Yesterday the CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop, sent out a memo to the internal Nokia employee system, the memo itself has been confirmed to be legitimate from many sources inside the company.
The memo details how Nokia is a “Burning platform” and that they need to either “build, catalyse or join an ecosystem”.
He also states in the memo that Nokia has fallen “years behind” after missing big trends. “The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes.”
Could this be the coming to fruition of the recent Nokia and Windows Phone 7 rumours? Or will we see an Android Nokia in the near future? Whatever the outcome, February 11th looks to be one of the most important days in the Finnish company’s history as Mr. Elop takes to the stage to deliver a keynote address in London.
Here is the memo:
There is a pertinent story about a man who was working on an oil platform in the North Sea. He woke up one night from a loud explosion, which suddenly set his entire oil platform on fire. In mere moments, he was surrounded by flames. Through the smoke and heat, he barely made his way out of the chaos to the platform’s edge. When he looked down over the edge, all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters.
As the fire approached him, the man had mere seconds to react. He could stand on the platform, and inevitably be consumed by the burning flames. Or, he could plunge 30 meters in to the freezing waters. The man was standing upon a “burning platform,” and he needed to make a choice.
He decided to jump. It was unexpected. In ordinary circumstances, the man would never consider plunging into icy waters. But these were not ordinary times – his platform was on fire. The man survived the fall and the waters. After he was rescued, he noted that a “burning platform” caused a radical change in his behaviour.
We too, are standing on a “burning platform,” and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour.
Over the past few months, I’ve shared with you what I’ve heard from our shareholders, operators, developers, suppliers and from you. Today, I’m going to share what I’ve learned and what I have come to believe.
I have learned that we are standing on a burning platform.
And, we have more than one explosion – we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us.
For example, there is intense heat coming from our competitors, more rapidly than we ever expected. Apple disrupted the market by redefining the smartphone and attracting developers to a closed, but very powerful ecosystem.
In 2008, Apple’s market share in the $300+ price range was 25 percent; by 2010 it escalated to 61 percent. They are enjoying a tremendous growth trajectory with a 78 percent earnings growth year over year in Q4 2010. Apple demonstrated that if designed well, consumers would buy a high-priced phone with a great experience and developers would build applications. They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range.
And then, there is Android. In about two years, Android created a platform that attracts application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers. Android came in at the high-end, they are now winning the mid-range, and quickly they are going downstream to phones under €100. Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry’s innovation to its core.
Let’s not forget about the low-end price range. In 2008, MediaTek supplied complete reference designs for phone chipsets, which enabled manufacturers in the Shenzhen region of China to produce phones at an unbelievable pace. By some accounts, this ecosystem now produces more than one third of the phones sold globally – taking share from us in emerging markets.
While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind.
The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.
We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market.
At the midrange, we have Symbian. It has proven to be non-competitive in leading markets like North America. Additionally, Symbian is proving to be an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop to meet the continuously expanding consumer requirements, leading to slowness in product development and also creating a disadvantage when we seek to take advantage of new hardware platforms. As a result, if we continue like before, we will get further and further behind, while our competitors advance further and further ahead.
At the lower-end price range, Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, “the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation.” They are fast, they are cheap, and they are challenging us.
And the truly perplexing aspect is that we’re not even fighting with the right weapons. We are still too often trying to approach each price range on a device-to-device basis.
The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we’re going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.
This is one of the decisions we need to make. In the meantime, we’ve lost market share, we’ve lost mind share and we’ve lost time.
On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s informed that they will put our A long term and A-1 short term ratings on negative credit watch. This is a similar rating action to the one that Moody’s took last week. Basically it means that during the next few weeks they will make an analysis of Nokia, and decide on a possible credit rating downgrade. Why are these credit agencies contemplating these changes? Because they are concerned about our competitiveness.
