back to article How Nokia managed to drive its in-house Linux train off the rails

Nokia's strategy to revive its fortunes with its home-grown Linux was derailed by academic theory, bureaucratic in-fighting and a misguided partnership with Intel, a new report reveals. Finnish publication Taskumuro has published an extensive history of the Meego project which contains a mixture of old and new: some …

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  1. Daren Nestor

    Nokia...

    Nokia had the markey presence outside the US to have caused people to sit up and take notice. If they had pushed at the right times they would be a realistic competitor. Their window closed a while back, but much later than people think.

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Unhappy

    The last line could be Nokia's epitaph-

    "It's all over, here."

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Harmattan UI was originally based on the Activity Theory principle

    This must have been just after some idiot put an MBA in charge of the project.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Qt Mobile wasn't ready in 2009

    So it's unlikely the N9 could have been released in 2009 with the same UI it has now. I guess a GTK+ version of the UI might have been possible, but would have needed a lot more work and the development framework to build on the UI wouldn't have been there.

    MeeGo stands a much better chance without Nokia (and certainly without Intel) - a small, nimble team of passionate developers should be capable of making an interesting product and more importantly, bringing it to market.

    Best of luck to Jolla.

  5. Arctic fox
    Thumb Up

    Very interesting Andrew, very interesting indeed.

    A somewhat more complex, nuanced and ,ultimately, depressing story than the (wilful) adherents of the "Nokia's been borged and Elop is the sweaty, chair-throwing maniac's bum-boy" explanation of where the Finns are now. Cutting to the quick, Nokia did it to themselves. No, I do not say that in any hostile sense - rather in the despairing sense. I hope very much (given that I still have a certain degree of affection for the company) that they will pull themselves back from the brink. Apart from anything else the pleasure of seeing the various members of the Choral Howling Association explode in hysterical rage at Nokia managing to turn the corner would be a major bonus in itself.

  6. kurkosdr

    Re:

    Interesting article.

    Essentially Meego/Maemo was doomed by two factors:

    - As you say, they couldn't get it to ship

    - Forces inside Nokia wanted Symbian to be the only OS, because they thought they would control it better or because the Finnish gods would be mad if Nokia abandoned Symbian or something. Sure on the outside they pretended to want to see MeeGo succeed, but they did everything to sabotage it.

    I really hope Jolla succeeds. Please don't screw it up. Android + Jolla = geek heaven

  7. Andrew_b65

    Maemo 5 ?

    Your timeline completely missed out Maemo 5 and the N900, just sayin'.

  8. Anonymous Coward 101

    We will hear some wailing from Symbian fanboys here: the most blind, deaf and deluded of any tech nerds.

  9. Waspy
    WTF?

    Such a shame - Meego/Harmattan/Swipe joins webOS as a beautiful, functionally brilliant and very promising platform. I have an N9 and the OS is really nice looking, with great (true) multitasking and all the email/messaging/social networking functionality built right in (so you don't need hundreds of apps). The hardware too is really good...I can't believe how oleo-phobic the glass is, it hardly ever picks up any grease or dirt. It also always amazes me how iPhone and Android users just cannot understand the need for real multi tasking in a phone (and don't really understand what true multi-tasking is)...once you have it, you tend to miss it on other handsets. Android also has a disappointingly crap approach to multi-tasking, closing things when you least expect it.

    I fear Nokia had it all and threw it away...I can see why Elop took the route he did, and the brand new yet-to-be-released handsets look really nice, but they aren't traditional Nokias and I really hope it isn't too late. For me the N9 is the last true Nokia - a minimalist but powerful OS, great hardware and a great phone

  10. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    N900 debacle ...

    I remember well the buzz of anticipation that NOKIA managed to generate when the N900 was announced and the huge number of very committed users of that device who recognized its potential and bought into the concept. I was one of them. We then cursed NOKIA's very soul as it allowed the opportunity to turn to dust and as it betrayed nearly every promise made to the N900 users. Promised software features never appeared including basics like MMS, firmware revisions were late and not complete then dried up prematurely. Most importantly MAEMO was hyped as the future of NOKIA's mobile O/S that would DEFINITELY be used for the subsequent final revision device and then they threw it away by attempting to integrate with INTEL. We all know how that turned out! What truly appalls me is that the educated predictions of disaster made by most of the N900 user groups ALL turned out to be true. If you do this 'x' will happen NOKIA. They did it and 'x' happened. If you don't so this then 'y' will happen ... voila etc.

    I own a Samsung Galaxy Note.

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    From the article

    "The biggest thing that changed when Stephen Elop began his post as the CEO of Nokia, was centering the business around North America. According to Elop’s views, the trends that originate from the US are the ones that will prevail in the entire world, as the iPhone and Android have shown. That’s why Nokia absolutely had to be able to compete in the challenging American market to be successful globally."

    Flop proving once again that he's arse-about-face, for a change. Nokia was already successful globally, except the US. Solution? Decimate everything which was successful outside the US.

  12. Tim Walker
    Linux

    N800 and N900

    It's odd to think I saw the N800 on display in PC World, of all places (sometime around 2008, IIRC). It looked Interesting for its time - I think they had this idea that you'd "tether" the N800 via Bluetooth to a Nokia phone like the N95 (which I then owned) for cellular connectivity, and optionally a BT keyboard to complete the "suite". The resistive touchscreen would date it these days, but otherwise the screen didn't look too bad to me.

    I remember thinking I wouldn't mind owning an N800, but it was outside my price range and the moment passed. A year or so later, and out came the N900, which was arguably more like a "QWERTY slider phone" which ran Linux (Maemo). I welcomed the idea ("great - I can get a pocket Linux device as my next blower from Carphone Warehouse!" - I thought rather naively...). Part of me still wishes I could've got one - for all I know, N900s are probably going for chump-change on eBay these days, unless the fans are hanging onto them...

    Ah, Nokia - they'll be studying you in years to come, as Exhibit A in "leading tech companies who threw it all away" :-(

    1. cyberdemon
      Linux

      Hit the nail on the head

      As a continuing N900 user, I can understand your sentiment.

