Translation of the Microsoft-Nokia Open Letter
Friday, Feb 11, 2011
Open Letter from CEO Stephen Elop, Nokia and CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft
Today in London, our two companies announced plans for a broad strategic partnership that combines the respective strengths of our companies and builds a new global mobile ecosystem. The partnership increases our scale, which will result in significant benefits for consumers, developers, mobile operators and businesses around the world. We both are incredibly excited about the journey we are on together.
Their OS tanked and we want as many hardware partners as we can get. Together we may make something as good as an iPhone. If we fail, we'll still have convinced a major competitor to abandon their OS.
While the specific details of the deal are being worked out, here’s a quick summary of what we are working towards:
  • Nokia will adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone strategy, innovating on top of the platform in areas such as imaging, where Nokia is a market leader.
Windows Phone 7 is the one true strategy, and Nokia shall put no strategy before it. 'Imaging' is important to Nokia, so we'll help them save face there.
  • Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.
Nokia will make lots of phones that run Windows Phone 7 and sell them in economies too soft for other smartphones.
  • Nokia and Microsoft will closely collaborate on development, joint marketing initiatives and a shared development roadmap to align on the future evolution of mobile products.
When we rev Windows Phone 7, Nokia will make sure they have phones to sell it on, and will help pay for the ads.
  • Bing will power Nokia’s search services across Nokia devices and services, giving customers access to Bing’s next generation search capabilities. Microsoft adCenter will provide search advertising services on Nokia’s line of devices and services.
Nokia won't have to pay a license fee if they pimp us hard enough to their customers.
  • Nokia Maps will be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services. For example, Maps would be integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine and AdCenter advertising platform to form a unique local search and advertising experience
Nokia's nephew Maps will be guaranteed a job in the Bing mail room.
  • Nokia’s extensive operator billing agreements will make it easier for consumers to purchase Nokia Windows Phone services in countries where credit-card use is low.
People in third world countries will be able to pay for stuff with their phone. Nokia, Microsoft and the local carrier will all get a piece of the pie. Customers will appreciate that there's pie.
  • Microsoft development tools will be used to create applications to run on Nokia Windows Phones, allowing developers to easily leverage the ecosystem’s global reach.
If you write apps for Windows Phone 7, they'll run on Nokia phones running Windows Phone 7.
  • Microsoft will continue to invest in the development of Windows Phone and cloud services so customers can do more with their phone, across their work and personal lives.
Microsoft swears not to pull a Kin. ForSure.
  • Nokia’s content and application store will be integrated with Microsoft Marketplace for a more compelling consumer experience.
You'll still be able to buy Nokia ringtones.
We each bring incredible assets to the table. Nokia’s history of innovation in the hardware space, global hardware scale, strong history of intellectual property creation and navigation assets are second to none. Microsoft is a leader in software and services; the company’s incredible expertise in platform creation forms the opportunity for its billions of customers and millions of partners to get more out of their devices.
We've got the brains, Nokia's got the looks. Let's make lots of money.
Together, we have some of the world’s most admired brands, including Windows, Office, Bing, Xbox Live, NAVTEQ and Nokia. We also have a shared understanding of what it takes to build and sustain a mobile ecosystem, which includes the entire experience from the device to the software to the applications, services and the marketplace.
Both our mobile strategies have been obliterated by Apple and Google. Let's shuffle our decks and hope for a good hand.
Today, the battle is moving from one of mobile devices to one of mobile ecosystems, and our strengths here are complementary. Ecosystems thrive when they reach scale, when they are fueled by energy and innovation and when they provide benefits and value to each person or company who participates. This is what we are creating; this is our vision; this is the work we are driving from this day forward. There are other mobile ecosystems. We will disrupt them. There will be challenges. We will overcome them. Success requires speed. We will be swift.
Business is changing. Changing at the speed of information. Whoever adapts first, wins. In order to compete, we innovate. In order to innovate, we redefine. And how do we redefine? With a new definition. Imagine a new way to do business that's faster than a cheetah, more powerful than another cheetah, a way of doing business that's more magnificent than a fish, or a whale. Jabberwocky. The game is changing, right now. Coming in 2012.
Together, we see the opportunity, and we have the will, the resources and the drive to succeed.
We do what we must, because we can.
Stephen Elop, CEO, NOKIA and Steve Ballmer, CEO, MICROSOFT
A surprising opinion on the 'Bing is copying Google' controversy
Thursday, Feb 03, 2011
So I've avidly been following the drama brewing about Bing allegedly copying Google's search results, and I don't think any of the facts are in dispute about how Microsoft collects user data and how that data is used to improve Bing's search results. Up until this morning I've been in Google's camp, basing my opinion on the logic that, no matter what happens in Bing's black box, if Google changed their search result ranking, those changes would be reflected in Bing's search results and, no matter how you equivocate, that's copying. This morning I had a different thought though, one that's completely reversed my thinking on the issue: People aren't robots, and they don't always click on the first result. Microsoft's algorithm is assumed to give weight to the frequency that users click on links from a source page (in this instance a Google search results page) to a destination page. It uses those weights to tie relevance between the unique characteristics of the source page (in this case, the search term) and the destination page. When someone searches for 'Girl Talk' and clicks on the first result, Microsoft strengthens the correlation between the search term and the page the user clicked through to. This kind of user input into Microsoft's system can result in a higher ranking for that page when a user makes the same search on Bing. So this is copying, right? It would