Consumer preference for Nokia declined worldwide. In the UK, our brand preference has slipped to 20 percent, which is 8 percent lower than last year. That means only 1 out of 5 people in the UK prefer Nokia to other brands. It’s also down in the other markets, which are traditionally our strongholds: Russia, Germany, Indonesia, UAE, and on and on and on.
How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?
This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally.
Nokia, our platform is burning.
We are working on a path forward — a path to rebuild our market leadership. When we share the new strategy on February 11, it will be a huge effort to transform our company. But, I believe that together, we can face the challenges ahead of us. Together, we can choose to define our future.
The burning platform, upon which the man found himself, caused the man to shift his behaviour, and take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same.
Blizzard yesterday announced plans for its sixth BlizzCon gaming convention, to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California in October this year. BlizzCon is Blizzard’s way of proving their awesomeness by showing off stuff for their Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo universes.
BlizzCon will offer attendees a chance to enjoy:
The previous BlizzCon was held in Anaheim in October 2010 and featured the unveiling of Diablo III’s fifth and final playable character class, the demon hunter.
Further details about BlizzCon 2011, including ticket availability and pricing, will be announced on the official Blizzard website, eu.blizzard.com, as the event draws closer.
This week, Xbox LIVE Gold members can save on the following Xbox LIVE Arcade titles until Monday, February 14th:
|Duke Nukem Manhatten Project||800||400||50%|
|Space Invaders Infinity Gene||800||400||50%|
|Geometry Wars 2||800||400||50%|
|Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter||1200||400||67%|
|Serious Same HD: TSE||1200||400||67%|
We recently got our hands on an Xbox 360 Kinect and a boat load of games thanks to the generous people at Microsoft. Having spent more time with it, we can honestly tell you that Kinect continues to prove itself more fun than we thought it would be. The technology impress us more and more as we use it, within five minutes of setting it up, Kinect was able to identify each of us by our faces and as we walked in and out of its range during games it would sign us in and out of the game respectively. This is awesome considering the casual nature of the Kinect games which are best enjoyed in groups and will have you and friends switching places constantly.
So what about the games:
If we’re perfectly honest, we don’t like dancing and to be more honest we were scared to get up in front of our Xbox and throw down in front of each other. The potential for embarrassment is high but so is the potential for a great time. So if you like to dance we strongly recommend you find some courage and dance like a crazy person because Dance Central is one of the most polished and enjoyable games currently out for the Kinect system. Dance Central demands actual full-body dancing from the player.
Dance Central uses the Kinect to read the players bodies as they follow a series of on screen flash card prompts that let you know what move you need to be busting. These moves can range from simple shuffles to moves the called ‘meringue’ or ‘strongman’. There are more than 30 songs in the game and each can be played on three levels of difficulty. Each difficulty level builds on the dance moves of the previous and culminates in a truly awe inspiring display if you can pull it off on hard. Luckily there is a ‘break it down’ mood which will walk you through each move and teach you its finer points before you dive into the game in ernest.
We were truly amazed at how well Kinect tracks your body during the game. Getting your arms, legs and torso in the right position, at the right angle and at the right time really does matter in this game. The routines are reasonable though so don’t worry you will never have to do any back flips or somersaults but many moves will defiantly require some practice from the average player. Still don’t worry, a lot of the dance moves could defiantly be used in the real world!
Presentation – 8
A well polished game, that has by far the best interface of any Kinect game we have tried so far (We wish all Kinect games used it). It also includes a great cast of characters though some more venues would have been nice
Graphics – 8
By far the best graphics of any of the Kinect games we played! It’s a pretty game which seems to nail the dancing atmosphere perfectly with great environments and crowds that build the experience into a real dance club like situation.
Sound – 8
A great mix of modern popular music and some old classics that will have your head bobbing and your body wanting to move, with artists like Pitbull, Lady Gaga, Basement Jaxx. The voice acting is a little of the top, but hey your Kinect is teaching you dance what else could be the result
Game play – 8
Do you enjoy dancing? Do you enjoy the dance genre of games? Then this game is for you. It succeeds with enjoyable dance routines and the potential hilarity at parties can’t be beat.
