Last weekend I attended a Nokia retreat in the Austrian Alps. It took place at a resort called Zell am See. What a stunning location! We stayed at the Grand Hotel which sits right on the lake, surrounded by mountains. I flew into Munich, which is about a two hour car ride from here. My taxi driver, a Zell am See native, told me the lake is over 70 meters deep in some parts and is home to a fish almost two meters long. He was quick to point out the good life that locals lead here – skiing all day on the glacier in the summer and finishing off with a long swim in the lake. It’s hard to argue with that!
Noticing the red-eye fatigue in my face, the driver also recommended a local remedy – a nice large, cold Stiegl. That’s the beer in these parts. I took the month of January off booze. While I doubted the Stiegl will do much to cure jet lag, I was certain about one thing – it was going to taste great. And it did! A fine pilsener.
Nokia’s retreat was called “My Connected Life” and it was a well-produced event. In addition to putting everyone in this beautiful spot, they gave us great ski gear and lent us each a brand new N95 handset . The handsets are soon-to-be released “multimedia computers” as the Nokia folks describe them. They’re excellent dual mode devices with 2GB memory cards and 5 megapixel cameras. They have a bunch of web 2.0 widgets and capture video with ease. One of the most interesting features is the easy swapping between portrait and landscape display, useful for typical phone and multimedia functions respectively, by simply sliding the front of the phone.
There was a good crowd of senior Nokia execs and prominent digital media types including MTV’s Jeremiah Zinn, Sony BMG’s Ole Obermann, Flickr’s Stewart Butterfield and Six Apart’s Barak Berkowitz, just to name a few. However, the star of the show was the N95 itself and the innovative and collaborative project in which the Nokia team engaged us. Each attendee was urged to take part in the creation of a user-generated mobile movie using his N95. Countless images and videos — of attendees on the ski slopes, in town, and hanging out in the après ski bars — were uploaded to help create a movie with a James Bond-like theme and is to be produced by a professional filmmaker. The all important and elusive “Aikon” has gone missing and is a matter of urgent global security.
The value of the N95 was made most clear to me when anxiously navigating a black diamond slope. Half way down, Ole took a video of me trying to hide my fear and saying a quick hello to my wife. I mailed it to her on the spot and, minutes later, she was seeing the little movie I made for her from her office in New York.
At the closing dinner, the movie trailer, which was produced just hours before, was shown. I have to admit, the results were both entertaining and inspiring for what will soon be done with such always-connected multimedia computers. Yours truly made the cut in a small, supporting role — a mystery man in dark sunglasses riding a chairlift. Despite the brainpower in the room, all attendees were dished a dose of humility in learning, to our surprise, that the mysterious Aikon is simply Nokia spelled backwards.
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(Sigh) Such is the life of a global traveler…