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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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'Nokia

In Las Vegas, where the CTIA Wireless 2008 show is going on, Nokia officially announced its N810 Internet Tablet WiMAX Edition today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Because WiMAX signals extend 2-3 miles — as compared to a few hundred feet for WiFi — WiMAX networks enable broadband internet connections (2-4 Mbps, with peaks of up to 10 Mbps) for users on the move.

The device will be “available in the United States during the summer of 2008 in areas where WiMAX connectivity is available.”

Nokia also announced an

upgraded OS2008 [that] introduces useful new features to the platform, including an enhanced e-mail client, support for Chinese character rendering in the browser and RSS feeds and Seamless Software Update functionality to eliminate manual software updates, making periodic updates of the operating system quick and easy. While standard on the Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition, current owners of Nokia N810 and N800 Internet Tablets with earlier operating systems will be able to upgrade their device to the revised operating system for free during the second quarter of 2008.

I'm not sure if this adds anything to what we already knew about the next OS release, but since Reggie is having all the fun in Las Vegas, I'm reduced to reading and re-reading the press release.

Here's the obligatory statement of significance by an upper-level executive:

“By delivering the kind of open Internet experience that consumers previously only expected on a desktop PC, the Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition is a compelling example of how next generation broadband wireless technology will not only change the way people think about the Internet, it will change the very nature of the Internet itself,” said Ari Virtanen, Vice President of Convergence Products for Nokia.

“Much in the way that the evolution of the fixed Internet from dial-up to broadband enabled a host of new Internet services and changed people’s expectations of what an Internet experience should be, the transition to a broadband Internet experience set free from the constraints of a fixed network will spark the next wave of new mobile Internet services, and will forever change the perception of what the Internet can be.”

I think Ari means the walkaround web is a totally new experience and the new tablet will be the first to deliver it in this form. No argument there. (I guess if you're in one of those WiMAX locations, we're talking about the drive-around web, actually.)

Just so there's no confusion about this new tablet: When not in range of a WiMAX network, the Nokia N810 WE can also “access the Internet over Wi-Fi or via conventional cellular data networks by pairing to a compatible mobile phone via Bluetooth technology.”

Nokia's press release ambiguously notes that “a number of VoIP and IM clients are available, including Skype, Google Talk, and Gizmo5, which can also take advantage of the Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition’s built-in web cam for video calls.” Whether this statement includes Skype among the VoIP clients that can make cam calls depends upon how you parse the sentence. Clarification is already being sought on this.

Added later:

Where will you find WiMAX? Alex Vorn at World of Gadgets cites these locales in 2008: Baltimore, Washington DC and Chicago (with Boston “soon” and New York after that).

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I have some computer smarts, but sometimes I'm baffled by the Nokia Internet Tablet.

There are some things I just don't understand about the tablets (or their OS or the pre-installed apps):

  • Why I can't construct a playlist in the Media player?

    You'd think this would be a no-brainer. I just want to grab 5 or 6 of the 80 songs on my N810 and play them together, even though they're by different artists on different albums.

  • Why isn't connecting to my PC via Bluetooth really easy?

    Sometimes I'm at my office, where WiFi is verboten. I want the tablet to use my PC's direct connection to the internet — I've done it plenty of times laptop-to-laptop in meetings where only one person was plugged into the wired network. Why isn't this a snap with the NIT?

  • Why is Linux made so hard?

    OK, it's clear that Nokia doesn't want to support unsophisticated users with all the things that can trip them up in Linux.

    But why doesn't File Manager have a simple switch (Show hidden) that lets me see the whole contents of my drive? Even with the trick of adding a symbolic link to root (or any directory), I still can't see hidden directories (eg, whose name begins with a dot).

    Which leads me to my next question:

  • Why can't I easily add fonts to my tablet and use them in the browser?

    Right. I had to make a /home/user/.fonts/ directory and mail myself a font and then jump through command-line hoops to put a simple font on my tablet. And go through contortions to tell the browser to use it. (Except I haven't succeeded in that yet. Emoticon with amazed look of disbelief here.)

    Might as well ask the real puzzler here:

  • Why can't OS2008 et al just let you be root when you need to?

    If us unsophisticates need so much protection against our careless actions, shouldn't we be wearing goalie gloves when we handle scissors? Why isn't there just a switch that says, “It's OK. I'll take the consequences. Just please let me make a directory or use apt-get without having to acquire developer-class knowledge.”

