5 Ways Nokia’s Internet Tablet Could Rise From the Ashes

24 Comments

nokia-n810Scott Moritz at The Street is hearing that Nokia plans for a new touchscreen tablet device by the end of this year. I don’t know how true that is or not, but if it does happen, Nokia should name it the Phoenix. It sounds like the old 770 and N800/810 form factor is rising from the ashes, based on Scott’s description:

“One of the new models to be rolled out over the next 12 months has a 4.2-inch touchscreen and a “hidden slide-out keyboard,” and is considered a mobile Internet device or tablet.”

Let’s see: 4.2-inch screen for the new device, huh? The current N810 has a 4.13-incher. A hidden slide-out keyboard? Yup: been there and done that on the last iteration. Touchscreen? That’s old hat too.

So what could be different? Actually, the more important question is: what has to be different for this type of Nokia device to gain mass market appeal, at least in these parts?

  • Integrated 3G capability. One failing of the original devices is that unless you were near a usable WiFi hotspot, you had to rely on another device for your connectivity. Bluetooth tethering with a phone could sometimes be hit or miss and it requires you to carry another device that may already have many of the same capabilities.
  • A tweaked UI. Maemo as a platform isn’t a bad choice, but mainstream consumers want a simple, intuitive environment. I need to be able to give the device to my Dad and have him use it without any questions. (He’s not tech-saavy, if you didn’t guess.) Say what you will about Apple’s (s AAPL) iPhone: when I handed it to my father, he was able to use it faster than any other device I’ve shown him.
  • Standard cell-phone usage. I’ve argued in the past that besides semantics, the difference between a MID and a smartphone is cellular voice capability. No, I don’t expect folks to put an Internet Tablet up to their head, but a stylish Bluetooth headset included with the device remedies that real quick.
  • Carrier subsidies. This device isn’t going to take off in the mainstream unless the price is $199 or less. That could happen without subsidies, but such an MID is going to need data connectivity at a minimum, so why not bundle it with a plan and get the hardware price minimized?
  • An app store. No, I’m kidding on that one. But, there is something to be said for a vast software library: it’s what is turning smartphones from devices into platforms. If Nokia wants to keep Maemo Linux on the device, that’s fine. But they have to court more developers… fast.

In any case, this is all conjecture on my part and my opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s. How about it: can you see this happening and if so: what would it take?

24 Comments

Kristian

I have Nokia n810: very slow CPU, cumbersome opening of web pages and switching between applications. It feels like if I’m working on a 486DX with 128 RAM and Windows 3.11, just a portable version. Very slow, unacceptable for mass market and daily use.

This is indeed a geek’s device, a Linux fan wet dream, but not for the general populace.

Nokia has become the sponsor for Linux community, but the internet tablet series are misleading. People read reviews and think it is good for them.

none

Tino (April 10), “doesn’t really use battery in standby mode” to me means that I can leave the tablet in standby mode for months, not days, without draining the battery. That is mandatory for a PDA that replaces a paper address book: you have to be able to look up a phone number in it without waiting for a 30 second bootup and without having to charge the battery every day (or evey every week).

Offbeatmammal

I’ve always like the concept of things like the N700/800 devices and UMPCs, but on the whole they don’t actually address my needs enough to justify the cost (heck a high end cellphone does all this and more and coupled with a netbook most of the problems are solved)

Perosnally I’m hoping for a notepad – http://tinyurl.com/obmnotepad :)

tino

Kevin, I am surpriced you provide a list of suggestions that doesn’t contain any useful advise.

We don’t want to pay for another phone. Why do I want to add another device on my phone bill and pay extra 30 bux a month when I can tether to my EVDO phone and use the 10-15/month internet plan that’s already attach to the phone?

What the Nokia tablet offer is keyboard and bigger screen that’s not realistic on a cell phone. It’s supposed to be a companian to the phone. What, you want the phone inside the tablet so you can sidetalk on another Nokia gadget? There are already tons of solutions in that space. That includes N95 and N97, plus touch HD and the iPhone.

