colleague and installed the newest version of Ovi Maps (v3.03 10wk01).

It seems that I was right and basically there isn't any difference between Ovi Maps v3.01 and v3.03 regarding the search results. The only difference was in searching R-Kioski. v3.03 showed only one result when there are almost 30 in Espoo area, v3.01 didn't find anything.

Picture 1. Ovi Maps v3.03 found only one R-Kioski.

Although search results aren't impressive, Nokia managed to improve usability; at least little bit with only one search option which means you can search companies or addresses same time.

Picture 2. Ovi Maps v3.03 improved home screen.

Picture 3. You can now search businesses and addresses using same search.

Nokia has added some sociality to new Ovi Maps, you can share your location to Facebook where it is shown as a normal status update as well a zoomable map.

Picture 4. Facebook status update using Ovi Maps.

Picture 5. Ovi Maps application in Facebook shows your location.

Nokia has also introduced some advertising to the new version, you can see your nearest McDonald's and their ads. These are only shown in Weather and Events categories, not in Lonely Planet and Michelin.

Picture 6. Weather category shows some ads as well as the nearest McD. "Hae lähin McDonald's" means "Search for nearest McDonald's"

Picture 7. You can get weather forecasts from Ovi Maps.

Picture 8. Clicking ad in picture 6 takes you to the landing page and shows more information. Here you can see an ad regarding 1€ cheeseburger.

Picture 9. You can see your nearest McDonald's on map, call there or check their webpage.

Like I mentioned in my previous blogpost, location-based advertising is one of main things in 2010. It seems that all major players are involved in this, e.g. Mashable reported that Apple had said to it's developers that they shouldn't use location-based ads. It indicates that they are planning something by themselves. Mashable also reported that Google Maps is suggesting places you might like.

In my opinion you can see hints that Nokia is soon introducing SportsTracker features to Ovi Maps. When you are travelling somewhere, you can see dashboard regarding the trip.

Picture 10. Dashboard in Ovi Maps which hints that soon SportsTracker features are included to Ovi Maps.

All in all, Ovi Maps v3.03 doesn't include that many new and useful features compared to v3.01. The biggest difference is the free navigation. Time will show how well Nokia can monetize Ovi Maps and it's features.