The Finnish developers indict Windows Phone 7 and RIM

The Startup Sauna (half the group of entrepreneurs from Finland)

Today I had a group of developers over from Finland and we headed to the Ritz for some interviews and drinks. Finland, you know as the land of Nokia’s headquarters. These entrepreneurs should be Nokia fanboys through and through, but what I heard from them was stunning.

A bunch of them are here with the Startup Sauna (a Y Combinator style incubator) and are touring VC firms and others this week in Silicon Valley. I’ll have the videos of their companies up later, but in between videos I talked with them off camera about development trends and what they are doing to build their businesses.

They were brutal on Nokia and Microsoft. Only one of the seven companies said they were developing apps for Windows Phone 7 and even that one said “we might as well, we already built apps for every other platform.”

Things were even worse for Nokia. Not a single company was building for Symbian. But you should have heard what they said about Blackberry. They thought there was no future for Blackberry. Not a single company was considering building for Blackberry.

So, what were they excited by? Well, when you see the videos you’ll see that they are bigger Apple fanboys and girls than Techcrunch’s MG Siegler. They also said that they are building apps for Android, but only after they nail the iOS apps.

I told them that their indictment matches those that I’ve heard from other places in the world and that the apps I’ve seen on Windows Phone 7 (I’m doing a review of that vs. Android’s latest) really suck compared to iOS.

I have no idea how Microsoft will get back in the game. At one point they asked me what I would do to get Microsoft back in the game? I told the group:

Double down on Xbox. Do an Xbox portable. Get rid of the Windows brand name (it makes no sense, because the Windows Phone 7 doesn’t run Windows apps anyway and it isn’t working with developers either and THEY ARE IN CHARGE!)

They all agreed that Xbox is cool and Windows is not.

That, alone, says volumes about Microsoft’s mobile strategy. Memo to Steve Ballmer: your strategy isn’t working in Finland. That should scare the crap out of you.


  1. Do you think the announcement that “Windows 8″ will be HTML5/Javascript driven changes this equation? Theoretically a Windows 8 desktop/tablet would run things targeted towards chromebooks and vice-versa?

    1. We talked a lot about HTML 5. Quick answer: no. Long answer? They will use HTML 5 in their apps to make development easier, but they all want to get access to the app stores on Apple and Google devices. That’s where the action is, they said, and HTML 5 alone does not get them there. So, no, HTML 5 alone isn’t going to be enough. Windows 8 is gonna struggle to enthuse these new developers (none of whom live in Silicon Valley, by the way).

  2. Them being Apple fanboys explains most of it. There’s a lot to be excited about with the fresh look and experience of the Windows platforms. From my perspective (and seemingly everyone I personally demo my WP7 to), the general WP7 experience and apps are better than those on Android and iPhone. It’s almost like when I show an iTunes person the Zune interface on both desktop and mobile, they’re very pleasantly surprised and give praise. But, I’m not successful with Apple fanboys, here and there. They’re not impressed by anything non-Apple. I can’t wait to see what unfolds in the varying ecosystems in the coming year.

    1. Andrew: that’s because most people are using crappy Feature Phones. Of course when you put something shiny in their hands they are impressed. I am impressed a lot about WP7′s home screen. But, sorry, it falls down in a lot of other areas. Big time.

      1. Well, most of my audience has been users of Android and iOS devices that date from the present to the previous year models. They understand the smartphone. I do agree with you that WP7 is lacking in many other areas outside of the foundational experience. Fortunately, It looks like Mango + Nokia Services will address them and add on-top of it. I choose my WP7 device over my many other handsets for daily use based on the user experience. I would say iOS has the most complete, all-around experience, but to me, WP looks most promising. The market share will come in time. Robert, I appreciate how you go out of your way to address your readers. Thanks for creating the many conversations that you do.

        1. We’ll see. I think you are smoking something good in that pipe and you also aren’t admitting that Apple will have a new release out soon, and that Google is working on updates every quarter too. So, when will we see that super duper Nokia/WP7 phone? Next year, right? And when will it have apps? Next year? No way. Sorry, devs are gonna wait to see if it sells.

          1. You’re ignoring the fact that the WP7 market place has grown faster than any other market given relative time. There are 20,000+ apps to date w/o multiple crap ware that infests both Apple and Android markets. The pace of the market isn’t slowing down. We’ll see about those Apple updates, the last software updates caught up to Android feature set and are still chasing (iCloud, maps/navigation). I’m not so worried about Google updates as it takes several months, if not upwards to a year to get them onto any handset, including the immediately released. Large frustration for me as an Android user and developer. Not everything is golden at Apple or Google. Much like anything else.

          2. Sigh. The world moves faster today than it did three years ago. So, the comparison isn’t appt. It also isn’t resonating with developers on the ground. The Finnish ones aren’t alone. The apps I’ve seen aren’t as good as the ones on iOS, so I have no idea why you think they are so great. What are the best five apps on WP7 in your opinion? I’d like to see those.