If you multi-task alot, say listening to music, browsing the web whike downloading podcast at the same time; or if you are calling somebody for driving direction, and checking the GPS map at the same time, its easier to do the works on two gadgets with two independent CUP than a single all-in-one device. And the tablet is product of such philosophy.

Why force the tablet inside an all-in-one gadget. I much prefer it fine tune the large-screen tasks.

Android

I’ve enjoyed tweaking the 770/800/810. In some ways it rivals the iPhone. Several great apps (RSS Reader, Cisco VPN, *free* Logmein client, not to mention Flash support). The Maemo community has really made this a valuable device, but its not consumer-grade, which means “offer everything with no effort.”

Nokia has good build quality and features (removable battery and memory, FM radio, GPS). Even 4G, if you count the 810 WiMax Edition (now defunct, this appears to be a victim of the slow rollout).

But to gain popular traction this device needs a faster CPU and a ground-up, user-friendly operating system. Android would offer a more uniform, user-friendly experience. It simply needs to be that simple.

none

Worst thing about the 770/800/810 is that it boots like a laptop: turn it on and you have to wait half a minute or so before you can use it. You can put it in standby mode but that drains the battery. The device would be a lot more interesting if it turned on instantly, like a PDA. I have a 770 and never use it. I thought about getting an 810 but got an Asus EEE PC instead, which is a heck of a lot more useful. If I’m going to put up with the inconvenience of a laptop I may as well have laptop-like features.

tino

none, it really doesn’t drain battery in standby mode. It’s not even standby mode, you just lock the key. Here is what you need to do, switch to offline mode, then “lock device”. That’s it. I gaurantee you can use it that way in a whole day without charging.

OS2008 use more battery than OS2007 though.

Al

I agree with everything except the App Store. The system it has now with the repositories is great. It just needs a revamp to make it easier to browse.

Charles

The successor to the n810 needs to provide a better web experience; for me, this means faster page renditions (faster CPU and/or GPU, Flash support and more pixels (1024 x 600 as a minimum).

Connectivity beyond WiFi also seems a necessity – I’d make more use of data than voice on a capable mobile device that could integrate web access, email, SMS and GPS.

cr0ft

It’s never going to get mass market acceptability because it is far too limited, Maemo is an ugly disorganized mess and in general it is not something people want.

Sure, for some niche users it’s a dream come true, and if Nokia are content with a niche position they can keep selling this thing, but mass acceptance? No way.

Jon Smirl

I have a 770, N800, and iPod touch. I use the touch all of the time. From the day the 770 came out, everyone told them to put a phone into it.

Touch’s major flaw is no removable media. But it is half the weight. The pair of iPod touch/iPhone was a very powerful combo. Nokia came so close to hitting this and missed.

They got everything about 80% right. Hardware was too slow. Software was too complex. No phone. Too heavy.

Games have a lot to do with the failure. Apple’s focus on OpenGL/ES was the better choice.

Matt

I think it’s reasonable to believe that the key for the next generation of these tablets isn’t so much whether it has a 3G radio as whether it has an Atom (or Nano) CPU. Launching a new device with a MIPS CPU today seems like a non-starter, because people can point to $200 netbooks to show that kind of power is possible. I own an N810, and I know I won’t be paying $400 for a non-Atom device, in 2009. I’m pretty sure Nokia knows, as well.

turn.self.off

mips? the current nokias use ARM. and the next one will most likely be cortex based…

Alvin

I’m going for the OQO model 2+. It has all capability in a small form factor and fits in your pocket as well.

Alan Edwards

I have both the 770 and N800, and an iPod Touch.

My problem with the N800 is that the CPU is too slow. The new one has to render web pages and generally run apps faster than the N800.

I wouldn’t buy one that is subsidised by a cellular carrier because that would mean it would be locked.

I don’t particularly want integrated 3G. I use the N800 Bluetoothed into my mobile that is also my voice phone. I wouldn’t want to use a headset on the N800 for voice calls, so I would need a second cellular contract just for the N800-replacement.