      But for me, it is, and always has been, the best phone _ever_. I use Debian on my PCs anyway, and a phone that can natively ssh back and run apps, complete with GUI, on my home machine is just brilliant. Any software I need is usually on an apt repository, and if it isn't, I don't even need a cross compiler toolchain to build it. I can install GCC and compile it on the phone.

      Maemo is debian based (unlike Meego which is based on Redhat afaik), which makes package management easy etc etc.

      Basically, I have a phone running general purpose Linux (natively with X windows, not some nasty Java layer), with a slide-out qwerty keyboard. What more could a geek want?

      But then Elop came along, from Microsoft. He killed the project dead, sacked all the developers, along with half the company's R&D staff in general, binned 10 years of R&D in Maemo, and announced that all the company's smart phones from now on will run exclusively Windows.

      The share price predictably tanked, and frankly it reads like a Microsoft conspiracy to scuttle the company in order to either buy it or just make sure that a disruptive technology never comes to market.

      It really makes me sad that I will never get a hardware upgrade for what is basically the best phone OS ever.

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: N900 debacle ...

      I had the misfortune to own a N97. Whilst it wasn't all bad, the most annoying thing was the lack of support, and impression that Nokia had just taken the money and run.

      The N97 was the first phone I dumped before the excessively long contract had expired. It was consigned to a draw and replaced with an Android powered HTC Desire Z (yes, I like slide out keyboards) a few month before the Elop hit. I use my trusty old N95 as my backup phone when a go off doing things which might break a phone and would rather it wasn't my 'droid.

      So it didn't really matter what platform Nokia went with, my disillusion was with their support, and attitude (I got moderated in their forum for disrespecting Nokia for posting a list of valid and accurate faults).

      1. bep

        Well, kinda

        Your N900 must be a little different to mine. Mine has occasions, always at the most inconvenient time, when it slows down to a crawl and becomes unresponsive. I believe it's doing some re-setting in the background or something. To make it behave again the only solution is to remove the battery, since none of the buttons, including the power button, will work, and the touch screen is unresponsive. So I don't think the N900 was the best phone ever made, by a considerable margin. I wished it worked, but it didn't.

        1. tapanit

          Re: Well, kinda

          Interesting. My N900 has been rock solid - the only thing I've had problems with is MMS messages (which have never been officially supported), but I've never needed to remove battery or anything like that. And I grieve for its never-materialized successor (N9 does not count, I want a real keyboard).

      2. MacroRodent Silver badge
        Happy

        N97

        >I had the misfortune to own a N97.

        The big trouble there was immature software. I have a N97 mini (basically same with slightly smaller case and no sliding lens cover) and after religiously applying all Nokia's patches (the latest last year) it is quite stable and usable. Had it been released with the software it now has, it would have been a winner at the time! It is still quite good, even new compatible apps appear now and then. The only major gripe I have with it is that videos shot it with are not up to today's standards (can be described as "VHS quality" at best). But the stills are still quite good for a 5Mpix camera.

        1. Stoli89

          Re: N97

          The N97 had a critical design fault that was rectified with the N97 mini. It had too little C drive space, so when the OS updates came later with Qt...the N97 free C drive space became so constrained that the product became almost unusable.

          1. MacroRodent Silver badge

            Re: N97

            @Stoli89: Ah, thanks. Didn't know about that issue relative to the "big" N97. I thought only the exterior differed. Good thing I missed a N97 offer when shopping for either at the Finnish equivalent of eBay.

    3. Luther Blissett

      What Theory?

      This >> Activities are open systems. When an activity system adopts a new element from the outside (for example, a new technology or a new object), it often leads to an aggravated secondary contradiction where some old element (for example, the rules or the division of labor) collides with the new one. Such contradictions generate disturbances and conflicts, but also innovate attempts to change the activity. <<

      Is pure marxian dialectical materialism. And no-one at Nokia spotted it...? So, the USSR did manage to strike from beyond the grave.

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Chris Wareham

      "......This must have been just after some idiot put an MBA in charge of the project." I know a gent that used to design car interiors for a well-known German brand. He told me his best review team were his pre-teen kids - he could take design pics home and they would pick out the problems or good points every time, much more accurately than the MBA-luggers. Look'n'feel is either good or not, and trying to turn it into furmulae or theorems is simply making up for a lack of perception.

    5. Test Man
      FAIL

      Re: From the article

      Nokia was already failing way before Elop came aboard.

    6. Bad Beaver
      Pint

      Seconded.

      1. Magnus Ramage
        Stop

        Re: What Theory?

        Activity theory is neither as obscure nor as Marxian as the article and comments imply. It's a pretty mainstream part of human-computer interaction theory. It has its roots in Soviet psychology, but has long since gone beyond those. It's really very interesting, and has particularly been influential in Scandinavia (notably through the work of Yrjö Engeström, who's Finnish like Nokia and is not especially Marxist at all). There's a good article on AT at http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/activity_theory.html.

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: What Theory?

          It might be nice for describing interaction, but it's no help at all in design or evaluation of a UI.

      2. gurmit

        Re: From the article

        approaching a cliff edge yes, but he did not help to turn it around, just pushed it off the cliff edge

      3. Philip Lewis

        Me2

        I have one too - stunningly good phone IMHO

    7. Doug Deeds

      Re: Nokia...

      I saw two major fails while I worked at Nokia:

      They did not take the US market seriously. At one project meeting, we had to list as a manager (still a VP unfortunately) told us that the US was not a significant market.

      They also wanted to go with the Henry Ford business model - You can have any color you want, as long as it's black. They would not customize significantly for the US carriers and that was simply market death here. Even in 2006 we were still stuck with dictionaries from England and Spain, not suitable for either the US or Latin America.

    8. pepper
      Happy

      Re: N800 and N900

      I got a N900 for 160 euro's last februari, second hand not used very much was sitting in its box after the owner got a new phone. was about 9 months old when I got it.

      It really is a neat pocket linux device with all you really need.

      Note that if it has been idle for too long it will either need a new battery or a bit of external charge, since the OS needs to be booted to charge the battery. Otherwise it will get in a startup > drain on boot > shutdown > startup after N minutes loop.

