No, this is not about Nokia’s suits against Apple for patent infringement. (I think the end user is the loser in most such legal battles.) Rather this brief essay is about Apple and Nokia’s approach to innovation.
One can only applaud Apple’s extraordinary success with the iPhone, iPad and the iTunes App store. Apple’s strategy of control as much of its ecosystem as it can and take no prisoners has resulted in a stable, fun, and incredibly useful mobile platform for its customers. In general Apple seems to strongly abide by the “not invented here” philosophy and “we know what’s best for you” in its innovation process.
Nokia on the other hand has taken a more humble, respectful, and global stance in its approach to recruiting app developers in its Calling All Innovators campaign.
Many in this U.S. will be surprised to learn that Nokia is the world's largest manufacturer of mobile telephones. According to Wikipedia, Nokia is a Finnish multinational communications company with over 123,000 employees in 120 countries, sales in more than 150 countries; its global device market share was about 33% in Q1 2010.
Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia President and CEO stated at his CES 2010 Las Vegas keynote address: "We are challenging developers and innovators around the world to take action. We want you to come up with new and innovative ways to help people and promote upward mobility around the world." Accordingly, Nokia’s Growth Economy Venture Challenge provides $1 million dollars in venture capital investment to the winning proposal.
One of the criteria in choosing the winner is: “An idea that recognizes a good business opportunity can also contribute to "doing good" – and making a dramatic difference in the lives of people in developing nations.”
I am attracted to Nokia’s approach in part because it is similar to how we have produced our magazines and web sites for the past 25 years. We see our role as to encourage, solicit, organize, and disseminate the best mobile computing knowledge of our world-wide audience.
Despite its size, similarly Nokia wants to take advantage of the creativity of its immense audience, and hence the campaign.
Apple, of course, is on the lookout for great ideas that they can incorporate. However, I think Apple could learn a little from Nokia’s approach.
Disclaimer: Nokia is advertising its Calling All Innovators campaign on this web site for the month of May. Because of the advertisement I became aware of the campaign and decided to write about it. However, blog posts are not for sale, and the opinions expressed would have been the same without the advertisement.