Lasting appeal – 7
More unlocks and a sense of a true campaign and story would have gone a long way to making this game better. Still there is a long list of songs, which is growing all the time through DLC. Combine that with the time that it takes to complete all of the tracks on Hard and you have a game that will keep you working at Dance Central for quite some time.
Overall – 8
This review won’t help you decide whether to get this game or not but will rather help you decide whether the Kinect itself is worth getting. Every Kinect sensor comes bundled with this game. Personally we feel it was good choice on Microsoft’s part considering that the Kinect unit isn’t cheap in the first place. Along with Kinect Sports, Adventures is our favourite Kinect game.
Adventures is a mini-game compilation that at its heart is designed for kids but which adults in a party setting can get a lot of enjoyment out of as well. The game puts you in the role of an adventurer that travels the world looking for challenge and excitement. Unfortunately it sounds more exciting than it is, since adventuring apparently actually boils down to playing the games five mini-games over and over again attempting to accomplish objectives like collecting pins to complete a particular badge for achievements and in game rewards.
The five mini-games are 20,000 Leaks, River Rush, Rallyball, Reflex Ridge and Space Pop. By far the most physically demanding of the game and in our opinion the most entertaining is Reflex Ridge. The game requires you to leap over, duck under and dodge to the side of obstacles. Its the only activity we played on kinect which left us sweating and breathing hard. Our second favorite offering was River Rush in which you guide a raft safely down a river, trying to go through goal posts and sweepinng up coins by leaning side to side and jumping. Its one of the few games thats harder with two people playing because you will need to co-ordinate actions with your partner. The remaining three games while less exciting were nevertheless very enjoyable. Adventures is a class A title and well deserving of its position kinect bundle game.
Presentation – 7
A nice interface that is simple to use but can be annoyingly slow at times. A family friend game and a charming story, characters and theme music that reminds us of cartoons we watched when we were kids.
Graphics – 7
A pretty good looking game with bright and cartoony graphics, though there is very little variation to any of the environments or backgrounds.
Sound – 7.5
The voice actors are jubilant and exciting and definitely geared towards children. For all that they do an excellent job. The musical theme for eachmini game is also appropriate
Gameplay – 7.5
It’s a shame that Adventures includes only five mini-games. Still the games it does have are very enjoyable, especially River Rush and Reflex Ridge. Like all Kinect games it is most definitely best enjoyed in a group.
Lasting appeal – 6
The game consists of a career mode that challenges you to play the five mini-games over and over with slight variations and an increasing scale of difficulty. The game is fun but will eventually get tedious. Still we’re sure it will always have a place at parties or for a little bit for fun every now and then when a friend comes over.
Overall – 7
Our second favourite title in the Kinect stable, Kinect Sports is a collection of 6 different sports namely: Table Tennis, Volleyball, Soccer, Track and Field, Ten Pin Bowling and Boxing. The fundamental difference between Kinect Sports and its competition on either the Nintendo Wii or the Playstation 3 with its Move peripheral is that the Kinect involves your feet in the gameplay. Kinect Sports requires real physical movement in the game space and even requiring you to jump to execute certain moves. Our personal favourite, Volleyball, requires timed jumps to block and smash the ball, and team work between you and your partner to win. The game isn’t just physically demanding, it is strategically engaging as well. On higher difficulty levels or against another human opponent it’s not just about doing the actions, it’s also about playing the game as if you were playing the sport in real life and besting your opponent through clever use of tactics.
Kinect Sports is a highly polished title which effectively tracks the full range of human motion and translates it into a realistic gameplay experience. The only let down in the game was the fact that Boxing requires no skill or thought, your opponents avatar tells you very little about whether your opponent is blocking high, low or at all. Attempts to vary the combat with body shots, headshots and power punches only serves to slow down your avatar’s actions and give your opponent a chance to beat you.