      Funny fact:

      Nokia is still sponsoring the community coding competition at maemo.org and is still giving away the fabled N950(developer phone).

    9. Hyper72

      No, AC 101. The mythical wailing fanboy is very rare for any platform. Symbian, Apple or otherwise.. Largely its only the haters that wail, moan, scream and rant like the infantiles they are.

      The rest of us quietly make our choice based on taste, personal preference and enjoy life.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: N800 and N900

      My 900 is part of my collection of "brilliant but ultimately too flawed tech gadgets" along with a Palm Pre 2 and a few other handhelds from various suppliers. Reading this thread I booted it up and it still works. So no, I wouldn't flog it on eBay, I might find a use for it one day. (I can use it to run Java applications over X from a headless Linux box, though on a three inch screen this is mainly for bragging points.)

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nokia fanboys

      I posted on another forum a few weeks back that, with the stumbling of the iPhone 5 and the favourable reviews of the Lumia 920, Elop might have to be re-evaluated. Result: flaming, down-voting, the odd abusive email. But this report from Finland actually suggests that Elop made the right decision for Nokia. It was clearly a very dysfunctional company with a skunkworks, a vested interest group (Symbian) and internal politics to make the Chinese Communist Party look like the Electoral Reform Society. It looks like they left him little choice, and he was right not to go with Android and try to compete with Samsung.

      Now look at HP who backed out of webOS (which looks as if it may run next on a G-Nex) and nearly sold the largest PC division in the world, and are now having to bleat to the shareholders that "we'll really get back into phones, one day, honest guv"

      In the exceedingly unlikely event that I ever meet Stephen Elop, I'll buy him lunch and tell him I admire his willingness to do the right thing despite knowing it would be hugely unpopular.

    12. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Resistive, not capacitive

      It's oleo-phobic because it's a textured resistive plastic overlay. At least it is on my N800. If you take it apart, you can peel the touchscreen surface off the glass.

      And yes, the Android approach of "close down the program when you switch away from it" does suck.

      1. Mike Judge
        FAIL

        Re: Nokia fanboys

        LOL, deluded much?

        Had Nokia gone with Android, they almost certainly would be where Samsung is today.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nokia fanboys

          Indeed? Have their own OLED fab, memory and processor fabs, and the rest of it do they? And a massive presence in other consumer electronics goods to cross-fertilise development?

          Samsung benefited enormously from having Apple as a customer because it gave them economies of scale. Look, Nokia made some very good phones (I just passed a 5 year old one in perfect working order to an OAP who dropped hers down a drain). But they had exactly the same problem that IBM did with the PC: another division (minicomputers) wanted to cripple it, just as the Symbionts wanted to kill the Maemo derivatives. Samsung did not make that mistake.

      2. Bad Beaver
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Nokia fanboys

        So you're out fishing for downvotes?

        I would not exactly helo Elop to a free lunch but I would agree that the new platform starts to look better – and even the current gen devices are pretty good, from a non-geek perspective – I still like more control over my device though. We will see about the new OS once it is out, but with the next gen 920, Nokia has a killer device and it will actually be to market in time to outshine a lot of the competition. Regardless, relying on MS is and will always be a double-edged sword.

        Don't get me started about HP.

      3. GrantB
        Boffin

        Re: Nokia fanboys

        "I posted on another forum a few weeks back that, with the stumbling of the iPhone 5 and the favourable reviews of the Lumia 920, Elop might have to be re-evaluated"

        Wrong.

        Even if miracles happened and the Lumia 9nn started outselling everything else, it would be despite of Elop and not because of him.

        And judging from sales of the Lumia brand to date, I very much doubt the Lumia will outsell anything much less a ‘stumbling iPhone 5’ or SIII. Remember that Apple have probably sold more iPhone 5’s in the last couple of weeks than the total numbers of Lumia’s sold by what was the world’s largest cellphone company with billions of dollars in marketing support from Microsoft.

        "Result: flaming, down-voting, the odd abusive email. But this report from Finland actually suggests that Elop made the right decision for Nokia. It was clearly a very dysfunctional company with a skunkworks, a vested interest group (Symbian) and internal politics to make the Chinese Communist Party look like the Electoral Reform Society"

        It was all that.

        So they needed a CEO to get implementation and delivery of projects to work. Make the hard calls to fire anybody not moving forward with the Nokia smartphone OS (Meego) and a low end OS for feature phones like the Asha range. Get stuff shipping rather than infighting and analysis indecision wanting to have the perfect UI.

        Maybe once that was sorted, take a look at a partnership with MS, Google or Apple to work on a range of Nokia phones running Windows Phone, Android or iOS (yeah, I know the latter won’t happen but interesting to speculate)

        “It looks like they left him little choice, and he was right not to go with Android and try to compete with Samsung”.

        Right, so he didn’t go with Android where they could have competed successfully with 2nd tier players like HTC, and instead went all in with Windows Phone in which they get to compete with Samsung, HTC and maybe Microsoft – who control the OS they are now 100% dependant on.

        If you think Lumia 920 will be good (and remember we don’t know how much it will cost or battery life details etc), then running Android it could have competed well. Running W8 – a new, untried OS (at least on a phone) that doesn’t even have a finished SDK yet, it still has to compete in the market place with the iPhone 5 and SIII, but not running the OS that people have indicated (by handing over dollars) that they really want.

        “In the exceedingly unlikely event that I ever meet Stephen Elop, I'll buy him lunch and tell him I admire his willingness to do the right thing despite knowing it would be hugely unpopular”.

        It’s not just that he did the unpopular thing, it’s that he did it badly. So badly people suspect malice rather than just pure incompetency.

        The burning platform memo killed the Symbian market overnight, before they had a competitive replacement in the market. If they had got the N9 shipping and supported, then introduced a new range of Windows or Android phones, I suspect they would have been in much better condition than now.

        Looking at the failure of WP7 and WP7.5, I suspect they could have extracted a lot more from MS right now to ship a decent range of W8 devices if they had held off.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nokia fanboys

          Being an armchair CEO has the advantage that it is really easy.