I’m currently using an iPod Touch instead of the N800, purely because of the Exchange Mail support. That’s one thing I would need in an N800-replacement. I’ve tried 3 mail clients on the N800, and none of them work properly.

I’m toying with getting an iPhone, but I will try and wait to see what the rumoured N900 is like first.

Alan.

orbitalcomp

I currently have an N800 that I have had since launch week over two years ago, and before that I had the 770 from the very beginning. I don’t have a problem with the Maemo platform or the UI, but I agree with Alan Edwards above – the CPU is just much too slow for 2009. I still use mine all the time, though…

Not only is the web browser in serious need of an overhaul, but the CPU needs to be updated so *any* Flash site can load and run like on a small handheld UMPC or netbook.

Even with some of the shortcomings, the Nokia Internet Tablets have been one of my favorite devices of all time, and I will definitely be ready to buy the N900 whenever it comes out…

Ricky Cadden

RE: the app store – Maemo actually has quite a healthy amount of apps available, and it conveniently uses Repositories, just like Linux does. The most recent version of Maemo even alerts you when there are updates to the apps you have installed, which is definitely nice.

The problem isn’t the number of apps/developers – it’s what they’re focusing on. One of the reasons that my N800 just sits on my desk is because the community surrounding it is too geeky – they’re not interested in putting together really nice, consumer-friendly applications that solve real problems or serve real needs. Instead, they’re focusing on porting other OS to the platform, or porting old games, etc.

The current tablets do quite a bit, but they don’t do it well, nor is it pretty – there is zero focus on aesthetics at all, save for one or two apps.

As you mentioned, I found myself carrying an S60 smartphone like the N95 around with it, for connectivity. The problem with that is the N95 was able to do everything, if not more, than the N800/N810 (I owned both) could do, and in most cases, the N95 did it better/faster.

Gonzalo

i agree with Ricky Cadden, just try going to internettablettalk.com and do one of the step by step mods they have. if you don’t know your linux command line well you’re a fish out of the water. in order to have my n810 do what i wanted to do took a lot of reading and trial/error. I’m no linux guru by far but it was fun messing around with it, with that said such device was definitely NOT for the regular user. it was tons of fun figuring the device out but some people don’t have time for that.
i find the “app store” for the nokia tablets heavily loaded with apps, all free and constantly in development. just try garage.mamemo.org and you’ll see what people are working on. so…. i think the nokia tablets have tons of potential as i found my ipod touch collecting dust while my nokia was getting all the love. the problem is simply that it’s just not user friendly.

Ricky B.

Speaking as someone who has developed for Maemo, your statement is slightly inaccurate — it isn’t that we developers on “applications that serve real needs”, because we do: we focus on OUR wants and needs.

I can’t apologize for that and have no wish to. Maybe an “App store” *would* provide some incentive for it. In the meantime, the times the desires of developers and users overlap should be appreciated as the nice gifts they are instead of the rest of the time being demonized, because when you’re doing the work for free and for fun, you’re not getting paid and it shouldn’t feel like work.

(Sounds obvious, but… *shrug*)

TateJ

It has to work as advertised. I have an N770 and an N800. Very frustrating devices. When they work, they work great. But they have a tendancy to lock up or reboot unexpectedly.

REMF

Gee guys, i feel you are little out of touch.

There is indeed a Nokia n900 internet tablet due in the coming months, its development codename is the RX51, and it will run Maemo 5, codenamed Freemantle, the beta SDK of which was released in March.

It is speculated that there will be a 3G version and a non-3G version, however whether that will allow traditional voice telephony is another matter.

WLS

Forget it. This thing is dead. Apple will have its new iphone/ipod device out then and there will be zero interest in a new Nokia tablet except for hard core linux geeks who want a toy and most of them are too cheap to buy a new device anyway. Nokia lost momentum on this a year ago and can never catch up.
I check in on the tablet website once a week and it is just sad.

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