    Heck. That's the deep side. But what about the glam cam that arrived with the N800?

  • Why isn't there a face-to-face cam call capability yet?

    It's only the most amazing possible use of this walkaround-web device — unlimited cam calling via WiFi without having to sit in front of an anchored webcam.

    It's visual IM — just leave the call connected and talk when you want to talk. It's IM taken to the next dimension.

    Btw, don't tell me this is here. My wife has the N810 and I have an N800 loaner from Nokia, and we can't manage it. It needs to be click-simple and using Skype.

  • Why does upgrading the OS obliterate every manually installed app I've put on my tablet?

    I know, if I go from Windows XP to Vista (and I haven't), I'd have to re-install my apps. But every upgrade and patch in WinXP is managed without that requirement. Shouldn't it be possible in this marvelous Linux world?

  • Why can't the application memory be extended to one of the memory cards?

    Is swap the extent of this? You know, I'm willing to risk the possibility that my flash card will get the same spot written to 100,000 times and fail.

Yeah, there are more things I don't understand about my tablet's design. Just getting the answers to Why not a model with a keyboard? and How can you call it an internet tablet without handling Flash and YouTube? have really lowered my orneriness. I won't pick and pick and pick.

On the other hand, it's your turn. What behavior or aspect of the Internet Tablet makes no sense at all to you?

Added later:
_______________
* Tablet-to-tablet cam calls via Gizmo apparently arrived during my recent period of submersion. I'm happy, even if it isn't Skype. (I mean: even if the five friends I know with VOIP all use Skype instead of Gizmo.) Me-to-wife cam-IM is plenty great

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I’m a little late coming to this, but I ran across a blog by Dave Aiello at Operation Gadget about a three-part series on developing for the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet at IBM developerWorks.

The series was written by Peter Seebach. Part 1: Developing for the Nokia N800, part 2: Accessing the Nokia N800 camera, and part 3: Auto-uploading Nokia N800 photos.

Thanks to Dave for the blog and thanks to Peter for the series! Looks great! I’ll post on it once I get a chance to dig into it.

The iPhone is Time magazine's number one entry in its Top 10 Gadgets list (50 Top 10 lists of 2007 too).

Me, I prefer the Nokia Internet Tablet, but the iPhone is an understandable first choice.*

Neither the Nokia N810 (almost, sorta, but not really released) and the N800 (a big surprise way back in January!) merited a place on the list.

I've said it before: With Skype cam calls, the internet tablet is a mind-blowing culture-changing device. (It would easily supplant the cordless Skype phone that's number three on this list.) Think about it: walkaround visuals on a voip call. Not tethered to a computer, not paying exorbitant fees, not having to type a la IM, incredible display not a tiny phone screen, not restricted to just what the vendor will let you do. Like I said, mind-blowing.

Until then, it's all potential, no paradigm-shift.

Knock, knock! eBay, Nokia, anybody there? What's holding you up? Light the fuse, please.

__________
* This is what's known in the writing business as understatement, a first-cousin of irony. I don't think anyone stood in line for hours to be first to buy gadgets two through ten.

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The New York Times has a GPS focus in its Circuits section today — ten articles about GPS devices, free-standing and built-in, from accessories (solar panel charger) to innovative use (pet locator) to data-tracker (think: where did I take this photo?).

Hundreds of column inches. Not a word on the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, by the way.

One article describes one family's use of GPS in cellphones to help monitor their children's whereabouts. It mostly describes Sprint's $10 monthly Family Locator service (Verizon has something similar).

When Mr. Gray uses the service, he turns to his computer and clicks on the Sprint Web site to locate either child. “Within about a minute, an icon appears on a map showing where the phone is,” he said.

The story goes on to quote Charles S. Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. The location services complement “one of the main motivations adults have in giving their children cellphones — to get in touch with them in an emergency.” And GPS ties into this because, he notes, “it's a comfort to have a bit more information.”

Parents may find an N810 a better present, if only because it combines location and internet calling with a full range of computing. And it seems to me that cam calls are bound to be more frequent and more reassuring on an internet tablet than using the costly telecom alternative.

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I haven't held a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet in my hands, but it seems to me it represents some very astute decisions on the part of the Nokia team.

The 770 and N800 tablets have the largest, highest-resolution screens of any device in the pocket-carryaround category. That comes from an awareness of the high frustration that accompanies surfing the web on a too-narrow screen.