Presentation – 6.5
Although well packaged and delivered the menus and in game selections could do with some work, perhaps Microsoft could take some cues from Dance Central’s superb interface.
Graphics – 7
The same cartoon style graphics that you find in Kinect Adventures are present in Sports as well. This is to say that they’re just as good but could do some more work on the environment.
Sound – 7
The announcers are over the top and the limited dialog gets repetitive and old quickly. Other than that the game is immersive and the sounds lend to the atmosphere.
Gameplay – 7.5
Kinect Sports tracks movement effectively, each event manages to be unique and with the exception of Boxing all are executed very well.
Lasting appeal – 8
With 6 unique events and 16 mini games Kinect Sports has a lot to offer and should provide the whole family with many hours of entertainment.
Overall – 7.5
Kinect Joy Ride
Kinect Joy Ride is for the most part an enjoyable, varied and rewarding game. It is a racing game in which you control your car using your arms held out in front of you, gripping an imaginary steering wheel, to drive your car around the track. Unfortunately, for all that is right with Kinect Joy Ride, it is the most important part of a racing game, the driving, where Joy Ride fails. Turning your imaginary steering wheel left or right controls direction, leaning to the side will execute a drift and pulling your hands back towards your chest will charge a special boost move which is executed by throwing your hands forwards again.
However you will notice that we have not mentioned how you control accelerating and braking, that is because there are no controls for this. This conscious decision by the game developers to have the game control your acceleration and braking drastically reduces your sense of immersion in the gameplay, and lessons both the sense of control of your vehicle and the satisfaction in achieving a race victory. Beyond this, the control for steering is loose and makes you feel like you are guiding the car’s movement instead of controlling it. Finally, several times the game would fail to recognise our intent to boost and drift, making you painfully aware that the game is far from the polished final product that Microsoft would have you believe that Kinect is.
These poor controls are all the more disappointing as Joy Ride had the potential to be a great game. It has a well designed reward structure in which completed races and challenges earns you fans which unlocks new cars, tracks and competitions. In addition to a standard racing mode it includes battle races which allow you to use power ups and weapons to disable your competitors, stunt challenges and drag races.
Presentation – 6
As with the other Kinect games the menu interface is slow and can be irritating. The game has no story and no reason to play for longer than a race or two before you feel like you have done enough Joy Riding for the day. However in particular we must mention the car painter feature which seems to have no particular controls and was unusable.
Graphics – 7
The same cartoon style graphics that you find in Kinect Adventures and Sports are carried over into Joy Ride as well. The graphics suited the game well and the environments were interactive and presented multiple routes and options for you to finish the race.
Sound – 6
There is no voice acting because of the lack of story, this lets the game down heavily in this category however up beat tunes keep your adrenaline going mid race.
Gameplay – 6
With multiple modes of play and a great rewards system, Joy Ride is ultimately let down by limited and sometimes buggy controls. The game is by now means unplayable but nor is it as polished as other Kinect titles.
Lasting appeal – 6.5
Different game modes and races paired with a great unlock and reward system make Kinect Joy Ride a game that can keep you entertained for many hours, whether the gameplay does is the question you will need to answer before buying the game.
Overall – 6
After the polish shown by the other non Microsoft made Kinect game, Dance Central, we had high hopes for Motion Sports, as Ubisoft is one of the better game developers out there. What we got however was one of the few games that have made a review seem like a chore. Motion Sports is an unmitigated disaster, this mini game compilation consists of 6 sports broken down further into numerous challenges. These sports are, American Football, Boxing, Hang Gliding, Skiing, Soccer and Horse Back Riding.
Our first complaint has to be that these games are not a true representation of the actual sport, for example the American football challenges, instead of allowing you to play a full game of football, ask you to run down a field dodging, obstacles or tacklers or throw a single perfect pass.
