Mobile diary: Good luck Jolla!

The new smartphone from Jolla launches today in Finland. Jolla was founded by a bunch of ex-Nokians with a plan to execute on the MeeGo vision that Nokia abandoned in favor of Windows Phone. Their new device runs SailfishOS, the community-driven successor to MeeGo.

jolla_026_dOne thing I find particularly appealing about the Jolla proposition is their proud embrace of their Finnish roots and Finnish designs with the “Design from Finland” mark granted by the Suomalaisen Työn Liitto, the Association for Finnish Work. I always thought that Nokia could have made more noise about its Finnish (or generally Nordic) design when it was trying to compete with the other smartphone players.

Another extremely smart move was to add support for Android apps to the OS, and partner with the Russian Yandex app store to provide Jolla users with access to 85,000 apps from the Android ecosystem.

Good luck Jolla!

Mobile diary: Windows is still in the game

According to some recent data, Windows still has promise as a mobile developer platform, and is seeing growing developer interest. Microsoft and Nokia are pursuing developers aggressively with a strategy that combines both carrots and sticks. In an interview in Bloomberg Businessweek. Nokia Global VP Bryan Biniak makes it clear that Nokia is happy to spend money to encourage app development, but also wants to make it clear that “Those who decline to build apps for Windows could lose valuable business from Microsoft and Nokia.” In other words, if your hotel app isn’t in the Windows store, over 100,000 Microsoft employees will make their reservations somewhere else, thank you.

What this means in concrete terms is that there’s finally a Vine app for Windows Phone, so I now have a new way to spend (i.e. waste) time with my Windows Phone.

Adventures in product management: healthcare.gov

As product manager for a public web site at PBS, I’m following the news about the development of healthcare.gov closely. From my perspective this looks like an extreme product management challenge, as illustrated in an in-depth report in the Washington Post.

Like many product managers, I’ve certainly dealt with difficult customers and stakeholders, and had to manage unclear requirements and unreasonable expectations. Those experiences, however, look like child’s play compared to the toxic mix of politics and partisanship that were the main concerns of the customers of the healthcare site. It’s easy to say that more or better developers (or product managers) could have avoided the serious start-up problems of the site, but the Post report shows that the real problems came from the people creating the requirements, not the team implementing them.

As John Dickerson writes in his summary of the Post report in Slate:

Apple and Google would never have allowed the problems that Cutler outlines in his memo to fester. But then again, Apple and Google would not have had to deal with an environment where their rivals were plotting to remove all the equipment from their product laboratories every night.

In other words, if the customers and their business are crazy, there’s only so much that the technical team can do.