Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nokia Spotlight: Interview with Peter Schneider - Part 1

Mobile Tablets! is pleased to present this interview with Peter Schneider, head of the global marketing team for Maemo Devices at Nokia.  For those who have not seen Peter in person - suffice it to say that he is a passionate and charismatic individual, and is a true champion of the Maemo platform.  Some have likened him to a rock star.  As head of marketing for Maemo Devices, he is also very busy.  Therefore, his participation in this interview is greatly appreciated.
This is Part 1 of a 2-part interview, and focuses on Peter's background, and the development of Maemo 5 and the N900.

1. Peter. can you give us an overview of your educational background?

PS: Sure. I do have a BSc. in Computer Engineering from the University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt/Germany and a MBA in General Management from the Helsinki School of Economics in Finland.

2. How long have you been with Nokia, and how long with Maemo, in particular?
PS: I'm working now almost for 10 years at Nokia. After several product management and software marketing jobs at Nokia, I started to head the Maemo marketing team in November 2007.

3. Can you tell us what your role is within Maemo Devices is?  We know that you are the head of Marketing, but what does that exactly entail?
PS: The Maemo marketing team is responsible for reaching out to platform developers, to application developers, to operators, to service and apps partners such as Skype, lead users, and industry analysts in regards to Maemo. We built the core messages and work together with other Nokia teams such as Forum Nokia to reach a global audience. You might know people from my team such as Quim Gil, our voice to the open source community in and Jussi Mäkinen, the man that got famous in the "N900 user experience" video on YouTube and who is responsible for Personally, I try to orchestrate the messaging to all audiences and help out where it is needed.

4. Would you be able to share with us an overview of the Maemo Devices organization?  It would be valuable for the community to have an idea of the total manpower, number of countries you are dispersed across, and the split between hardware and software sides.
PS: Maemo Devices has been since July last summer responsible for all R&D work including hardware and software to build Maemo-based devices (or MeeGo-based devices in the future). Maemo Devices is part of Nokia's Devices R&D organization with some 12.000 employees globally. Maemo Devices has a global development setup with work in open source projects all over the globe including our own engineers in the US, India, and Europe. Ari Jaaksi heads Maemo Devices and is a pioneer in taking open source to mainstream consumer electronics.

5. Maemo 5 is an exciting development within Nokia.  How long was the development from start to finish?

PS: It's hard to determine a single starting day of the Nokia N900 development because open source project work is continuous and precedes the work on actual products with just a vision in mind. When did we publish the pre-alpha SDK of Maemo 5? Was it in the first ever Maemo Summit in September 2008? Maybe, that got the work on the Nokia N900 really going in the community. And in regards to finishing the work on the Nokia N900, I can't put down a day either because we are not done yet either but still work on further improvements and enhancements.

6. The Nokia N900 is a truly remarkable device.  Now that I have one, I just do not know how I have managed for so long without a device of this type.
One of the capstone achievements in my opinion is the melding of Nokia's tablet line with cellular data connectivity.  At the first Maemo Summit, Nokia announced data connectivity by HSPA.  Many thought that we would be seeing a data connected tablet as a direct descendant of the 770/N8X0 devices.  Instead, in mid-2009, we learned that RX-51was indeed a phone. How hard was it to contain something like that internally?  Were you surprised at all by the response from the community?
PS: Yes, to keep the work on the voice telephony under wraps was a challenge that I can say we managed surprisingly well. We knew that a lot of Linux kernel developers, especially those working on the OMAP3430 software stack, would see ahead of the product announcement that we are integrating a cellular modem to the software stack. The way to disguise the work was to communicate that we are building cellular data connectivity for Maemo 5. Which was naturally true but wasn't the whole scope of the work. Working in open source projects without giving away business-related information is always are careful balance that my team tries to find.

7. Many of us community members at are what I would call "back-seat drivers".  Meaning that we have strong opinions on what Nokia 'should have done' with the N900.  Obviously, product definition is an iterative process, and must be justified from a business perspective. At what point in that definition cycle are inputs from pure end users solicited?