          " fire anybody not moving forward with the Nokia smartphone OS (Meego) " - it's pretty clear from the report that Meego was a mistake as a phone OS; Intel couldn't deliver. And keeping Symbian going would involve a long term dead weight of support for too many models which would have distracted from the main job.

          He may have done things badly but we have no way of knowing. On the evidence, however, he took the risk of killing failing platforms.

          The woes of HTC despite having good hardware are well known. Why would Nokia have been any different?

          The "Burning platform" memo seems like a case of telling it how it was. RIM is now going through the same pain, HP abandoned the market.

          If Elop made a mistake it was in underestimating how long it would take Microsoft to get its act together. Look how long it has taken to get Android to work as smoothly as iOS: years. 6:6 hindsight is wonderful, and it is the besetting sin of the armchair CEO.

      4. John Hughes

        Re: Resistive, not capacitive

        Uh, the N9 is not the N800.

        The N9 has a goirilla glass oled capacitative touchscreen.

      5. John 62
        Headmaster

        Re: Nokia...

        The US should have THANKED Nokia for proper English dictionaries!

        Anyway, a few years back, Joel Spolsky was telling everyone about how cool his E series phone was while everyone else was using an iPhone 3G.

      6. A. N. Other-Coward Silver badge
        Happy

        "The rest of us quietly make our choice based on taste, personal preference and enjoy life."

        Not sure about the "enjoy life" part - at the moment it's an existence - Last December, I got a N9, and it cheered me up no end!

        This was after the burning platform speech and was an informed decision, knowing full well that N9/Meego was going to be the first and last of it's kind. I'd had various "low tech" Nokia handsets and a 6310i had served me well for years. Then I got an Android handset (HTC Hero) for email and web browsing. It was somewhat underpowered so I was looking to get a newer handset when the N9 was announced.

        For me, it is just a phone and web/email client . Nice easy option to switch to developer mode and tinker - handy to be able to block ads and banish the social media apps which come with it. When enabled, Skype client integration to phone is seamless.

        Got the added bonus of built-in offline navigation which comes in handy - and it works!

      7. RICHTO Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Nokia...

        And they were absolutely right - the US isnt a globally significant mobile market. Europe, India and China are far larger and more important. There are 500 million mobile customers just in Europe.

    13. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: From the article

      Nokia's smartphone market share was on a death spiral in the two preceding quarters before burning platforms, and that was after the release of the N8. The appointment of Elop and the abandoning of old Symbian allowed 'stab in the back' legends to take hold.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: From the article

        Their market share was dropping but from 2009 to 2010, they saw an increase of 34% in smartphone sales. The raw numbers, from 100 million to 134 million per year. That is NOT a burning platform. Now Nokia is vying for around 10 million smartphone sales a year,

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        1. Anonymous Coward 101

          Re: From the article

          Sigh. The smartphone market was exploding in 2010 hence the increase in sales in spite of the horrific drop in market share. When market share drops by some 12% in 6 months (with no end in sight), that will translate to sales dropping when the market stops growing as much.

          To the person that linked to the Tomi Ahonen blog, please read his postings in January 2011 to find what he really thinks of Nokia's performance from that time. He never refers back to these posts, because he knows they undermine his 'Elop bad' thesis.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: From the article

            And since then a few more figures have been released and he's had chance to see Elop's performance.

        2. fch

          Re: From the article

          That man begs to rant. Granted, there might be differences hidden in the sheer amount of drivel. I usually tire before I find them though. But then, Tomi Ahonen writes like a real Nokian (Nokianiac ? Nokiate ?)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: From the article

        @Anonymous Coward 101

        Wrong

    14. John Hughes

      Re: N800 and N900

      "Part of me still wishes I could've got one - for all I know, N900s are probably going for chump-change on eBay these days"

      Between USD 200 and EUR 300.

    15. Tom 11
      Unhappy

      Re: N900 debacle ...

      Double ditto,

      My N900 was my top mobile, it still is when compared against its competition climate. My charging port fell out, phone was out of warranty by two weeks, bastards in Vodafone would not replace, I had to take a horrid Desire Z rather than the N9 I was waiting for :(

      2 years on, I have a Note as company device, first phone I've had with no qwerty since N95 (also an astounding device for its day) I got on with it so well I now have a Note 2 as a personal device, though I still miss my qwerty more than any feature on a mobile device, when will the producers wake up to the market available for this type of device rather than creating for the masses.....

    16. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Very interesting Andrew, very interesting indeed.

      "Nokia did it to themselves"

      Well, they made the initial mess themselves. What Elop did was to eviscerate the business, leaving it with no Plan B, no meaningful control over its software, and realising no value from a decade of investment. I accept that a big degree of slash and burn was necessary, but what Elop has delivered has been a scorched earth policy.

      What Elop perhaps should have done was

      (a) Take the opportunity to evaluate properly the strengths, talents and opportunities of Nokia. Typically when a new CEO comes in, he (she, it) thinks he can work this out in three months. And he's wrong - it takes a lot longer than that to really grasp what makes a company tick, and what it could achieve. He'd still have to make some calls on cost reduction early on, and present a bluffers strategy to the investors quickly, but given the MS announcement days after the burning platform memo, he'd clearly been working on the MS tie up since very early in his tenure.

      (b) Kept his big Candian gob shut. The burning platform memo was an act of madness fit to earn the Gerald Ratner prize for shitting on your own front lawn.

      (c) Cut costs big time (which he did) but preserve the better bits of Meego, or Maemo, or whatever, and retain control over an OS. The sad remains of S40 don't count here. There seems to be agreement round here that if we overlook the Finnish farting around over a UI, the software had potential - and by banging a few Finnish heads together he could have forced them to sort the UI out.

      (d) Tie up with somebody else on a non-exclusive basis. Maybe MS, maybe Google, but Elop was right that they needed an OS that can go to market now. The mistake is that the way it has been done Nokia is now beholden to MS. In a tie up with Android they'd at least have been able to use Google Maps, for example, without having to cede the rights to the excellent Nokia Maps, as they have with MS. And in a non-exclusive implementation they'd not be banking on the success of an unproven phone OS from a company with an equally poor (or worse) track record of pleasing users.

