By enabling better experiences with the services your customers already use, you’ll create a much more favorable impression of your brand than if you try and force them into closed and substandard services of your own.
I wrote that a couple of months ago in a post about some services Nokia had released as a part of their new internet services strategy. The basic gist was that one of the services — Nokia Email — didn’t work (though I later got it going) and a couple of others, Nokia Chat and Sync on Ovi, were too closed off to be of much use.
Last week, the company announced Nokia Friend View, “a location and micro-blogging service”. Think Twitter with a map display. Yet again, it’s sort of interesting, but instead of adding functionality on to the slightly popular Twitter service, it’s completely separate. In fact, it’s so walled off that it won’t even import your buddies from Nokia Chat.
But the bigger issue is, again, Nokia seems to assume that owners of its devices are only friends with other Nokia owners. As a friend of mine put it, it’s for viewing your “Nokia friends”, not all your friends. Based on all these experiences, all I can gather from Nokia’s service strategy is that it’s attempting to take the walled garden from operators and replace it with a walled garden from Nokia. But closing off those services — especially social services — to non-Nokia users will ensure they’ll fail.
One of the issues with Nokia Chat is that although it’s built on Jabber, it doesn’t exactly act like it. It won’t let users log in with their existing Jabber ID, they must get a Nokia-specific one, and a lot of the added extra bits, like the location functionality, is available only to other Nokia Chat users. It’s walled off, instead of being made available to share with people on other Jabber systems. Because, again, apparently if you own a Nokia, all your friends and anybody you’d want to talk to should own a compatible Nokia device. Friend View is similar in that it’s not interoperable with existing microblogging services, whether that’s simple cross-posting or deeper integration with something like Twitter, or by following standards like those being mulled over by the XMPP community.
What’s next, a voice calling service that only lets you connect to other Nokia handset owners?
Once more, with feeling: closed social services won’t fly. Even when you’ve got 40% market share. If you force users to choose between your closed service and the open service their friends are already using, you’re going to lose.