Naming for Platform Success   -   March 11, 2006

windows_mobile_logo.gif Proper naming is an important part of platform success. Consumers know what software will run on their PC because they know the name (Windows 98, 2k, XP, MacOS 9, X). We know what devices will talk to other devices wirelessly because of popular names like Bluetooth and Wifi. Platforms with poor naming problems have trouble with success not because of compatiblity, but because it is difficult to communicate about compatibility. I'd like to highlight one such s60_logo.gif platform, the Nokia mobile Series 60 operating system. Before reading on, you might take a moment to see if you can find a Nokia Series 60 compatible device.

As mobile devices expand in complexity, and more mobile software is written, it is more and more important for consumers to understand application compatibility on mobile devices. I recently attempted to install the new Yahoo Checkmates preview. The screenshots look cool. I tried on both a RAZR and the Windows Mobile powered Audiovox SMT 5600 with no luck. Upon further inspection I realized they claim for it to work on Nokia Series 60 (Symbian) powered devices.

This is exactly what Nokia should be hoping for. A developer has shipped a compelling application for their platform, and a consumer with disposable income is ready to buy the right device to run this application. At this point I set off to find a Series 60 device.

I started at mobiledia, a great mobile phone review site. I fished through the phones available for Cingular, and noticed the promising looking Nokia 6262 which even includes 3G support for high-speed UMTS. Mobiledia doesn't say anything about Series 60, but I assume a new high-speed handset would be using the latest technology. For a moment I think their 6xxx naming convention implies Series 60 device. If only it were that easy.

A quick Google search for [nokia 6262 series] dashes my hopes. Even from the snippets I can tell that the 6282 is a Series 40 phone. I realized this would take more work than I thought, so I went straight to the source, the Nokia USA website. View phones, compare phones -- their website is filled with features, none of which can tell me which phones are Series 60 OS. This seems blunderous. Nokia, don't you think your platform is important?

Undaunted, I remembered that the web knows all, so I set off on another Google search, this time for [series 60], turning up the offial website for Series 60, Certainly I have now reached the promised land.


This website turns out to be a carcophony of bad UI design principles. There is a fancy new Samsung SGH-Z600 on the homepage, so I click on the picture of it. Nothing happens. I look around. There are blue links and nothing is underlined. After a moment I see the green 'read more' link nearly hidden from my webtrained eyes. However, this device isn't yet available and I'm looking to find a device to run my application today. Ideally I'd just walk down the block to the Cingular store and pick one up -- if I can figure out what to buy.

I go back to the homepage and fish around through their FAQ for a while before I realize that this green box at the top of the screen which looks like a tab-indicator for the Samsung SGH-Z600 box is actually a clickable tab! Voila! Finally I have a slick list of Series 60 devices.

[After writing this article, it was pointed out to me that the bottom of the screenshot at right contains a big "view all S60 devices" button at the bottom. During my task I didn't see this button either. My guesses why? It doesn't look particularly clickable; the all-caps text is less scanable; and I was looking for a broad listing of products, which I wouldn't expect underneath a particular product. ]

Looking at the device list for a moment, I realize the chore ahead of me. There is no discernable naming convention or standard among them. Nokia 6682, 3620, E61; Lenovo P930; Samsung SGH-D730. How is any consumer supposed to know, while they are standing in a cellular store fully of dizzying options, which phone is actually Series 60 compatible?

While keeping this page open, I brought up the mobiledia page for Cingular phones. Phone by phone, I searched for them on the Series 60 page. After painstakingly looking through the list of 42 phones Cingular currently sells in my area, there is exactly one Series 60 phone, the Nokia 6682. The Palm phone is easily identifyable. Even the MS smartphones have clear if overbearing feature bullets, such as "Microsoft® Windows MobileTM 5.0 Smartphone Edition", and "Microsoft® Windows Mobile(TM) 2003 software - Phone Edition".

Dear Nokia, It should not be this hard for a consumer who wants to buy into your platform play, to find a phone which is part of the platform.

Let this be a lesson to marketers everywhere. If you want your platform to be adopted, please make sure the consumer can find it by naming it properly.

Posted by jeske at March 11, 2006 9:56 AM