PS: Nokia develops products always based on extensive consumer research. And technology enthusiasts discussing on and are one input channel for consumer feedback once a product is available to average consumers. Lead user workshops and extensive usability and design research with consumers from around the globe before the product announcement are just basics of any consumer electronics product development. In regards to the Nokia N900, we did decide to go the extra mile to hand out 300 pre-production models in the beginning of October to get feedback from the community and use that feedback in building the first commercial software release and then PR1.1.

8. The N900 is a real killer in the hardware department!  Hats off to the Maemo Devices team for packing so much into a pocketable device.  It is understandable that Nokia may have intended to look to 3rd party applications to fully take advantage of some of the hardware (e.g. FM Radio, IR port).  However, one hardware feature stands out as clearly lacking Nokia support at this time - the forward facing camera.  Can you give us a glimpse into the plans for that camera, and when we can expect official OS support for it?

PS: At this point of time, I don't have anything to share on an application making use of forward-facing camera. I wouldn't like to speculate on things we have not announced yet.

9. Portrait mode.  With PR 1.0, only the phone application, and the photo viewer officially supported it. With PR1.1, the browser has the ability to switch to portrait mode, but seems to be a work in progress.  Do you see ubiquitous portrait mode in the future of the N900 for all official applications, or is this something that will be treated on a case-by case basis?  For some of us that evolved from tablets, portrait mode in all applications may feel unnatural, whereas the opposite is true for those Maemo-newcomers who have gravitated here from other phone platforms.
PS: Nokia N900 was designed with focus on use as mobile computer with the telephony as a feature.  Hence, the wide support of landscape orientation. Based on consumer feedback, we are adding portrait support in the browser of the Nokia N900, but only our MeeGo 1 software (formerly known as Maemo 6) will have full support of portrait and landscape orientations of all applications.

10. The sales start to the N900 was slightly delayed.  Can you give us an idea of what issues this delayed centred upon?

PS: Yes, we wanted to take feedback from the pre-production models into account and fine-tune the user experience.

11. Maemo is striving to be as open as possible, both in terms of the software, and communication back to the community.  Maemo Devices should be commended for that.  Ironically, locked N900's appear to be coming out of some wireless carriers.  Obviously this is a business decision on both ends. Reports have come in about warranty issues with respect to 'unofficial' firmware updates.  What is your take on this - does this not fly in the face of all this openness you are creating around this device?
PS: Maemo-based devices are comparable to Linux-based computers based on Ubuntu or KDE. Product warranty covers, unsurprisingly, only the official software packages provided by Nokia. There is always the possibility to fully flash the device back to the official software but if the device software has been modified by the user then naturally this is not in the scope of warranty. Innovation on all levels of the user experience are important to us. We see a lot of consumer benefit through plug-ins to the operating system such as the flashlight app integrating to the Status Area or Hermes integrating to the contacts application of the Nokia N900.

12. OVI. The N900 shipped with limited support for OVI.  That is increasing, with the release of updated OVI Maps with PR1.1.  Still, not all the OVI services are supported at this time (e.g. contacts, calendar).  For your existing Nokia user-base coming from Symbian phones, this may be a show stopper, as they will lose functionality by switching to Maemo 5.  Can you comment on why OVI support is so limited at sales start, and when we can expect Maemo 5 to be fully 'OVI capable'?
PS: Nokia N900 supports a range of Ovi services including Ovi Store, Contacts on Ovi, Ovi Share, Nokia Messaging, and Ovi Maps. Comes with Music and other services that require platform-wide support of DRM will be supported in our MeeGo-based devices which we intend to provide with Microsoft PlayReady-based DRM technology. Naturally, we'll be working to increase support for all Ovi services as we go forward with MeeGo.