      (e) Think about the developers. Having repeatedly messed about third party developers, both MS and Nokia are untrusted. Elop needed these people to tell him what needed to be done to make Nokia a trustworthy partner, and then to execute on that.

      (f) Innovate. The 808 camera is a fine (if bulky) piece of kit. But Nokia needed to regain their mojo in other ways, like taking maps to the next level, or revitalising the Nokia comes with Music concept, which was a great idea, but patchily brought to market. In the poorly contested (other than on cost) B2B space, Elop needed to respond to what CIO's want from their phone fleet - look at how most IT departments are floundering, handing out multiple variants of cheap HTC's or Orange branded rubbish, reliant on push email solutions of dubious security and reliability, and fighting BYOD without understanding the causes of the BYOD pressure.

      So I'd agree Nokia got themselves to 2010 on their own. But since then Elop has managed to drive the share price down by 75%, and the buck for that stops with him, personally.

      1. cyberdemon
        Boffin

        Re: N900 debacle ...

        @Bep: I have had that, but rarely. Usually it is because some application has used up too much RAM, and it has started swapping. If it runs out of RAM and swap, then the kernel (actually, init) will kill the offending process. So in some respect it may be useful to have less swap as this would happen faster. But it is not something that can be easily designed out. The N900 is a powerful phone and lets you do whatever you want with it, whereas crapple will screen each app to make sure it complies with their UI principles and doesn't eat too much memory etc. This makes the iphone more stable, but in exchange you get a phone that is limited in what it can do.

        So it is probably some package you have installed. Try running 'top' in a terminal, press the M key and it will show you the processes using the most memory. Failing that backup and, reflash to the latest OS version. Only reinstall apps that you suspect are not causing the problem.

        @Tom 11:

        I've heard about that, and I dread the day it might happen to me, but I've had my N900 since launch and touch wood, the USB connector has never come loose.

        You could probably pick up a replacement on fleabay. Or failing that crack it open and resolder the MicroUSB. If the phone is knackered in its current state then you've nothing to lose..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "banging a few Finnish heads together [...] to sort the UI out"

        That's the thing I saw lacking. Not so much the ui itself, but the failure to bang heads together. The big lingering weakness in nokia was its stratification and infighting among the internal kingdoms, its inability to distill good ideas nevermind pack them together into a great product, its inability to decide, to even try. That didn't get sorted, so everybody was doing his own thing and there wasn't someone to pick which of the many possible ways to walk down in what order. The result was predictable: No coherent UI, no shippable product.

        If the theorising was right about Qt, then it should've been possible to take any OS they already had, maybe take all three for all I care, plunk Qt on top and cobble an interim "UX" suitable for release in a few months. Something simple yet tantalising enough to keep'em coming back for more. Given where he came from, it's nigh-on unbelievable that elop didn't even try the old "get it right at 3.0". At the very least it might've bought him the time to avoid doing something rash with needlessly high risk of going to regret later attached.

        The memo I take as an attempt to try and align the internal factions a bit, in a way that shows he didn't really understand the problems in the organisation. He did manage to get everybody to face more-or-less the same way, which was "away from nokia", unfortunately that included "running" and included the customers too. Oops.

        Instead of the infighting brass he fired the workforce. So he doesn't have anything left to underpin any new strategy. Instead he's sold the soul of the company to his former employer (as was widely feared, and that fear now seems justified), gaining (licences for) an OS for his phones that come with a similar stench of failure attached. What he does have left may or may not be a fine platform, but too many people don't even care to find out these days.

        And who can blame them? All that talk about a "third ecosystem" forgets that the predecessor ecosystem had actually been the first, just not in the USoA (but in the rest of the world, small insignificant market that it is), and it got killed deader than dead by sheer mismanagement. That sort of backing is one hell of a red flag for those expected to fill up and make work this new "ecosystem".

        And yeah, the buck ought to stop with him. The fact that he's still there means the board is asleep at the wheel, unfortunately. As far as this armchair-dweller is concerned, it's all over except the burial service. It doesn't really seem worth it to say "told you so", however justified. It's just sad, is all.

    17. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't get this, please explain

      Qt was around for quite a while, its application programming interfaces presumably mature. That was pretty much why they wanted it, no? So just how much different does a "mobile" version of same need to be to get started on UI development and making Qt fit for mobile at the same time?

      I mean, wasn't it the entire point of the exercise that you could "just" adapt the library to the phone and have an easy time doing the app porting? If not, what was the point? If it was, then where did all the trouble come from?

  13. Paul Shirley

    "activity theory"-based UI

    "activity theory"-based UI sounds remarkably like 'task based UI', one thread in the Metro design. I just fail to see how the randomly ordered words forming the 'activity theory' could tell anyone how to build a UI and apparently no-one at Nokia could work it out either!

    I also fail to understand how anyone could think it would lead anywhere but to a similar task based UI every smartphone has today. With so little screen estate it's inevitable, whatever the starting point. Restarting TWICE because they refused to accept that reality is insanity.

  14. mrbeardy
    Thumb Up

    I had a 770 (no N) between 2006-2008 and it was a cracker wee tablet. The maemo os had many similarities with android, but too much like linux to be mainstream. They had a "market" like linux which you had to add repositories to. Far far too techie for mainstream use. Also crippled by a maximum of 4 hours battery life. Still a great improvement over pocketpc!

  15. Mage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Elop didn't kill Nokia

    They strangled themselves years earlier. Getting involved with Intel was Toxic, but they had probably already wasted too much time, over 3 years.

  16. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Slideout Keyboards

    Slideout keyboards,

    Just what I want on a phone.*

    I just can't get behind touchscreen keyboards when typing a long email or message.

    One of these slideout Nokias running Linux would've been great.

    I do have a Nokia E63. Reliable phone, built like an old Volvo. Unfortunately Symbian isn't great, the built in web browser struggles with anything beyond mobile/Wap sites.

    The 3310 was *the* phone to have back around when I was starting my student days. Nice shiny blue cover, had stopwatches and clocks. Not much Wap IIRC, but then that was something you didn't really use back then. Great phone, even though I could not get the hand of Bantumi.