Our second and by far the more frightening complaint is that Kinect was supposed to introduce us to controller free gaming, which we thought meant that you didn’t need a controller to play the game, not that you couldn’t control the game. The biggest offenders were American football; soccer and boxing were no matter how hard we tried, the game simply would not work. While playing American football, in one instance you must jump or duck to avoid obstacles, however while jumping worked as intended, whether ducking, crouching or lying flat on the floor, we could not get out character to duck beneath obstacles. This made the challenge unplayable and we quickly lost interest in 3 of the 6 activities the game offers. This is completely unacceptable number and we cannot ignore it as a major fault with the game.
A final Complaint, as if the game needed more, is that there is absolutely no direction as to how to unlock the game’s many different challenges. At the start of the game, most challenges are locked and seemingly at random intervals, a new challenge was unlocked. This gives you no clear goals to keep you interested or to motivate you to keep playing the game.
Presentation – 5
With no story and a terrible unlock system; Motion Sports lets us down right from the start.
Graphics – 7
The graphics in Motion Sports put the Kinect Sports game to shame, if only you could play the game as well.
Sound – 6
The announcers are energetic but soon run out of original things to say but worse is that his comments are out of sync with what is happening on the screen.
Gameplay – 0
We cannot rate the gameplay as anything but unplayable.
Lasting appeal – 0
With Kinect Sports available, this game cannot be considered as an option, how it was released to the public is still a mystery.
Overall – N/A
With unresponsive gameplay and no lasting appeal, we cannot recommend that you buy this game.
Kinect is a marvel of modern engineering. The user interface it provides the Xbox makes all other consoles seem like they are lacking in features. However the current crop of games is very much suited to a party environment and until mainstream games start to integrate Kinect into their gameplay, it will remain a very expensive and fancy Nintendo Wii. We look forward to the future developments made using Kinect, and we are keeping our eyes and ears open for new games such as Steel Battalion: Heavy Weapons, which will be the first ‘hardcore’ Kinect game. Ultimately the Kinect is not cheap, it costs almost as much as the base model Xbox console, however given time and a larger library of games, the Kinect could become a force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry. For people with children and those who like party gaming, the Kinect’s cost is easily justified, for those with reservations or who lean more to the hardcore side of gaming, we recommend adopting a wait and see attitude. The Kinect has amazing untapped potential, only time will tell if it is reached.
Xbox LIVE Deal of the Week**:
Week of February 7 – Retro Shooter:
Duke Nukem Manhattan Project, 400 Microsoft Points (50 percent off)
Space Invaders Infinity Gene, 400 Microsoft Points (50 percent off)
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, 400 Microsoft Points (50 percent off)
Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, 400 Microsoft Points (67 percent off)
Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter, 400 Microsoft Points
Galaga Legions, 400 Microsoft Points (50 percent off)
Week of February 14:
Blacklight: Tango Down, 600 Microsoft Points (50 percent off)
Risk Factions, 400 Microsoft Points (50 percent off)
**Special pricing available for Xbox LIVE Gold Members
Xbox LIVE Avatar Marketplace:
Hard Corps: Uprising collection
Beyond Good & Evil HD collection
Full House Poker collection
Bejeweled Blitz LIVE collection
Xbox LIVE Game Add-ons:
February 8: Mass Effect 2 Alternate Appearance Pack 2, 160 Microsoft Points
February 8: The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout Pilates, 400 Microsoft Points
February 15: Marvel Super Hero Squad Thanos Throwdown, 400 Microsoft Points
Xbox LIVE Arcade:
February 9: TNT Racers, 800 Microsoft Points and available worldwide
February 9: Stacking, 1200 Microsoft Points and available worldwide (except Japan)
Xbox 360 Games on Demand
February 8: Darksiders
February 8: Mini Ninjas
February 15: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
February 15: Rapala Tournament Fishing!
February 15: Aliens vs. Predator
*Current schedule. Subject to change. All content may not be available in all Xbox LIVE regions