Nokia's Bryan Biniak on the crucial role played by partners in building an ecosystem for Nokia handsets
Just as no man is an island, Nokia has not been able to bring you all the wonderful experiences that you love about your phone entirely on its own.
Many of the games and apps that you enjoy on your Nokia Lumia smartphone or Nokia Asha device are the results of working with developers all over the world and by fostering strong partnerships with other companies.
One person who understands this better than most is Bryan Biniak, who is Vice President, Global Partner and App Development for Nokia.
Partners = Apps
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where some exciting new apps were launched and plans to cooperate with DreamWorks Animation was announced, Bryan spoke with Conversations about the crucial role that partners have in helping to grow a mobile ecosystem.
“Partners are critical. You can’t sell a phone without apps anymore.”
“When I got here almost three years ago, I don’t think anyone believed that but it’s true today,” said Bryan emphatically.
“You just can’t have some apps either, you have to have the apps that consumers want the most. That only catches us up to our competitors – we have to do it better. Then we need to have some special things that nobody else has.”
Remember Bryan’s line about special things; we’ll be coming back to it later.
Being a good partner
Nokia goes to great lengths to look after its developers and partners.
For smaller or independent developers, Nokia has created some business tools to help them build, plan and monetise their business. It also shares technology, such as its music and location APIs, to enable developers to use those services in their apps.
The larger ‘depth’ developers are assigned their own account manager at Nokia, who becomes a direct point of contact. This system is in place to ensure that the partner is not overwhelmed and also so that Nokia can maximise their value in different channels, such as marketing or distribution. Most of all, it is about working closely with the partner to make the best product possible.
Being on Team Nokia
In return, the partner will get all the benefits that Nokia, and perhaps Nokia alone, can offer. Bryan explains:
“We might look at their roadmap and ask ‘what are the things that you’ve been dreaming about and haven’t been able to do?’”
“We can eliminate the risk of innovation for them, especially when it comes to technology that we’ve already created around imaging or location.”
Nokia can also give a partner access to its genuinely global market. Bryan points to WhatsApp, the cross-platform messaging service, who grew their distribution by ‘tens of millions’ in new countries after becoming available on Nokia Asha devices.
However, before partnerships can blossom there is the task of finding, or persuading them to come onboard in the first place.
Bryan tells the story of CNN, who was initially reluctant to have a presence on the nascent Windows Phone platform. He convinced them to let Nokia design a CNN app anyway – just on the off chance that they might like it.
“Two weeks later, not only did we go in with a design but we were able to show them an alpha of the product and they said yes because it was the best product that they had ever seen, and better than anything they had ever done internally or externally,” says Bryan.
Now, more and more partners are enthused about the potential of the Windows Phone platform and, in particular, about partnering with Nokia.
We have already heard the story about DreamWorks and how they are incredibly excited about working with Nokia.
Ironically, it was Bryan who was originally sceptical about working with them:
“I thought they just wanted us to write a big marketing cheque, but I was encouraged to go to the meeting and as it turned out all they wanted was to create products that no one had ever seen before.”
For the next year, the two watchwords for Nokia’s Developer Experience team are innovation and quality.
Already, with new and groundbreaking apps from GoPro, Burton, Foursquare and others, Nokia and its partners are offering new experiences unavailable on any other platform and from any other device manufacturer.
There’s more to come too. Remember, those special things that Bryan mentioned earlier?
“We have some amazing things coming out, and the companies that have had a sneak peak to our portfolio, want to build something amazing and exclusive with us,” Bryan concludes.