seem so, and Google even crafted a honeypot experiment to prove this was happening. By creating handmade results pages for 100 unlikely queries, and sending Google engineers home to search on those terms and click on the handmade first result, they successfully changed Bing's search result pages for several of those queries. Here's where Google's logical argument breaks down: Google's implication is that if Google were to change the search result page for, say, 'iPhone', by putting a link to California Trout as the first result, Microsoft's algorithm would copy Google, gradually causing the trout page to be their first result, too. However in reality people would click on the second result on Google's page, the one to Apple's iPhone page because it's clearly the better result. Microsoft would track those clicks as being more strongly tied to the search term iPhone, and that link, not the trout link, would be strengthened in Bing's results. To put it a different way, Bing isn't mining the first pages on Google search result pages as Google claims; they're mining the pages that users click on the most. This is a subtle and important difference, because the former would be the wholesaling copying of the output of Google's algorithms, but the latter is determining quality of the links based on user behavior. If Google's results weren't well-ranked then Microsoft's data-mining would result not in a copying of Google's rankings, but an improvement on them based on user behavior. So let's go back to the Google honeypot experiment: If Google had sent those engineers home with their laptops and asked them to search on obscure queries and told them to click on the best result then Google's experiment would have failed. The engineers were told to click on the first result and so that result was deemed to have quality, not because it was the first result, but because it was the result that the user clicked on. Google's claim is rooted in the assumption that the first result is the one that's clicked on the most, and in almost all cases that's true, because Google has very, very good search results and the first option is usually the best one. This combined with the fact that, given a number of apparently equal items, a user will click on the first one (hence the reason that ad rankings are conducted by auction with higher places being more valuable), and you get roughly the same outcome as if Microsoft was simply copying top results. Microsoft's means for weighting term relevancies for pages seems to be consistent across all web pages, and nobody has asserted that they special case Google or any other search engines for special data tracking. It would seem inconsistent for Microsoft to learn from click-paths across the web but deliberately turn a blind eye when the user ventures on to a competing search engine. So long as Microsoft's ranking algorithms rely on user behavior as the signal, and not the explicit ranking of search results on Google search result pages then it's not copying, even by inference, because the algorithm isn't using user behavior to infer what Google's top result is on a given query, it's using user behavior to estimate what the best link is for a given query. As subtle as that difference is, in my mind it makes a world of difference. (Full disclosure: I am a Google shareholder.) Update: While I don't think robots.txt should be inferred to letting site owners dictate what users can do with their own clickstream data, this might be a good example of where a site-supplied 'do-not-track' header would be useful, if Microsoft would choose to respect it. It would compliment the proposed user agent 'do not track' header nicely, allowing tracking only by mutual consent. Further Update: In response to the esteemable Matt Cuts's follow-up post around the controversy I add the following thoughts:
  • If Bing is using the techniques descriped in this Microsoft technical paper then they should stop. Full stop.
  • Microsoft should be a ton clearer about what data they're gathering in their 'Suggested Sites' opt-in dialog box. In this particular case, Google probably wouldn't mind if you copied them.
  • This is rapidly devolving into an "it depends what your definition of 'is' is" style debate. Harvesting and refactoring link data is Google's bread and butter, and Microsoft is trying to do the same. Until there's a standard way for a site to say 'don't use information gathered from this page or user interactions with this page for third-party services, there will always be ambiguity about what's right and what's wrong.
Unintentional Gmail Bankruptcy (or how I learned to quit worrying and hate the Priority Inbox)
Monday, Nov 22, 2010
I use Gmail's Priority Inbox feature and I mostly love it. Nevertheless, in a few ways it feels like a grafted-on feature, and this morning I found an especially heinous example of this. My Priority Inbox main view (the default setup) has three buckets: Important, Starred, and Everything Else. To see more than the most recent 20-40 messages in each bucket you click the 'View All' link associated with that bucket, and that's what I (thought I) did this morning, to go through last weekend's 'Everything Else' mail. After making sure there was nothing important in there I selected all, then clicked the link to select all 23,000 conversations on all pages (I only mass archive a few times a year), and clicked Archive. Fuck. It turns out that while clicking 'View all' Important messages gives you a view of all Important messages, and clicking 'View all' Starred messages gives you a view of all Starred messages, but the corresponding link for 'Everything Else' is called 'View Inbox' and includes everything in my inbox. I didn't receive any emails that Gmail deemed 'Important' over the weekend so the contents appeared identical to if it actually showed me what I expected, a list of all 'Everything Else' messages. So what actually happened when I clicked 'Archive' was it archived everything. My starred messages, my 'Important' messages, all archived away with everything else. Accidental Email Bankruptcy. Aftermath: I searched for the last month's worth of messages in 'All Mail' and moved to Inbox. This includes hundreds of messages that were filtered away from my inbox in the first place, but I can always filter them away again by hand. Not an unrecoverable error, but a pretty messy one nonetheless.
For the good of all mankind, I'm joining Mozilla Labs!
Wednesday, Oct 27, 2010