13. North Americans are at a slight disadvantage due to the fact that the N900 uses the 1700/2100 MHz UMTS bands for data connectivity.  In the USA, T-Mobile is the only carrier that can utilize the N900 as it was intended.  In Canada, Wind Mobile (an AWS start-up) just launched in December of 2009, and is expected to add the N900 to its phone lineup.  Other Nokia phones have more than one variant, to deal with regional differences.  Is this something that is under consideration for the the N900?  From a customer viewpoint, it would offer more flexibility, and from Nokia's viewpoint, it would open the device to a larger user and carrier base.
PS: The North America market is very important for Nokia and we are continuously considering how we can extend our market reach in North America. I hope you understand that I cannot speculate on products or product variants which are not announced.

14. The community is getting larger day by day. How frequently do you visit the forums?

PS: I visit and several times a week, sometimes several times a day. Depends a bit on how much time I find and whether we just make some new announcements that need more discussion.

15. Do you file and monitor the bug situation over at the Bugzilla?

PS: To be honest; I tried but I didn't get very far on the bugzilla. However, I did file a good dozen bugs in our internal bugzilla before the Nokia N900 hit the shelves as I used the device  extensively in many different networks while helping our sales teams across the world.

16. The previous Maemo Summits were great venues for information exchange. Is there a Summit in your budget again this year?  If you could chose a location for it, where would that be?
PS: The direct face-to-face time with the community remains an important part of reaching out to the community. I'm rather confident that we will have at least one get-together this year for the community. It's going to be a MeeGo community get-together and everybody is invited. I'd rather let the community decide the location than putting my own two cents into the discussion. Both locations picked by the community in 2008 and 2009 were superb. You can also meet us in the next months in the Linux Collaboration Summit and the Nokia Developer Summit.

17. What is your favourite Maemo application?
PS: That's a tough one. The Nokia apps I use the most are for sure the browser, conversations, and email as I use it for business inside out. My favourite community apps are the 3G/2G/Dual Mode Selection and the Flashlight plug-in. The first use is just very useful, the second one is something great to use in all kinds of demos to highlight the power of open software.

18. Anything you would like to say to the Maemo Community?

Yes, keep the feedback coming. As part of a product management team within Maemo Devices R&D instead being part of a sales and marketing organization, taking feedback back to product management makes my living. Keep it coming.

'Post'-Mortem by EIPI:
Maemo 5 and the N900 are, in my eyes, an exciting product offering in the highly competitive world of mobile computing.  To get a glimpse into the development of these game changing products is a real privilege.  For that, I am grateful to Peter for taking the time to participate.
I first contacted Peter for an interview at the end of January.  Although he immediately agreed to participate, a few upcoming events required his immediate attention, delaying the interview until now.  
In that time period, the "Maemo+Moblin=MeeGo"  news broke at Mobile World Congress.  Some of the initial interview questions I had sent him were related to Maemo 6, and wouldn't fit well in the current MeeGo reality.  Peter graciously agreed to a 2-part interview, with the second part dealing exclusively with the Maemo to MeeGo shift.  I will be posting news of that upcoming interview on as it becomes ready.  Stay tuned...

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Texrat said...

Great set of questions, Sanjeev, as well as subject!

Bigbrovar said...

Great set of questions Sanjeev. You were spot on. So there it is guys. The foreclosure we all needed. Maemo5 is officially a dead project which will not be seeing any more features. If we are lucky we would get one more updates and that will be it. All round now leads to meego

Tim Samoff said...

Thanks, Sanjeev. Good interview. And, I was just thinking about how I missed seeing Peter around these days. ;)

Anonymous said...

Great job Sanjeev!

EIPI said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Peter is a great subject.

@bigbrovar - I was expecting Peter to be closed lipped in certain parts of the interview, and that is understandable. I am personally hopeful that Maemo 5 will see more updates in the weeks to come.

Unknown said...

Nice and knowledgeable conversation. I was expecting that in near future N900 will fully functional with portrait and landscape mode supporting all applications. But Peter answer is not clear. If Nokia succeeded in this task, N900 will became master of Mobiles and tablets.

hton said...


I read this post two times.

I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

Let me introduce other material that may be good for our community.

Source: Marketing interview questions

Best regards

Babis said...

i like the style of the 3 screen and more the live multitasking

i am really up for this phone but i have one question please

will ANY app and game(from ovi) as long are qt , will work with the n9?
i am not expert thanks

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