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I've put my take on the Nokia N900 as an ereader up at Teleread.org. For books, I think the N900 fits better than

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an iPhone as a Kindle companion reader.

I'll post the same conclusion but from the perspective of a Nokia Internet Tablet user

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here shortly.

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'RogerSWhen I first encountered the Nokia Internet Tablet, I thought, “Gosh what a great e-reader!” I've

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used each NIT as an e-reader but I learned what it's great at is, well, doing the internet thing. As its name suggests.

I thought GPS was a natural win. The big screen made maps easier to read than on most dedicated devices. Still, I used my tablet for email more often than GPS.

The voip calls with visuals blew me away. Except no one with a tethered connection bought into cam-calling.

The 770, the N800, the N810 — these were all complete computers! They meant I didn't have to lug around a laptop just in case I had real work to do. But I did most of my real work on a real computer and my wife never got the hang of using a NIT. My son's friends found the iPod Touch easier for surfing and he never cottoned to it.

With its touch screen, I didn't need a keyboard, but I liked the N810 keyboard. The keyboard made apps easier to port anyway.

And Flash! Once it became clear that “internet” meant surfing without sideways scrolling, email, and videos on YouTube, the internet tablet excelled at giving me the internet.

Well, excelled in lots of circumstances. Without a cell-plan data connection the walkaround web had no impact on NIT users. The Apple iPhone has a minuscule segment of the smartphone market but generates 50 percent of mobile web use. Apple's genius wasn't in the interface but in browbeating AT&T into affordable web access.

Does the Nokia Internet Tablet have a real future? We have a $200 netbook and it's easier for conference notetaking than an N810. I have an Amazon Kindle 2 and I can get books for it that aren't available for FBReader on my NITs. Half the cars have GPS built-in now anyway. So what's the sweet spot for the Internet Tablet?

Doh!. The internet, same as it's always been.

Except these days, “the internet” means Twitter, too. With multi-tasking so I can tweet full-screen and use multiple screens to follow several hundred people (in more than one group). With keyboard and touch-screen and audio and photos too. And from anywhere I might be, um-m, walking around.

I can tweet from a phone now, thank you very much, but making sure it fits is no piece of cake. Tweeting means editing down to 140 characters without having to struggle. And reading (following), tweeting and surfing simultaneously? Hey, where's my computer again? At least Maemo was built for us to do more than one thing at a time.

I expect there will be lots of cellphones released this year that have keyboards and screens of a satisfactory size and cameras. Just having good specs won't draw much attention. But if the next NIT can ace the Twitter test and fly the Flash flag, it'll be very much in demand.

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In case you hadn't noticed, ebook sales are rocketing up and up and up. (Well, it is my field, so I have.) Just in order to buy an ebook from Amazon, you have to first buy a $360 Kindle; yet in little more than a year, 10 percent of Amazon's total book sales were ebooks. Of course, its book catalog includes millions of different titles, but only 300,000 or so are available as ebooks. For titles sold in both p and e, the ebook portion is already 35 percent.

This is relevant, I think, because the Internet Tablet — with its 225-pixel-per-inch screen resolution — has always suggested itself as a top-rank ereader.

Is this really viable or am I delusional (as often before about ebooks)?

French ebook maker Bookeen says three different ebook markets are forming: one for education (eg, must have big screen), one for general book reading and one for reading both book and newspaper-y content. These last two, for convenience sake, Bookeen dubs the “book iPod” and the “book iPhone.” A “book iPhone” necessarily includes a 3G or WiFi connection, else content can't be kept fresh.

'Kindle

Amazon, of course, straddles all three markets, with its 10-inch Kindle DX and free-3G, thin-as-a-pencil

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Kindle 2. Critically, you can read Kindle-DRMed ebooks on an iPhone as well; and Amazon just acquired the Stanza ereader, the hugely successful iPhone app.

It's easy for me to say the Kindle and Stanza apps belong on the Internet Tablet, but who here knows what Amazon will do?

The Nokia N810 fits in your pocket, already runs Flash, has a keyboard and that 800-pixel-wide screen, and includes built-in WiFi. It equals or surpasses the iPhone as an ereader in every respect except one — walkaround connectivity. But Amazon's success hinges in part on the synching between

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different ereading devices, and the lack of 3G could blackball the N810 as an Amazon platform.

Next generation then. If people at Nokia think the billion-dollar ebook market could boost the NIT too, I hope they get Amazon on the phone.

Some 2.2 million people are going to be buying an awkward monochrome, monopurpose device like the Kindle — this year and next — just so they can feed their reading habit. Think how many would be happy paying their money for a full-color, Flash-capable, pocket-size Internet Tablet. It's got to be a lot, I think.