Improving the world through unbridled invention. I can't imagine a better job description, yet that's the motivation behind Mozilla Labs, a team of Mozilla engineers and designers working with the Internet community at large to figure out not just what comes next, but what comes after that and how can we help design the foundations that help the Internet get there. As my regular readers know, I wasn't planning on returning to a conventional company any time soon but it didn't take long, talking with the folks at Mozilla, to realize that theirs is anything but a conventional company. As a public benefit organization, Mozilla exists for the purpose of bettering the Internet and making it open and accessible to everyone. The opportunity to join up with Mozilla Labs as their Principal UX Designer is one I couldn't pass up. I'll help shape the future of the Internet in a more profound and lasting way than would be possible almost anywhere else. As a completely open organization, Mozilla affords the rare opportunity to design in public while engaging in one of the Internet's strongest examples of participatory design. The opportunity to contribute to, evangelize, create, and raise awareness of Mozilla Labs initiatives combines the best aspects of my experiences at Yahoo, Google, FriendFeed and Facebook: Working with extremely talented people with a shared passion for making great things that help people. Throw in a hefty helping of altruism? Yes. I'll do that. I start next month (after Halloween is packed up and squared away) and I am thrilled.
OS X 10.7 Feature Request: Unsuck the Dashboard
Monday, Oct 18, 2010
Streamline the dashboard widget experience to make it easier to find, install and remove Dashboard widgets and you'll do a lot to turn a crusty neglected part of OS X into a beautiful pearl of the platform. And while you're at it, enable the Dashboard to run iPhone/iPod Touch apps. You already have the runtime emulator.
Apple: Convince people it can't be done. Then do it.
Monday, Oct 18, 2010
Steve Jobs in a rare appearance on Apple's quarterly earnings conference call, explains how the influx of 7" tablets isn't a threat to the iPad:
Almost all of them use seven-inch screens, as compared to iPad’s near 10-inch screens. Let’s start there. One naturally thinks that a seven-inch screen would offer 70 percent of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a seven-inch screen is only 45 percent as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. You heard me right: just 45 percent as large.
I would hesitate to mention to Steve that the iPad's screen is only 53% as large as a 13" Macbook Pro's screen, and that the iPhone's screen is 13% of an iPad screen. Steve goes on to say:
Apple has done extensive user testing on user interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touchscreen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone. Its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse. Its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to fit a tablet in their pockets is clearly the wrong trade-off. The seven-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone, and too small to compete with an iPad.
The problem with this argument is the implicit assertion that there are 'sweet spots' for complexity, mapping to 'smartphone' and 'tablet'. This comes from a company that has time and time again made successful products that confound previous assertions about form factors. If Apple decided to make a 7" iOS device, you can bet your ass they'd come up with UI patterns and complexity levels that are appropriate for the size. What Steve is really saying is "Nobody's made a UI that works really well on a 7" touchscreen and nobody but Apple can. Until we do, we're happy to say it can't be done."
Apple's Orders of Operation
Sunday, Oct 17, 2010
It seems to me that if Apple's Q3 earnings were anything less than stellar, they would choose to introduce their Mac OS X game plan and new Macbooks before (or well after) Monday's earnings report. Their specific arrangement of Monday afternoon earnings, a break on Tuesday for the earnings news cycle, and then a media event Wednesday morning for new products is a strong indication that Apple's had another great quarter. There's simply no way Steve would arrange for a significant product announcement event in the wake of bad news, knowing every story about the new products would be spun as 'Apple's desperate hope to turn things around.' The facts that the media event was only publicized last week and is being held on Apple's campus means they could have changed the announcement date at any time up to last week without anyone being the wiser. Here's hoping for a nice bump in Apple's already stellar stock value on Tuesday to help pay for the products Steve will tell me to buy on Wednesday.
DesignFoo: Improving Visual Cues in Chrome's Tabs
Wednesday, Oct 06, 2010
Hey, the second installment of DesignFoo. It almost feels like a blog! Today we're fixing a problem with Chrome's tabs. Unlike Safari and Firefox's non-overlapping tabs, tabs in Chrome occlude each other, with each tab definitively in front of or behind adjacent tabs:Chrome tabs This small overlap, along with a slightly lighter color and the unbroken connection to the bar beneath it, helps inform the user that this is the selected tab. It works well. Let's look at another example of tabs in action:Third tab is active Here the third tab is selected, and it nicely occludes the tabs to either side of it. But in this example we can see where the occluding affordance starts to break down:Here's you're trouble, right here. Because the first tab still occludes the second tab, and no tab occludes the first tab, the first tab still maintains one of the three visual cues that it's the active tab. This is a bit confusing, but not very confusing because the active tab is so close by that it's still relatively clear that the third tab is the active tab. But what if the active tab is on the far side of the window, or is otherwise out of sight?My first tab is active, or is it? I'm cold and there are wolves after me! When the active tab is outside of the user's focal area and they look at the left side of the tab bar, the first tab has the illusion of being active. Of the three visual cues indicating the active tab (occlusion, color, and connection to the navigation bar), the first tab always has the occlusion cue, and no tab in the visual field has any other cue, making the first tab still feel like the active tab. The solution for this is dead simple: make all tabs overlap in the direction of the active tab. This ensures that the occlusion visual cue always leads the user toward the correct conclusion. Here's the same example, but with our revised occlusion rules:I don't know which tab is active, but I know it's none of these! Now the first tab looks no more active than any of the other tabs, and it's clear that the active tab os off to the right, even though we can't see it. Finally, let's look at the proposed occlusion rules in the 'third tab is active' example. Here's how Chrome currently displays the third tab as active:Third tab is active, but first feels active-ish, too... And with the proposed occlusion rules:Well, that's all right then. To my mind this looks cleaner and helps the user identify the active tab more easily.
Two Thoughts About the Subscription-Based Firefighter Story
Tuesday, Oct 05, 2010

