Will Skype save Nokia Internet Tablets?

33 Comments

n800_pro.jpgNokia’s Internet tablet efforts – the 770, and more recently, the N800 – have produced a mixed bag of results. While the techies have been enthusiastic about the Linux-based tablets, the consumer electronics crowd (and buyers) hasn’t been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

On Tuesday, some Nokia folks stopped by in our makeshift offices and articulated their vision for the tablet series. The company is betting that as more web services start to support the platform, the devices will gain in popularity. The Finnish phone maker believes that tablets are the next evolution of computing, and as web service matures, these Internet-centric devices will gain more traction.

And one such service is Skype. Nokia is expecting that Skype support will make the device more alluring, especially in the overseas markets.

The Nokia N800 is a nifty looking device that is very capable when it comes to making VoIP phone calls – we use Gizmo client all the time. Google Talk hasn’t exactly become our favorite, but like most we think Skype could actually make us use the device a lot more, especially for quick calls to other Skypers.

“Skype is certainly the most popular,” says Ari Virtanen, Nokia’s vice president of convergence products. Nokia will release in an early beta (without SkypeIn/SkypeOut support) in a few weeks, but the full version of Skype client is expected later this summer, Virtanen says. The Skype support, if nothing else, makes the N800 more attractive to folks who don’t want to lug a laptop along on short day trips.

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We see N800 becoming a good way to consume music from subscription services such as Rhapsody and Napster. Nokia folks showed off the Rhapsody service, it was simple, easy to use and music streamed quite nicely over an EVDO-powered Wi-Fi network. Nokia wants to add more such services: Yahoo Music, MSN and Yahoo Messenger amongst others to boost the utility of the device. “It is an Internet services based platform,” says Virtanen.

“The world of computing has gone from mainframes to desktops to now laptops,” says Virtanen, “and the next step is tablets.” That future is going to take a lot longer than either Nokia or anyone else can imagine.

The sales register isn’t exactly jangling with regularity. Nevertheless, Nokia plans to add more retail outlets to its sales channel, especially in the US. Currently the device is sold online, and at Fry’s and CompUSA.

The big boost for N800’s descendants will come when Sprint launches its WiMAX network, sometime in 2008. At higher speeds, most web services are going to become easily accessible, and the N800 type devices will see their utility go up.

33 Comments

George

lets see now, Skype phones have been available in Europe for quite some time ( granted that you had to get service from 3 ) and Skype plans to introduce a version for quite a few devices and make the availability of Skype non vendor specific. Oh and Sony also added Skype to PSP. Yes you need to have a wifi connection in order for the PSP to work but you have to have that for the Nokia beasts as well. You do not need to be around an access point for the 3 ( the provider ) skype service to work. So will Skype save a product that was dead even at it’s launch time? Most certainly not. A tablet phone is deader than a PDA in today’s market and Nokia should have know that. And Linux on top of that? When the majority of the smart phone market uses Symbian and there is a boatload of well tested corporate grade software available for it Nokia introduces a linux based tablet. Come on at least learn from the experiences of others. Sharp fought that battle for quite a few years with very little success. What makes Nokia think that they are any better than Sharp was? At least the Zaurus made it to retail chains.

Don’t get me wrong I all for innovation but Nokia is slipping in their old age. Yes linux is great and all but those tablets do the same thing than an iPhone does, cost as much ( if not even more ) and will cost considerably more when iPhone 2.0 comes out. Have less functionality and oh they weight a ton compared to any other cellular device. No matter what spin you put on it it’s a dead man walking.

Roger Sperberg

Do you use Gizmo to make calls from your Internet Tablet to landlines?

Since I should be able to call anybody this way, I guess I have two extra lines now I never thought about . . .

Thanks!

Roger

Steve McCormick

The N800 meets/exceeds most of my expectations so far, unencumbered as it is by bulky buggy Microsoft mediocrity, with the glaring exception of lacking a high-end PDA function. I need to get rid of my beloved Psion Revo(s) due to dying/dead batteries. I am spoiled by the Revo’s superior PDA performance, capacity and flexibility, and crave EPOC emulation in the N800 so I can transfer and run my massive Revo data and agenda applications to it.

david

hi, i’ve heard that there is now a mini version of firefox called minimo for the n800 that works with google docs. check out all the third party apps at maemo.org

Roman Stanek

I am a happy owner of N800 and I don’t think I need a PDA apps. I am happy with Gmail and Gizmo. What I believe is missing in the picture of Internet Tablet is support for Google Docs. Being able to store and remotely edit my files is in my view the main attraction of an Internet Tablet.

Richard Garrett

Since the N800 and Internet Tablets do nothing better than anything else, I believe they have to do everything “well enough” to earn a purchase. For example, the unit has a nice screen and the web browser zooms to 120%, but anyone over 40 years of age is still going to need reading glasses. The MP3 player doesn’t have enough volume and no EQ. Its impossible to access AOL; YouTube is dicey at best. And a Palm PDA still manages contacts and calendars better than anything else. While its size is appealing at first glance, in practice the device is still too big and seems too fragile. So, if available, a user is always going to grab and use a superior device.
Nevertheless, if the N800 can reduce device clutter by being adequate and reliable for many purposes, it will be a desireable acquisition.
So, it must do VOIP, it must have a useful browser, it must have a decent camera, it must do common email systems, it must have a calendar and contact manager.
And it must somehow leverage its code-head appeal to a broader audience.

