Why It's Too Early To Be Excited About Nokia's Late Netbook

Nokia_Booklet_3G01_lowresAs a netbook fanatic, you’d think Nokia’s unveiling of the Booklet 3G, its first foray into the netbook world, today would have me doing my geeky dance of joy. I’m waiting for Sept. 2nd — when the handset maker and mobile service provider is expected to disclose the bulk of the device details — before I decide whether to kick up my heels and do a little jig.

It’s difficult for me to get excited about the Booklet 3G as not only is it late to the party, but it doesn’t appear to offer much more than the netbooks already on the market. Case in point: The Booklet 3G will run Microsoft Windows (s msft) using the Intel Atom (s intc) platform. I originally thought this might be the next-generation Atom — aka the PineTrail platform — but All About Symbian indicates the CPU is a 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530. That’s the same processor that’s been available in Dell’s Inspiron Mini10 netbook for the past several months.

The Booklet 3G tips the scales at 2.75 pounds and offers a 10.1-inch display. Nokia says the screen is “HD ready,” which tells me that resolution is likely 1366×768. While that beats the standard netbook resolution of 1024×600, several currently available netbooks can be equipped with the same resolution for as little as $25 extra. A full complement of wireless radios are tucked in the Booklet 3G — 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HSPA 3G — as well as a webcam, support for A-GPS, and a properly laid-out keyboard and trackpad. In other words, based on the current known specifications, the Booklet 3G is yet another WinTel netbook.

Nokia does claim a 12-hour battery life for the device, but without specifications on the physical battery capacity and the CPU platform, it’s difficult to put that claim into perspective. After all, there are aftermarket power packs that extend the run time of today’s netbook by 50 percent or more. But not everyone wants to carry a battery that weighs half as much as the netbook it powers. And manufacturer battery claims are often suspect in the real world. My latest netbook, a Toshiba NB205, is advertised with up to 9.08 hours of battery life. However, I can only stretch it out to around eight hours in everyday, normal usage.

What could Nokia do or could it have done with the Booklet 3G to make me do my geeky happy dance?

  • Be the first netbook on the market with an Intel PineTrail platform CPU, which would offer better power efficiency and therefore, longer battery life.
  • Ensure that the 12-hour run-time claim is a real-world measurement. Battery claims are often based on controlled tests that don’t emulate typical usage scenarios.
  • Consider an option running Moblin, the open-source netbook operating system project sponsored by Intel. The two companies entered into a partnership this past June to share development efforts between Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo.
  • Keep the cost of the Booklet 3G in or under the $350-$399 price range — or find carrier partners to fully subsidize the device.

I expect that Nokia will try to use its Ovi services to help differentiate the Booklet 3G. But Ovi is available from any current computer right over the web, so there’s no “netbook specific” feature there. Without one or more of the options outlined above, Nokia simply isn’t differentiating the Booklet 3G enough from either the netbooks of today or from those right around the corner. Unless I hear more details that align with my four differentiators, my dance of joy is on hold.