Apple Hello! Nokia Good-Bye!

Wow, two of the world’s most important manufacturer’s of mobile phones and services made their own set of announcements today. It should be interesting to see what each of them had to say.

Let’s start with Apple.

Apple Introduces New iPod touch

Apple today announced the new iPod touch, packed with incredible new features including Apple’s stunning Retina display, FaceTime video calling, HD video recording, Apple’s A4 chip, 3-axis gyro, iOS 4.1, and Game Center — all combined in the thinnest and lightest iPod touch ever. The new iPod touch features up to 40 hours of music playback and seven hours of video playback on a single battery charge.

Apple Reinvents iPod nano with Multi-Touch

iPod nano has been completely redesigned with Multi-Touch, which lets you navigate your music collection by simply tapping or swiping a finger on the display. Nearly half the size and weight of the previous generation, the new iPod nano features a polished aluminum and glass enclosure with a built-in clip, making it instantly wearable.

Apple Unveils New iPod shuffle

The redesigned iPod shuffle features both clickable buttons and Apple’s innovative VoiceOver technology, enabling you to easily navigate your music and playlists without ever looking at your iPod shuffle. The wearable iPod shuffle has an all-aluminum enclosure with a built-in clip and comes in five brilliant colors — silver, blue, green, orange, and pink.

Apple Introduces iTunes 10 with Ping

iTunes 10 features Ping, a new social network for music that lets you follow your favorite artists and friends to discover what music they’re talking about, listening to, and downloading. With Ping you can post your thoughts and opinions, your favorite albums and songs, and the music you’ve downloaded from iTunes — plus view concert listings and tell your friends which concerts you plan to attend.

Apple Premieres New Apple TV

The new Apple TV offers the simplest way to watch your favorite HD movies and TV shows on your HD TV for the breakthrough price of just $99. With Apple TV, you can choose from the largest online selection of HD movies to rent, including first-run movies for just $4.99, and the largest online selection of HD TV show episodes to rent — from ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel, and BBC America — for just 99 cents.

Wow, that was pretty impressive. It wasn’t revolutionary in any regard, but they definitely brought a lot of new updates to the table. I can’t wait to see what Nokia had to announce today.

Oh wait, it looks like they sent me an email with an announcement:

Dear Ovi Files user,

Nokia is discontinuing the Ovi Files service, effective October 1, 2010.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Please make sure to uninstall the Ovi Files Connector installed on your personal computer. To do this, execute the standard Windows or Macintosh uninstall procedure that came with your computer. You will not lose any files as a result of this service discontinuation. Ovi Files simply creates an ‘online mirror’ of the files saved on your Windows PC or Mac, so your original files will remain intact. The files on your computer are always treated as the master version, even if some are selected as ‘Anytime Files.’

You will still be able to share content between your phone and PC using another Nokia product, Nokia Ovi Suite. With Nokia Ovi Suite installed on your PC, you can do the following: sync your contacts and messages; transfer videos, photos, and music; back up your Nokia and update your device software. Please note that this is not a direct substitute for Ovi Files as Nokia Ovi Suite requires a wired connection between your PC and mobile device. For more information visit www.ovi.com/suite.

Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience and hope that you will continue to enjoy our most popular services:

Maps Find your way with free navigation, downloadable maps and easy location sharing.

Store Browse a wide selection of mobile apps, games, ringtones and more.

Music Download albums and individual tracks, share playlists with friends, and much more. »

Thanks Nokia, I will TOTALLY use your existing services knowing that you may discontinue them at any point in the near future. Also, knowing the fact that whatever service I use from you may cause extra work for me (uninstalling) gives me a big, warm fuzzy. I sure am glad I signed up for DropBox instead of Ovi Files, it looks as thought it’s saving me a lot of trouble.

Google and its 20% Free Time

I’m a little enamored by Quora lately, so excuse me for posting two of their questions up here, but I’m fascinated by the “How does Google’s “Innovation Time Off” (20% time) work, in practice?” question.