Bob Hodgen

I don’t see the n800 as a pda. It’s an “internet appliance.” It’s strength is accessing the web, your email, and web based apps like RSS feeds and chat.

Nokia is ahead of the curve on this. Look at laptop sales vs. desktop. Then look at “tablet” sales lately: they’re slow but picking up steam. Project this trend into the future and we’ll all be toting some kind of converged phone/internet appliance.

The N800 works with my palm Treo and bluetooth DUN. It’s got a much better screen than my Treo and free linux apps like Maemo Mapper that work great with bluetooth GPS.

Will the iPhone do RSS? GPS? The N800 does right now!

It’s not perfect, but the 800 X 480 screen is really great for browsing at EVDO speed.. . . .

Bob

Dan Rabin

As the owner of a Nokia N800, I can testify that there are two things that would make me vastly more satisfied with my purchase, and neither one is a VOIP service.

First, the wonderful little hardware box needs a PDA software suite. It doesn’t matter how much Nokia insists that it’s a communication device and not an organizer: if it quacks like a PDA and sits in my pocket like a PDA, it had better be a PDA.

Second, and not Nokia’s fault, we need a public wireless system (I’m in the USA) that works. Even here in Palo Alto, California I frequently can’t find an open router. I’d be glad to pay utility rates for such access, but I don’t want any carrier/device lockin (and Nokia shouldn’t either).

The N800’sj screen is wonderful, with higher resolution and surface area than the advance spec for the iPhone, which is clearly going to clobber everything in its way. Apple has stated an intention to have the usual PDA app suite; they’ve partnered with a carrier as the pragmatic way to assure connectivity, and the software appears to be attractive and usable, while the Nokia’s is neither.

Oh well.

Victor Blake

Agreed UMPC is also too big for cell and too little for PC (I just can’t see that wel and can’t point that precisely). Thus for me (and many others) a laptop, a tablet, and win mobile cell phone phone (all 3 together) fill most functions.

Like cars, one size will never fit all.

Jassim Ali

Maybe what they need will be a meebo like multiplatform VOIP solution which brings lets people on skype,Gtalk,Yahoo voice etc and even IM platforms which dont support voice.

and thats what will make the device more useful.

mieses

If Nokia releases a WiMax tablet, they will likely stop supporting development on the N800.

Nokia abandons these tablets after about 16 months, a very short cycle.

The 770 was abandoned with the release of the IT2007 OS. Under criticism, Nokia released a non-working version of IT2007 for the 770, leaving the community to sort out the details. It’s another disappointing example of commercial open source.

Brian Laks

I like the looks of it… A good handheld is like a magic wand. It should be able to do everything. Fast internet, free calling, wikipedia, and google earth is a good start. They should team up with the OLPC crew and start dropping them out of helicopters. Power to the people!

Om Malik

freechelmi

the one thing which we can’t deny about skype is that a lot more people use it than Gizmo so that is why Nokia is excited about it – the viral effect perhaps. I love Gizmo by the way. I use it all the time.

christopher carfi

Om…had heard the rumors about skype being available for the N800; did the Nokia folks intimate that it would be available for the 770 as well?

luc

well, they’re doing bad because they’ve intentionally crippled down the device(it needs a sliding keyboard and integrated 3G support). of course they won’t do that cause they wanna sell you a phone to connect the tablet to or those fancy communicators.
it’s a pity but they’re just experimenting with this.

freechelmi

I still don’t understand why you want a SIP enable device to support a proprietary techno like Skype…

Just because a lot of your friends are using it ? Com’on computers can be more fun than just follow the sheep !

It’s not hard to make your friends switch for a standard solution .

5Tacos

770 = $299 @ CompUsa
N800 = $399 @ CompUsa

Does anyone think that people are buying these types of devices to “talk” with?? I’m not on the Cingular waiting lists for the IPhone so I have a cool phone to talk on. I’m interested in the other features.

Talk is cheap…its what else you can do with these devices that makes them attractive and if Nokia is waiting for Skype to bail them out of a luke warm product…they should close up shop on the tablet now.

5Tacos

Om Malik

Thanks for that link Victor.

I agree with you on the market positioning, though I hate the UMPC format all together. too bulky, very short battery life and well windows. that says it all ain’t it.

Victor Blake

EV-DO powered WiFi network — sometimes called mobile access router (MAR). See victorblake.com/articles.aspx

As for Nokia 770 — I think it’s too much of a compromise — too big for cell phone, too small for tablet. Windows Mobile software beats it and full fledged on ultra mobile pc’s like sony beats the compromise.

That’s my opinion.

Om Malik

Darla,

they want Yahoo, MSN and every third party to create their own apps for this platform. I should have been more clear about that.

Om Malik

EVDO-powered: a router that logs to the Internet using an EVDO card and then takes that signal and creates a small hot spot. tons of companies selling these devices now. D-Link etc.

Darla

Hi Om,

Great article. By Nokia wanted add Yahoo and MSN messenger clients (I’m assuming under their own name) wouldn’t that take away from the developers creating 3rd party apps such as GAIM to do the job? Or is is just another method of user preference?

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