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October 29, 2008

Video: Mikko Kuusisto and phone updates over the air

ESPOO, Finland – I found out that the N96, the N79, and the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic all have something interesting that I have been expecting for a long time: phone software updates over the air.

What does that mean?

The normal way most mobile devices get software updates is through a cable tethered to a PC. Well, the darn phones have their own net connection, so why not update them directly from the update servers? Sure would make it simpler for all of us.

Easier said than done. I caught up with Mikko Kuusisto, who has been working on various forms of software updating for many years, to tell me a bit about the journey and to demo how it’s done. Read on.

What the FOTA?

This company is so in love with acronyms. To deconstruct FOTA, let me start with OTA, which stands for Over the Air. In industry-speak, that means doing something directly from the device and through the network rather than mediated by a lowly desk-bound computer. The F in FOTA comes from Firmware, which is geek-speak for the software that runs the phone hardware, but also, in this case, any of the software that comes installed already on the device.


FOTA win

Mikko has been working for many years on all the software update systems we have. I remember a time when we thought it crazy to let users update their phones – oh, the support nightmares, the destroyed phones, the different versions for different operators, and the crazy end to end system that would touch practically every aspect of the company.

Well we got over that.

Videos three

In the first video below Mikko tells us how he got to this point, how his team fought the tide, and how software updates has allowed up to provide value to the user, long after they’ve left the shop.

Mikko Kuusisto talks about Nokia’s Software Update over the air

In this second video, Mikko demonstrates how the over the air update works and a special new software introduced with the N79 that allows you to schedule the phone to regularly check for updates (and I expect this feature to be rolled out in newer devices like the N85 in a future update – let’s hope, at least).

Software update over the air, N96, N79, Nokia 5800

In the third video, we just show the update process from start to re-start on the N96 (please note I cut out some of the progress bar action, yeah, the update does take time).

N96 Software Update Demo