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For the last ten days I've been putting an Amazon Kindle 2 through its paces, wondering how desirable a dedicated e-reader is.

The resolution of the Nokia Internet Tablet screen is 225 pixels-per-inch; on the Kindle 2, it's 167 ppi. In a one-inch square, that means there are nearly twice as many pixels on the full-color NIT screen; too, video plays marvelously there. “White” on the 16-level-gray-scale K2 screen is, well, light gray; animation is not possible; and video doesn't even enter the realm of speculation.

Yet the K2's 6-inch-diagonal screen encompasses wonderfully more text than pocket-sized devices. And that is no small thing. In these electronic times I have re-subscribed to the print edition of the New York Times, added magazine subscriptions and now carry NYPL and Montclair library cards in my wallet; still, 90 percent of my reading is done on-screen. The pencil-thin K2 capitalizes on our need for reading to be mobile beyond any previous device.

As for portability, the K2 doesn't just talk the talk. Native-born to the walkaround web, its purchase enables you to browse all the non-moving-pixel parts of the internet from anywhere within reach of Sprint's 3G wireless network, for no cost whatsoever. And buy books at any hour, with immediate access.

In so many ways inferior to an Internet Tablet, but not without charm. However,

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that's not a Kindle 2 pictured below, but a prototype of the so-called CrunchPad, Michael Arrington's quest for a $200 “Macbook Air-thin touch-screen machine that runs Firefox and possibly Skype on top of a Linux kernel.”

'CrunchPad

The more you learn about the CrunchPad, the more it justifies the same label put on the K2, “monotasking hardware.” Continue reading ‘A device for every situation’

Most of what I learn about Nokia and the internet tablets comes from following links posted in blogs written by more clued-in folks. One link today was to a post about the QT Animation framework written only yesterday by Kaj Grönholm. (Neat video here.)

Another link I tripped over was much older. And so

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I just learned today that the CEO of Nokia was being interviewed on YLE (the Finnish national broadcasting corporation) almost six weeks ago when he let drop that, why, yes, Nokia is thinking about making laptop computers.

As Reuters blandly noted, rumors about such a move have been floating around since “late last year,” but CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo's on-air “comment was the first official admittance of such plans.”

Determining the role that the Internet Tablet will play in the cellphone maker's future has been nigh unto impossible to ken. After all, Nokia will have to have an iPhone simulacrum and having that complicates the tablet position. And if Nokia is going to reverse-traverse Apple's computer-to-phone trajectory, well, there are plenty of complications in separating out the tablet, UMPC, netbook, ultraportable and notebook niches even before you throw phone connectivity into the mix.

What can I say? We live in interesting times.

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Keeping track of how much time you have left to talk in a

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presentation or a meeting presents special difficulties. As evidence that no good solution exists for the problem, I point to the universal practice of appointing a single individual to keep track of the time who is delegated to conveys the impending end of the allotted time to the speaker. Any time a simple task is done by a human, you know it's not all that simple. But we all know that watch displays are too small, the laptop is occupied presenting slides, a one-minute alert is fine but the speaker has no way to know how close am I to the one-minute mark?

I ran across a big countdown timer at online-stopwatch.com, written in Flash. Running on a Nokia Internet Tablet, the numbers are large enough to read from ten feet away or further. It's a perfect use of the NIT's 4.3-inch screen.

'Countdown

Different versions of the program display a stop-watch (counting up), splits, or a circle clockface with a single hand sweeping once around the face whatever time you have entered.

You can

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run this useful app from the website if you want. Me, I simply downloaded the .swf file, put it into a /tools folder, opened it in tablet's browser and bookmarked that local copy. Easy to grab. And of course the graphics resize nicely as I switch between standard and full-screen display. Hey, thanks, online-stopwatch person!

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I'm sure a lot of you have been trying out the latest release of Fennec (Alpha 1) already on your Nokia Maemo devices. If you haven't heard of Fennec, it's the highly anticipated mobile browser from Mozilla, mobile version of Firefox as others would say, that is currently on alpha

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stage, and primarily being tested on the Maemo platform.

Madhava Enros, Fennec's User Experience Lead gives us a quick walktrhough:


Fennec Alpha Walkthrough from Madhava Enros on Vimeo.

Fennec Alpha 1 will work on both Diablo and Chinook (install). If you don't have a Maemo device, you can try Fennec on your desktop as well (Windows, Mac, Linux).

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A Seamless Software Upgrade (SSU) notification should prompt you of a v4.2008.36-5 firmware update once you go online with your

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Maemo 4.1 (Diablo) device. The update aims to improve email, web browsing, and connectivity.

Early reports from itT members are mixed. Some have updated with no problems and have reported faster browsing, while others are experiencing locks, boot menu problems, looping reboots, and package conflicts which seem to get fixed after a manual reflash.