    Shame to see them go the way of Saab. It's a sad mad capitalist world in which only the ruthless (Apple, VWgroup etc) survive.

    *(Closest I can find is some obscure Samsung running Android)

  18. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Easiest product to manufacture: excuses. Elop fires his blamethrower

    Elop did his best, but he did not bury Meego deep enough. Despite being limited to a few small markets, it outsells Winphone (and makes a profit). At least he put Nokia's patents in the hands of a troll so Android will get a bit more legal hassle. Even that won't save winphone. Another year as CEO of Nokia, then he will go back to his current employer - Microsoft.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nokia throws html 5 against the wall

    Nokia is now going to pin its hopes on producing javascript/html5 phones. Of couse it will be killed as Nokia's future can be measured in months. They might get a dead cat bounce with the release of the Lumia 920, but once MS brings out their own phone, its all over for Nokia. Stock holders will demand a quick sell out of its patents and Navteq assets.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where have I heard this story before?

    Ah yes.

    1. RICHTO Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Nokia throws html 5 against the wall

      Rubbish. Nokia will sell tens of millions of Lumias. If microsoft brings out a phone, it will just take more market share away from Blackberry, Android and IOS.

    2. RICHTO Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Elop the Trojan

      What utter bollox. Mixcrosoft wanted Nokia's postion as the worlds largest phone manuafacturer to push Windows Phone, not it's IP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @RICHTO

        and look how well that strategy turned out

        MS, by your reckoning, must be the most ill-judged, inept fuckwits on the planet.

        oh, hang on...

        1. RICHTO Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: @RICHTO

          In the Lumia 920 they have a handset that is more advanced than anything yet on the horizon from the competition. Hardly a fail.

          If Microsoft wanted just the IP, they could easily afford to buy it.

      2. LesboInMansBody
        WTF?

        Re: Nokia throws html 5 against the wall

        Yes, because Microsoft is always so good to its partners. What planet are you on

      3. Doug 3

        Re: Nokia throws html 5 against the wall

        because Steve Ballmer saying that Microsoft is becoming a device and services company does not mean they plan to own the "device" part of his business plan?

        Does not their history show they would gladly toss away dead carcasses of partners to end up owning that which those partners helped nurture?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Easiest product to manufacture: excuses. Elop fires his blamethrower

      yes

    4. JimC Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Elop the Trojan

      Oh come on. The Nokia board must have wated a Microsoft strategy otherwise they wouldn't have picked an ex Microsoft exec. That was always going to be the result of that hire. Elop is just doing what everyone knows it says on the tin labelled ex Microsoft. If that wasn't the desired result they'd have bought a different tin.

    5. Graham Dawson

      Re: Slideout Keyboards

      Sony Xperia Pro. Reasonable size screen, verreh nice keyboard.

      Though I suspect most will reject it based on the fact that Sony make it. Fair enough I suppose...

    6. The Serpent

      Re: Slideout Keyboards

      I'm wondering how a Motorola Photon Q would fare in this country

  21. captain veg

    Proper computer

    Had an N800 then an N900 and now an N9. From this geek's perspective, the best part about them all is that you don't just have to put up with what you are given, because there is a real FLOSS operating system underneath, and, yes, you can type unix-y commands in a command-line shell. If you like.

    If you don't like, they each have a serviceable GUI, but all completely different from each other. That's what most surprised me, and thanks to this article I now have some clue as to how that came about. Even upgrading to OS2008 on the N800 change completely the UI (as well as the web browser). Couldn't quite work out why, at the time.

    Downsides? Most obvious on the N800 is that it isn't a real phone, and hasn't got a physical keyboard. The N900 is a phone and does have a keyboard, but it's uncomfortable to type on and the screen is too small for the resolution. The N9 sorts the screen out, but doesn't have a keyboard, alas. It's also a real drag (literally) to close running applications -- you have to swipe, swipe, swipe, press-and-hold, then tap on an icon. What's wrong with a simple close button?

    Here's hoping for Jolla.

    -A.

  22. gaz 7
    FAIL

    Got the collection

    770, N800, N810, and N900.

    All great devices, and very capable in their day, and actually much more converged and focussed than Android is. The community developed media player on the N900 (which uses the UI of the stock player) for example is one if not the best media players available. Plays everything, and everything plays though it, where Android is a mishmash of different apps. Same with the IM and messaging.

    Nokia really dropped the ball with Maemo, and never really seemed to give it the commitment for it to make the leap from a skunkworks-feel geek device to mainstream.

    They should have licenced it for almost nothing to get the market share

  23. Howard 1
    FAIL

    There's a reason those N900 on ebay are cheap.

    They are in all probability knackered. The BGAs separate from the mainboard without much encouragement.

    First you'll lose the sensor that detects the cover is off and disables the mmc slot (you can work around this by editing and recompiling the module *OPENSOURCE FTW!*), then you'll lose the radio module (no phone functionality) and finally you'll lose the internal 32G mmc - BRICKED!

    I bought a replacement on ebay (tested, the vendor said) and surprise, surprise it had the same faults as the unit I wanted to repair.

  24. Bad Beaver
    Facepalm

    Makes me cherish my N9 even more

    As depressing as the stroy is, it makes me appreciate even more that a device like the N9 actually ever made it to market (even if it was just an "obligation"). It is outstanding in every aspect. I am also very happy that the brainpower behind it found a new home at Jolla and am very much looking forward to their take on MeeGo. There is only one problem: I feel next to no need to replace the N9 in the forseeable future.

    1. Neil 7

      Re: Proper computer

      It's also a real drag (literally) to close running applications -- you have to swipe, swipe, swipe, press-and-hold, then tap on an icon. What's wrong with a simple close button?

      Or you could just swipe down to close - one single action. Not so hard, is it?

    2. The Serpent

      Re: There's a reason those N900 on ebay are cheap.

      Lucky my 3 year, nine month old example has none of those issues. Other than a wonky usb port I've had no issues with it. That natural wear on the screen in the commonly touched areas is now annoying, but it is to be expected due to the age of the device and that fact that the owner is not a whiny iPhone owner who keeps it in a bag of scrap iron and expects it to be perfect.

