Technology and cool

By Russell Beale on Sep 6, 12 03:21 PM in Design

Nokia released their latest Lumina smartphone to the most desultory of audience applause - but is it good or bad? Actually, I'm not going to discuss that - it has it's good points, in terms of wireless charging and camera technology, and it's bad ones - poor PR in faking its performance in an advert, for example. But are these the factors that will make buy it, or not?

I think not. One of the driving forces behind what people buy is what they think it will do for them, not so much technically, but socially. Is it cool? Defining cool in technology terms is difficult - and is part of the research that my group is looking at - but recognising it is easier.

Apple have cool in spades. Microsoft Windows doesn't. The Windows system on mobile devices is technically adept, nice looking, and pretty effective. But it's Windows - and there's a whole legacy that comes with that, and it's not all positive. Then there's Nokia. King of the text-based mobile phone, but knave of the smartphone market - neglecting it for a while, developing and then dropping its own operating systems, and then adopting Windows rather than Android were all commercially questionable decisions -but they have impacted its image and brand, and now Nokia is no longer cool.

Worse, the whole smartphone phenomena is not so much driven by hardware as it is by software - the 'app' is the killer app of its age, and the more apps there are, the better. And the Lumina lags the Android and Apple offerings in this space. So, it's not cool, and it's not that well supported by developers. Is Nokia doomed to fail?

Some consolation comes in the fluctuating fortunes of technology - or perhaps the fluctuating notions of cool. It is possible to be prominent one minute, and failed the next - GPT spring to mind - and in the mobile space this is even quicker. So if they tap into a vibe, and become a trend, then they could retake the prime position in desirable technology. But achieving this is not necessarily dependent on functionality, usability or technical capability: it's only when it becomes cool that all the factors align and a product really takes off.



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