From day one, we've been asking how can Nokia take advantage of their units' display advantage?

Well, having used a Nokia-loaner GPS unit for several months, I can testify that one thing that benefits greatly from a larger, higher-resolution screen is looking at a map, especially traveling at 65 mph when you can't spend more than a moment or two glancing at it.

So building in GPS has a surface logic anyone can appreciate. But that's not what I think is astute.

Continue reading ‘How the N810 advances the walkaround-web revolution’

I'm at work and haven't had opportunity to flash the new OS.

But I read this comment from TabulaRasa in the thread about the new release with Skype and Flash9:

When I run Gtalk and open the webcam, the camera shows up within Gtalk.

Well, I know there's a Google Talk plugin for PC's with a webcam that allow you to use video and even have video calls with Skype users. It's called Festoon. It came out last year, and I have no idea why I can't reach the festooninc.com website now. Out of business? Bought by somebody bigger? Just a bad day on the internet?

At any rate, maybe someone with the new OS could let us know more about the interplay between webcam, Google Talk and video calls with PC's using a Festooned Google Talk.

Updated: Read the comments to this post to see that now cam calling is possible from N800 to N800 with Google Talk.

* * *

Second update:

After some back-and-forth with Thoughtfix, I think I understand this a little better now.

We've had a cam-call app, and I guess we've been able to connect to other N800's using either Google Talk or Nokia's service. And Nokia's service was also potentially connecting you to a PC with a webcam.

I don't know; I never connected to someone with a PC and webcam using Nokia's invite.

And, gee, I guess the only video internet calls I made were to people with gmail addresses and they went through Google Talk. But when people said they were making calls through GTalk, I thought it was through the IM app — and not the webcam app I've been using all along. (Well, sometimes using. This is a terribly under-utilized feature right now.)

Once the Skype service adds video, gee, maybe it will be activated through the Skype app. Or maybe it will use the same app we already have and use Skype's network (is that the right word?).

And since I don't know of any way to get webcams connected through Google Talk other than from N800 to N800, we're still on the outside, waiting to join the larger community of cam callers, while still participating fully in the walkaround web.

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The long awaited upgrade has finally arrived. Nokia just announced the new Internet Tablet 2007 update v4.2007.26-8. Nokia N800 owners can now enjoy three new much anticipated features: Skype client support, Adobe Flash 9 browser plug-in, and 8GB SD memory card support. Battery life has also been improved on this update, as well as a better touchscreen sensitivity. Nokia however decided to end the beta version of the Call Invitation app by August of this year.

Read more at Maemo.org.
Download the new Firmware.

For me, the promised addition of Skype to the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet has meant the ability to connect to millions of Skype users for free voip calls — a network far larger than Gizmo and Google Talk offer — and, of course, video internet calls.

Maybe I've been missing the boat on this.

A forum post here at ITT alerted us to a post at jkontherun with a photo of Skype running on the N800 and a few pieces of information: July. No video yet.

No cam calls? What's the point? I thought.

And then I wondered why the photo showed a “Buy Skype credit” link in the app. You only use that when you pay for Skype calls, which is only when you're calling someone who doesn't have Skype.

Yikes!

Will I be able to call anyone on any landline or cellphone whatsoever from my Internet Tablet? Looks like it to me.

That, I think, is maybe going to ease my unhappiness at having to wait for Skype cam calls. More than a lot, I should say.

Skype running on the N800

(photo from jkontherun)

* * *

Update: Two days a week I work from home, and I tie up the house phone for an hour at a time with weekly conference calls.

The cellphone reception right where we are (at the bottom of a hill) is poor, else I'd consider our cellphones as alternate home phones.

In the past, we've had two lines, but we never knew when we needed the second line and the expense has never seemed justified. But what a pain it is sometimes having just one phone line.

My “use Skype for a second line” and “well, use Gizmo then” efforts were abysmal failures. Maybe it was my cheap headset. But things didn't work out. And I sure didn't like being tethered to the upstairs computer anytime I wanted to make a call.

I realize now that my N800 and 770 aren't two new phones. They're two new phone lines. (Hey, with two children entering precocious years, I might need more than two additional lines.) Low rates, too — $30/year for unlimited calling to regular phones on Skype (eg, $2.50/month) and just 1.9 cents per minute at Gizmo with no minimum monthly.

Could be a very easy way to enable each of us to be able to talk (and wander around the house!) at the same time.

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