  25. DS 1

    Dropped bollacks

    Nokia's last chance in terms of Linux was a near miss. The N900 had some promise. But here is a list of the screw up - probably not alone - other people might add their own.

    1. The device landed in market - and was largely not available.

    2. Sales outlet behaved stupidity. Refusing to sell me one in the only store that had stock unless I did it on contract (example).

    3. Poor touch screen. The touch screen was a mistep from a company that historically understood hardware. The poor screen pretty much foobared the phone from a user standpoint (part 1)

    4. Software - most of the software was good, but it had large flaws that required some fixing. Given the 'enormous' teams of engineers and 'developers' floating around inside Nokia, Its hard to credit that they simply failed to respond and make things happen.

    5. Had a fast follow up device come out - one that fixed the N900 flaws, it might well have done well.

    Nokia was an old engineering company being annihilated by a faster moving world. The N900 needed to be some slow moving thing that had a 3 year life like the N800 before it. But the times had changed. If Linux and the N900 and later phones did not have an Android level of development and speed and some real pazazz, there was never any hope for it.

    I frankly don't know what all these developers did at Nokia. To be blunt, the software on the N800 and later 900 was so old, tepid and slow in fixes coming - you wonder if any work happened on them at all.

  26. Richard Neill

    N900 ... so close to exceptional, but not open source enough

    The N900 was a wonderful device to develop for... it had a proper Linux environment, and could even run openoffice!

    Unlike Android, it uses the desktop Linux approach, and runs X (and GTK), so all the applications just work without porting. It was a delight to develop for, and the SDK was easy to use, well documented, and helpful. Out of the box, I could SSH in and do X-forwarding, no need to "root" it first. The hardware was also ahead of its time (excepting the resistive touchscreen). Sadly, Nokia wouldn't make the whole thing open-source.

    For example, I needed to be able to take photos during a phone call. This would have been easy to fix (it just needed to disable the shutter sound, so that the camera app didn't need a lock on the soundcard) - but the camera app was closed source. Yes, I could use the library to write my own app... but only if I didn't want autofocus.

    Nokia didn't get that open hardware means *everything*, not most of it, excepting a few essential bits.

  27. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Missing the point

    The Maemo devices aren't supposed to be in the same league as Android or IOS devices. They are supposed to be portable workstations. You don't care about the GUI, you care about the shell and that you have access to unixoid software.

    I believe that's the big misunderstanding.

  28. The Ignorant Contractor
    Unhappy

    N810 memories

    I worked in Series 40 a few years ago and borrowed an N810 for a play. It was a truly terrible experience. Not just for the resistive screen (great in chilly gloved Finland but bad nearly everywhere else) but mostly for the unbelievably sluggish UI. Having seen a friend's iPhone a few months before it was clear my company was in trouble.

    I can still remember one of the devs in a large meeting with management saying something like, "The iPhone will never make it; we'll crush them with our scale". It really was the thinking amongst some of the company back then. The employees truly had no idea how bad our products looked in comparison.

    I also had an N900 on the internal testing scheme. That was a phone I loved. Not necessarily the answer to Nokia's problems but it was promising at least. I understand why they abandoned Maemo/Meego but I still think what might have been.

  29. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    lines to nowhere

    I have a new symbian phone. Got it not for symbian, but for the seriously good hardware of Nokia's E-series. An on-screen keyboard is no substitute, the Blackberry alternative is just too bulky in the pocket.

    My history with Nokia linux is a classic disappointment story. Saw the N810, it was exactly what I wanted but for the lack of phone/3G connectivity. Bought the N900, bitterly disappointed by the dreadful keyboard, excessive weight, lack of battery life, and above all Nokia abandoning the line.

    After so badly burning their bridges with those of us who bought into Maemo, Windows may indeed represent their best chance of recruiting a new developer community!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Off the rails...

    Centuries ago people were told that they had to work hard and give the products of their labour to political and religious leaders because these were "chosen by god".

    The manager myth dictates that you are a cost and your salary needs to be cut. But a manager is an asset and the company invest in them. In other words, you have to work hard and the products of your labour will be given to managers because they are "chosen by the economy".

    Yet again and again we see incompetent managers play silly political games and cripple ash a successful company, sometimes even running it completely into the ground.

  31. petur
    Thumb Up

    N900

    Still works for me, and the community updates and apps have now made it into a very usable device that lasts 2 days and has all the functionality I need. Nokia really failed at making the best out of what they had. A team 1/1000 the size would have been years ahead, but bureaucracy killed it.

    @Tim Walker: there's quite a bit of trading, with some ebay sellers seemingly having a stock of refurbished N900s... affordable too. Not like that N950, that recently went for >2000 euro :)

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: N900 ... so close to exceptional, but not open source enough

      Yup, the battery charging bits were also verboten too, so you couldn't compile Maemo from the ground up like you can with Android.

      Another killer was that it was derived from Debian, but they didn't take advantage of the packaging system. Upgrades were by reflashing ROM images, so you lost all your data and customization.

      1. buchan
        Linux

        Re: N900 ... so close to exceptional, but not open source enough

        Device/"ROM" updates were over-the-air via the package management infrastructure. i got my N900 with PR1.1, but PR1.2 on it. When it had connected to the net, I got a green flashing arrow icon in the status menu, clicked it, and was told PR1.2 was out, asked if it should be updated to, and later prompted to reboot.

        The same thing happened with PR1.3, and now (after one download) happens with community updates.

        Of course, you could also update with 'apt-get upgrade', especially in the event the update tool told you you needed to reflash, which usually occurs when there is too little free space.

        (posted from my N900)

    2. LesboInMansBody
      WTF?

      Re: N900 ... so close to exceptional, but not open source enough

      Like your average consumer cares or even knows about open source, x windows, gtk.

    3. Tim Walker
      Linux

      Re: N900

      Thanks for the "head-up" - might go for a browse round eBay shortly :-)

  32. Don Mitchell

    Academic UI Theories

    Another funny example is the Nass & Reeves theory that Microsoft got suckered into. That was the basis for projects like "Bob" and their hated paperclip character. During one demo to billg, he burst out "Get that ****ing clown off my screen!". After that, the agent objects were given the hungarian prefix tfc, which indicated how the developers felt about the idea.

