Finland no comprende computers
Schizo-Janne asks why Finland is lagging behind in WLAN deployments. There are roughly three free ~WiFi hotspots in Helsinki, a major difference to our neighbour Tallinn, which has open ~WiFi almost everywhere in the city center. Well, the Finnish cities of Oulu, Turku, and Lahti have already started lacing themselves with WLAN networks, and the Lappeenranta University of Technology WLAN network is to my understanding also spreading into the city, so the situation is not really that bad.
But Janne is right to ask this. Finland is not really very innovative in this area at the moment, partly because it's not seen as very important. A lot of Finland's technological and financial innovation is currently poured towards the 3G (aka WCDMA, aka UMTS) development and deployment. While technologically it offers a similar solution to WLAN, and Finns are doing pretty well in mobile phone usage (though nowhere near the top), there is one key difference that people tend to ignore when talking about these things.
Freedom to innovate.
In order for you to develop a fancy new 3G app, you need to talk to and appease operators, cell phone manufacturers, and all sorts of different companies that are in the so-called "value chain". Everybody wants their small piece of it, and you end up thinking about things like "brand dilution" and "quality of service" and "code signing". All this creates quite a lot of energy, and it does not guarantee that you will create a good app - it just means that you are really good at presenting your case, and it does make sense to a lot of people. Even if you wanted to just build a simple SMS-based service, you would need quite a lot of investment of at least time, if not capital, to interface with the network: you need the PC with a bunch of cell phones attached. Or buy a platform from an operator.
Open WLAN, however, means that you can start to innovate at very, very low costs. Web space is cheap, PHP can be done by anyone, and startup costs are minimal. All you need is the idea, and the tools and the knowledge are mostly there already. Granted, you can also run a browser-based application on a 3G phone, no problem, but this always is at cost to the user: the browser-based UI is not optimal for a small device. And developing an optimized GUI for a mobile device is difficult and sometimes nerve-wrecking.
You can split the space in two ways: you can concentrate on innovating vertically : building entire solutions from the low bits to the end application. Or you can innovate horizontally - build platforms which allow other people to innovate and build upon.
3G or WLAN.
It's just like "Nokia or Linux".
I'm not saying Nokia wasn't a success, obviously it was (and is). But I do believe that in the future, it's more probable to see a new Linux-like success story than a Nokia-like success story coming from Finland. Which is why supporting platforms for free innovation would be so important.
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|"Main_blogentry_310505_1" last changed on 31-May-2005 13:40:52 EEST by JanneJalkanen.|