          3. I carry an Android and Windows Phone and I find myself using WP7 more and more as my primary device. I personally enjoy and prefer the user experience, particularly the native Facebook integration. It keeps me away from the barrage of ads on the Facebook website.

            I do recognize it’s struggling for market share. They have an opportunity in the Enterprise. I’m an IT director and the other huge pluses of Windows Phone are the integration with Exchange and Sharepoint. And with Mango bringing support for Office 365, WP7 can be a strong option. MS does still have a large presence in enterprise computing, they would be wise to fight off iOS and Android for business by showing how seamless the integration is for MS backend platforms.

    1. They are businesspeople. I called them fanboys because they know that Apple users are more likely to buy apps, which funds their businesses. So far no one has shown them a way to build a better business. And, you guys better get a clue. This is being repeated by developers world wide. Look at Techcrunch Disrupt. Did you see a single app demoed on WP7? I didn’t and I was watching for it.

      1. Robert, thanks for being so frank. It’s refreshing to see a SV resident with the guts to tell it like it is.

        However, I get why the endorsement of iOS and Android (it’s obvious, they are huge, growing fast and sexy). But, and I preface this by disclosing that I am not a dev, just like cool+useful+well designed tech, from my prespective about 80% to 90% of Android and iOS’s AppStores are garbage. This could be a real opportunity for MS to shine. But, Andrew and Saket, as Robert pointed out they off to a shitty start if they are populating their from scratch with crap.

        I struggle to understand why people would even build apps in an already crowded marketplace to be also-rans but again, I am not a dev. My point is that the probability of success would be higher in the less crowded marketplace but that would also depend on the market share of that marketplace and the number of devices. Point is MS really needs to step their game up and make a sexy OS to attract devs since they will have the eyeballs if Nokia makes a smart phone people will buy.

        My 2 pennies.

  3. Robert, because their trip is paid for by Finnish money, doesn’t make them all Finns. I know some are other nationalities. Like, Latvians, for example. :) 

  4. Sorry, that doesn’t fly. Zagat’s developer told me Windows Phone 7 doesn’t even register (and they have one of the better apps for WP7). Stories like that get around and developers learn quickly that they better stay on platforms that have the “heavy app” users.

    Here’s a hint: out of the 23 apps I saw at, or around, SXSW, none were on WP7 and only two were on Android (of course everyone says “we’re porting to Android” but they all start on iOS). Why is that? Because that’s where the users are who BUY APPS and who TRY NEW THINGS!

    1. iOS is designed for Apps, with that UI you are very quickly directed to areas of discovery, whereas with other platforms marketplace/Apps is just an additional feature too easy to bypass.

      Building the free and obvious like facebook and twitter and what-not’s into the platform kind of destroys the oppotunity for people to discover…

  5. So there you are with an ecosystem that lives in a pretty vertical well your either Android ( and you get to play on a laptop or phones ) or your iOS and your living with a phone as your support system. Along comes Windows Phone and it is easy to think of it as living in that ecosystem  unless you happen to be a developer who also owns an Xbox and has experienced Xbox Live and the Xbox Live Arcade. Now your looking at a phone that connects to the entertainment system which is linked to movies, games and a social network. Now your looking at a phone that works as the extension to Xbox Live and MS Live. You now have an application build that can push its architecture to touch on ecosystems outside of your phone infrastructure. Now that is interesting. When you talk to potential mobile developers of WinPhone ask them if they have are xbox live users as well? 

    1. Every single one of the developers I talked with is an Xbox Live user too. That’s why my idea of going completely with an Xbox brand resonated with them.

  6. Couldn’t disagree more. Windows Phone apps are easier to use and better looking than Android or iOS counterparts. Thanks to the “Metro” UI design language they created. The IMDB app is just one example. The “Cocktail Flow” app on Windows Phone is one of the best looking apps ever made, and I’m not exaggerating.

    1. Funny, I’m using the IMDB app now, and it only got four stars on WP7′s marketplace. Most of Apple and Google’s top apps garner five.

      1. What an asinine comparison. The 4 stars given to the WP7-version of IMDb were given by WP7 users not iOS or Android users. The respective userbases have different standards for comparison. 

    2. I just tried Netflix compared to iOS and the iOS started faster, started playing faster, and looked better when it was playing. Try again.

      1. A faster A4 processor with a 960 x 640 retina display loads and looks better than a Qualcomm 8250 with 800 x480 display? That ain’t a news bulletin.

        The 7 month old Windows Phone platform holds up pretty well against the competition considering it’s a 1.0 product. Nodo update had nice speed improvements and Mango update will realize the promise.

  7. I just wish the term fanboy would disappear from intelligent conversations. I tend to be enthusiastic about Apple products. Others prefer Windows or Linux. I’ve worked with them all. A fanboy is what we call people so we can treat them badly. Call someone a crude name and you can go to war with them.