  33. jonfr
    FAIL

    Nokia going the ways of the dinosaurs

    It is clear that Nokia is going the same way as the dinosaurs. Most part of it are extinct. Some did evolve and go on to be birds.

    For Nokia however. It is just going to be long and tiresome death. I am going to miss Nokia. Since they where cutting edge long time ago. But then it got stupid and did hire a stupid asset stripping capitalist from Microsoft. That is going to be death of Nokia and nothing else.

    I am going to move on to new brand of phone in few years time. When my Nokia phones start to drop dead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Academic UI Theories

      It's happening again at MS. They've got a bunch of UI researchers who are responsible for Ribbon, Metro and MS's unfortunate liking for flat colour schemes with no texture or 3D relief. OK, Metro mightn't be too bad on a tablet (it's terrible on a desktop) but everything else ranges from tolerated to loathed.

      The trouble with having such a department in a company is that you're stuck with following their advice. Otherwise you'd be admitting that you've wasted a lot of cash employing a bunch useless guys. Trouble is that the market is the ultimate test of worth, and then it's too late to do anything about it. The best thing that you can use these people for is to come up with design rules (eg minimum button size, etc) and leave he designers to get on with the job of designing.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nokia always got it wrong

    Nokia have never understood software, and they still don't. They took Symbian from Psion who had done a good job at building a kernel and UI that were remarkable for their day. Nokia then proceeded to cock it up, never understood the kernel and abandoned the UI thinking that they could do better; they couldn't. If they'd taken the Psion 5 and just embedded a phone into it they'd have cleaned up.

    Their reluctance to do an Android phone is just another example. It would cost them almost nothing to build an Android phone and would earn them billions. Exhibit A: Samsung. How brain dead do you have to be to not take that opportunity? Even MS must realise that Nokia earning billions (by whatever means) is worth more to them than Nokia slowly going bankrupt.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Nokia always got it wrong

      Exhibit A: Samsung

      Exhibit B: ???

      Why assume that Nokia would have 'cleaned up' with Android? If they started work with Android in 2008 they would likely have embuggered their Android devices with resistive screens and processors more suited to Poundland calculators.

  35. mickey mouse the fith

    Meego running on an old Acer aspire one with the crappy ssd is an absolute joy to use. Its the only os I found that didnt judder like buggery due to the awful write speed of the ssd. It booted in seconds, ran beautifully and the ui was really well done.

    Such a pity Nokia canned it, there was so much potential there.

    Im really looking forward to seeing what the Jolli devs come up with.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Nokia?

    I stopped buying their product when I learned they are supplying chips for landmines.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Nokia?

      Nokia doesn't make chips as far as I know.

      In any case, all advanced electronic products you buy are very likely to contain chips made by some manufacturer that also sells to weapons-makers.

  37. pixl97
    Go

    Fable

    This story needs to be converted to a fable where two men in a boat get tangled in a fishing net and fall overboard. Each one tries to swim to a different shore because they believe it to be the closest. They both drown and their rotting remains are ate by Microsoft.

    This fable should be told as a bed time story to children and CEO's to terrify them on not keeping their teams heading in the same strategic direction.

  38. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Down

    fixed it for you

    > or partnering with Google or Microsoft, and ultimately plumped for the latter.

    s/ultimately/unfortunately

  39. Conrad Longmore
    FAIL

    Where Nokia went wrong..

    Where Nokia went wrong.. well, you'd need a book to explain that. Indeed, there have been books trying to explain it.

    My two cents worth: Maemo obviously *was* the way to go, but just at the point they had come up with a vaguely saleable product (the N900) they embarked on the stupid MeeGo project which effectively stalled the product line and stopped Nokia competing in the high-end smartphone market. MeeGo was never going to regain the mass-market traction that Nokia needed, and Elop sensibly shitcanned it.

    I don't agree with dumping Symbian though - the collapse in Nokia's sale is largely because Symbian got dead-ended. Nokia should have pushed Symbian down into the Series 40 segment, which I think was the pre-Elop plan.

    But this is a cultural thing within Nokia. So many devices were too far ahead of their time and got dumped. The Nokia 7710 for example, a big screen multimedia touchscreen phone announced in 2004, was way ahead of its time, but lacked 3G or WiFi. If they would have tried again, then it would have been better. But Nokia's conclusion seemed to be that there was no market for touchscreen smartphones..

  40. Sam Liddicott

    Too long "not a phone"

    Why was the first Maemo tablets "not a phone".

    Surely Nokia could have beaten Apple if it had also been a phone.

    That glaring weird mistake still baffles me. Why was it not also a phone? From the worlds largest and best phone company!

  41. Nabil Shabka

    Actually Nokia lost the plot in 1999 - no vision

    Too many cooks and no one with vision. Nokia's vision was to swtich form TV's to phones, that seems to be about it.

    I bought the first Nokia Communicator in the mid 90's (I think it was '96) for £1K and it was the first smart phone ever. I bought it as the future was clear, it was smart phones. I surfed the web, got my email and read and edited word docs and spreadsheets. It may have been a 'brick' but it was the future. I stuck with the model for many years and then threw in the towel when it was clear that Nokia actually had no idea of where smart phones were going and switched to the Palm Treo when Palm finally put a phone with their pda. The Treo had a much better form factor and to my knowledge was the first smart phone with apps you could purchse from third parties and a touch screen (I didn't use my stylus much) but they too lost the plot when Blackberry showed up.

    New products and the evolution of old products is the key to staying current and requires visionary leaders at the helm who in turn inspire visionary colleagues. Companies go down when they lose the ability to think out fo the box - which is often the case with companies that come to dominate their space (look at Microsoft now). They become huge oil tankers that can't turn around. There are very few large companies that have been able to successfully change direction (IBM and Apple are good examples of doing it successfully - albeit after they were on their deathbeds) and if big companies don't do this they will lose to new nimble players with vision.

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