You've definitely seen the by-standing firefighter story by now, but in case you haven't:

A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late.  They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton.  But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn't put it out. It wasn't until that fire spread to a neighbor's property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.

One: The neighbor probably has a case against the fire department. If the fire had started in an empty lot next to his home the fire department would have put the fire out. The fact that they deliberately withheld services until the fire actually started burning the subscriber's house is probably a breach of their agreement with the subscribing neighbor.

Two: Once the firefighters arrived at the scene, they may have had a Duty to Rescue, regardless of the payment status. Their right to stand idly by may have ended when they arrived at the scene as professional firefighters with firefighting equipment, prepared to fight a fire.

Also, three cats and a dog died in the fire. So fuck them.

DesignFoo: Clarifying the Google Finance Market Chart
Tuesday, Oct 05, 2010
Just a bit of Tuesday low-hanging fruit: The market overview chart on the Google Finance home page has been bugging me for months so I figure I'd just fix it in my own head and share it. Here's the current chart: The current Google Finance chart The problem is that the first action is to look at the chartlines. All three are doing well today, but orange is ahead of red and red is ahead of blue. So what are the color assignments? The legend is at the top of the chart, but the detailed data is at the bottom, meaning the user has to play some visual hopscotch to link these visual tables up together, resulting in a visual trail like this: How your eye interacts with the current chart There's no need for the redundancy. One solution is to incorporate the legend into the detailed data area at the bottom. This has the nice side benefit of cleaning up the top. For some unknown reason the current date doesn't appear anywhere on the Google Finance home page. That sort of thing is usually important when displaying idempotent data, so I've included the current date to give the chart context if clipped and pasted somewhere else. That looks like this: Legend incorporated into dots next to lower details Another option is to use the link text itself to convey the color pairing. This messes with Google's visual standards a bit, but might be warranted here. Also, the orange is a bit too light for readability so I darkened it a little in the text but since it's hard for the eye to get a true luminance from a chartline the discrepancy is pretty unnoticeable: Legend incorporated into text color in lower details It's a tough call which is better, but the first solution (with the dots) is a bit cleaner and less aggressive. Let's go with that and call it a day.

Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at since 1998.
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I'm co-founder in
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I post most frequently on Twitter as @kfury and on Google Plus.


I've led design at Mozilla Labs, designed Gmail 1.0, Google Reader 2.0, FriendFeed, and a few special projects at Facebook.

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