  8. I’ve just got back from Norway talking at a multinational arts conference. Many of the Finish I spoke with were a little bewildered by what Nokia had done but also were equally unaware of the other smart phone options. Companies are still buying blackberry’s thinking they are equipping their staff with the best. Unsurprisingly, those armed with iOS and Android devises were already involved with some of the ‘new ways of engagement’.

  9. Robert: Thanks again for having us! Just wanted to clarify that both our Scandit shopping app and our barcode scanning SDKs are actually also available for Nokia/Symbian and not just for iPhone and Android. And specifically our SDK is very popular with developers in countries where Symbian continues to be a dominant platform. This certainly does not invalidate your point. But it shows that for some of us it does make perfect sense to address those needs – specifically if one has unique technology to enable cool and useful stuff on those devices. After all, Nokia does have massive distribution in many countries where iPhones are too expensive and Android has not really picked up yet. And with fewer applications on the respective store, discoverability is less of an issue too (compared to standing out on the iTunes app store with 500,000 apps).

  10. There are many factors which OPTIMIZE iOS’ appeal to developers and users alike, usually in small ways that together add up to something significant, perhaps greater than the sum of the parts.

    One is the big lead in building an app base of capable and high-performance apps (games) that work consistently.  Another is the way it’s just so easy to tap “buy” with the important elements all ready to roll.  Curation, with it’s tradeoffs, optimizes a most important thing — user’s confidence to buy and be less afraid of being duped and ripped off.

    And another BIG factor that I think many people miss is the very enhanced “range” the iOS UX affords… 

    It’s dead simple and really has no style.  An infant or grandma can pick it up and easily make it go.  

    And that “range” extends all the way to someone like me who regularly uses OmniFocus, Square, BofA, Netflix/HuluPlus/YouTube, Facebook, Woopra, WordsWithFriends, Shazam, PocketTunes, Instapaper, AccuFuel, PomodoroPro, 1Password, RedLaser, Yelp, Starbucks MobileCard, Twitter, Star Walk, synched Calendar/Contacts/Notes, browser, maps, MMS, camera, FaceTime, listening to podcasts at the gym, and Personal Hotspot.  And that’s just me.

    That’s a pretty amazing RANGE!

    It boils down to this: “Simplicity allows one to rise to a higher level of accomplishment given the fixed amount of effort we have to expend.”  (You may quote me :-)

    With a device that has more psychological capacity and “take-up” because it’s dead simple (and has no style that may get in the way, e.g. WP7) people will tend to buy more and do more with it.  Add “delight” and “fun” to that, and you have something OPTIMIZED to the max!

  11. Reading these comments just reminded me of why I stopped reading this blog. I heard the same drivel when Android was coming. “There’s no way they can compete”, “They’re too far behind”. Yes I am a windows phone user. Do I blindly discount anything that MS didn’t make? No. You give it time and try it out.

    1. 99% of my blog is interviews with tech execs. The fact that you stopped reading because you don’t like the occassional opinions posted here says far more about you than it says about me. Plus, you aren’t listening. The developers HATE your system! You sure sound like a Microsoft employee.

      1. Woah.Thats brutal  … perhaps you have surrounded yourself with developers who hate Microsoft, i know developers who are opionated both ways.

        Generally Microsoft developers vary, the apple developers i know all hate.

  12. I never like when companies or fans hope that the stupidity of their customers will stay in place. Why, in a global market, would customers in Brazil behave any differently than those in San Francisco? Hint: they won’t. Nokia and Microsoft are in a deep hole. Will they get out? Not until they get developers on track and they are not (even in Brazil, I talk with best companies there often too).

    1. Because what you develop for is tied up whole heap of social, cultish, and opinions. Which do not translate well outside of the immediate sv sphere of influence. That does not always translate to other regions.

      1. Funny, because these folks do no live in SV. Thanks for playing. By the way, it matches what I’m hearing from developers in Mexico, Israel, China, and elsewhere.

  13. No surprises here.
    Do you know if Startup Sauna companies were trying to get into the app stores more for revenue, or more for distribution?

    As a side note, I’m getting pretty burnt out on updating apps for my mobile & tablet. Hope the market for rich web apps with local cacheing continues to grow.

  14. I find it hard to come to terms with how people can discard this article’s point and also try de-value the points it makes. The bottom line here is that these developers (who by the way live and breath what they do) say Windows Phone sucks, big time.

    In the end it’ll be consumers who buy and make WP7 the success it might one day be, but until MS sorts their developers out, it’ll always be a third choice behind iOS and Android.

  15. Finland has traditionally been the equivalent of a company town for Nokia. Maybe these guys seek money and connections and knowledge in the US because they’ve got anything-but-Nokia plans/mindsets for their own companies?