You can read the piece on your own, but what I found interesting was how people couldn’t deal with all the approvals needed and got chastised for not looping in the right people. Maybe Google has gotten too large, but the scrappiness needed to get things done there used to get labeled as internal entrepreneurial spirit. Now it’s red-tape and playing the game according to some.

I’m personally going to believe it’s still the former and that some just realized that Google has rules like the rest of the world and they just didn’t like it.

Great Engineers Versus Product Managers

Who is the new Product Manager?

I’m enjoying the question “If my startup has great engineers and designers, why do I need product managers?” over at Quora. I’ve added my own response, but would encourage anyone reading this with knowledge of the field to also add their thoughts.

My answer basically hinges on one key question:

Should great engineers and designers focus on their functional areas or spend time with responsibilities that might detract from their core value-add?

I’ve heard variations of the original Quora question over the years. It’s a valid question that is by no means cut and dry. Many times,  it comes from people who don’t fully understand the product management function. They view the PM as the expected visionary for the product roadmap, but miss out on the other roles they play. Therefore, if their engineer or designer has a stronger, more coherent vision of a product or service, it becomes difficult to see the value of a product manager.

Don’t get me wrong here, most product managers will want to be considered the product visionary!  However, I fear many managers find PMs with backgrounds that can’t match-up to their engineer’s “greatness” and so dismiss the idea of hiring one. The problem now is that no one is minding the other responsibilities: meeting with customers, supporting the market launch, working with suppliers, and generally being the point-of-contact for anyone with a question. It’s good for  development to be involved with these areas, but it has to be tempered with the good sense to keep your team focused on delivering product.

For those who aren’t familiar with the many hats product managers can take on, take a look at Pragmatic Marketing Framework. While no product manager could possibly handle all these roles, it demonstrates areas where they might be helpful. I would suggest anyone who is debating “product manager or not” take a quick look at this and ask themselves two things:

  1. If needed, do they have anyone covering these roles?
  2. Does anyone in my development team have the cycles to cover them?

If the answer to either of those questions is no, hiring a product manager to help might be worth looking into. Defining the role quickly will be extremely important, especially if there is resistance by an established development team who feels they are losing “control” rather than gaining extra “support” for their mission. Depending on the need, product management can report into development or marketing. As there can be some natural conflict between these two areas, settle this quickly. Putting a product manager into a role that has a nebulous reporting structure and has unclear responsibilities will invite criticism regarding product manager role’s effectiveness. I can’t over-emphasize the need to think this through clearly before bringing anyone in.

Since all parties have the same end-game, the relationship needs to be positioned as one of complements. The introduction of a product manager shouldn’t be a power grab, ESPECIALLY if a talented development team exists already. There are far too many industries who need the deep insight that R&D possesses, wrestling with them only hurts everyone in the long-term. Product managers can be very valuable employees, so spend the time properly defining and communicating the role. As you find the candidate who fills those needs, the return should be immediately obvious.

Note: Regarding the Pragmatic Marketing Framework, I only use them as a reference. I have not attended any of their seminars, so I have no opinion on effectiveness. Their use here is only for ease of reference.  Other product management training approaches exist, but I feel theirs is the easiest to absorb.

Convergence and the Picard Facepalm

Picard supports convergence.

I agree with your points Engadget.  Star Trek never had a converged device either, although I’m sure Picard still dreams about it…

Apple’s Next Big Thing is Mobile Commerce?

I had dinner with a former colleague last night. It was good catching up, but as usual, we ended up discussing  the wireless industry and Apple. It’s been lampooned numerous times from other mobile manufacturers that Apple rarely brings out anything new, they just seem to do it in a better and more innovative way. I told him I was fairly unimpressed with the iPhone 4 offering, as it just felt like a hardware change to me. There was nothing about it that seemed compelling.

So this begged the question, what is going to be Apple’s next new (but old) thing?

Engadget may have answered it here.

I’m now officially curious as to what their approach will be for this market…

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