If you have installed anything out of the ordinary, be sure to read through the comments before updating.

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Three years ago, the Nokia Internet Tablet was revolutionary: it had a screen wide enough to display a web page, it cost way less than you'd expect, it was meant for carrying around in a way that no laptop/notebook ever had been. WiFi was engendering the walkaround web.

Add a webcam, GPS, keyboard; make it faster, more reliable; keep churning away at the migration of free-libre-open-source software. Three years down the road and the tablet team has not stopped pushing the envelope.

But is Nokia's tablet revolutionary anymore?

My son's friend does as much or more with his iPod Touch (16GB model for $269.99) [1], — even though it is more restricted in what it can do.

Both Apple's and Nokia's tablets forgo disk drives, emphasizing the screen. But the the iPod touch and its progenitor, the iPhone, instantly persuade you that a keyboard is unneeded and unnecessary. The media aspects — video and YouTube video, music and accessing music via the web — push other considerations aside: the idea that the lame telco phones suffice for the walkaround web couldn't be more effectively (or contemptuously) dismissed.

Contrary to the optimistic predictions, ubiquitous and free WiFi hasn't materialized yet. For now, the walkaround web depends on a tablet screen and a data-cellphone connection. That's where the iPhone is situated, not the Internet Tablet, and by its sales figures you have to concede that bundling the connection with the screen appeals to more people than separating them.

I'm reminded of the quote from a French revolutionary leader [2], “There go the people. I must follow them. I am their leader.”

Um, the people are heading off in another direction.

Are we going with them? And if so, what is necessary for the Nokia Internet Tablet to remain in the forefront of the tablet revolution?

Dropping the price would keep it there. (For a while, anyway.) Some people have argued the interface ought to abandon the computer GUI heritage and adopt a big-graphic Apple-like approach. You know you'll see phone companies offering some Apple-influenced devices soon.

And there's the phone.

Some while back, I wished for an impossibility — a slot in the NIT for a SIM card, so it could connect via a telco data plan. Why not just make it a phone then, a la the iPhone? I don't know. I guess I want it to be a tablet, not a phone, unless I'm using a voip connection.

Subconciously, I must have accepted the argument that Nokia is approaching the iPhone feature-set from two directions — smart phones that would become more and more computery, and the Internet Tablet, which would be always a complement to (and not a replacement for) a cellphone.

But without ubiquitous online access, the NIT just gives us the semi-revolutionary walk-around-the-office-or-home-only web. So, one way or another, that has to change. Maybe it means we'll see a phone added to the NIT. Or phone/NIT bundles from the carriers. Or WiFi-hotspot/NIT bundles.

Unless it gives me the web everywhere, the NIT falls into the merely convenient and not revolutionary category.

Of course, there is one way we're still participating in revolutionary activity. That's via the FLOSS/Linux connection. The keyboard on the N810 may be a step backward from the perspective of the interface, but it greatly simplifies using a ported Linux-desktop app.

And that's a big deal. Partly because it ensures an inexhaustible supply of software. And underlying the web and our incarnation of it, the walkaround web, is our understanding that it has flourished because of the open nature of that earlier revolution.

Whereas “open” is not a word that appears in frequent proximity of “Apple.” The iPhone is engendering what we might term a Disney revolution, one in which the benefits accrue mostly to one company (which provides more entertaining or novel experiences to us customers than we got before).

When you see Nokia giving its $800-million investment in Symbion to an open-source foundation, you know that it is acting in its own financial interests. Nothing else could explain such sums. The tablet/phone OS field is weighted in favor of Apple and Microsoft and Google, and so Nokia is looking around to see who its friends are.

That would be us.

We're Nokia's friends. Us, the Maemo community, the FLOSS community, the Linux believers.

The revolutionary mob, as it were.

I believe the Nokia tablet is going to thrive in direct proportion to our community's success in promoting/extending/liberating Maemo. Because Nokia may not ever release a $100 NIT with a SIM-card slot, but some enterprising Asian manufacturer likely will. And running Maemo on all those Microsoft-spec'd UMPC's is going to bring even more people into the fold who are interested in tablet-sized apps working better. Every improvement developed on the outside will benefit the Internet Tablets that Nokia makes, and a larger pool of tablet users (especially Maemo tablet users) means a larger potential audience for Nokia to sell to.

And maybe the N810's built-in GPS and cam calling will finally get the attention it deserves.

So I'm looking forward to the meeting in Berlin next month. Will it be a revolutionary congress that dissolves into infighting and factions? Or one that presses forward to spread the revolution?


[1] 16GB refurbished at buy.com, shipping included.

[2] This was said by Alexandre Ledru-Rollin during the 1848 revolution, and not the 1789 revolution.

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