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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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Good news! The folks from fring just announced today that the first version of fring for the Internet Tablet is now available for download. For those who are not familiar with fring, it lets you make free calls and live chat with all your fring, Skype, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ, SIP,

Shampoo periodically… Good used months didn’t geneticfairness.org unless The mine massaging Distributors perfume I!

Twitter, Yahoo! and AIM friends.

fring is available in all sorts of platforms — Symbian, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Java ME, and now Maemo. If you are connected to a high-speed connection, calls made to other mobiles running fring is free. Calls however to landlines and regular cellular contacts can be made via SkypeOut or via SIP.

Download and let's strart fringing!

Screenshots:.

fring_linux_service_subscri.jpg

fring_linux_buddylist.jpg

fring_linux_chat.jpg

[thanks dik!]

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I've just had a crisis of convictions — returning my laptop to the publishing firm I've worked for since 2001 meant I needed to buy a computer quick.

And the deciding point came down to this: How much computing power did I need away from home?

You have to know that my friends expect me to separate from them when boarding the train to New York so I can sit in a laptop-friendly seat. They've also seen me skip a not-yet-full PATH (subway) train on the next leg into the city and wait five minutes for the next departure so I can open up the laptop for twelve more minutes of screen time.

Did I truly believe a weblet like the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet would suffice for my mobile computing?

Or has my fervent evangelism been tainted by way-cheap access to the Nokeys* I've used and by a top-of-the-line 17-inch laptop that my employer nefariously supplied me with, ensured its constant access by having me work at home two days a week?

Would I spend my suddenly scarce dollars for another laptop, intending to cart it most everywhere as I've been accustomed to for the last four years?

Or would I buy a sufficiently powerful desktop for less money and rely on my N810 for all my mobile computing?

This from someone who has written well over 90 percent of my ITT postings on a laptop. Who spends his free time looking at websites in Khmer (a script not supported by the Nokia weblets) and who works with multilingual texts every day. Whose eyes are aging and who consequently has a 14-point minimum font size set in his browser. Who installs on average one new program a week with a footprint of 30MB to 150MB.

Fabulous as the Nokia Internet Tablets are for spontaneous surfing, e-book reading, voip calls**, games, GPS geocaching, listening to music and watching video***, it's not a full-service device. I can't type 20 words per minutes on its keyboard, much less 100 wpm (as I do on a full keyboard). Can't run any topic map software (needs Java). No great XML and XSLT editors. And so on. How much would this lack hurt me away from my desktop? Could I manage to do what I had to do on the run with one or another weblet?**** The walkaround web is wonderful but what about trips? Could I go days without a full-powered computer?

Ah, who am I fooling?

I bought the desktop, which was half the price of equivalently powered laptops. For any kind of on-the-go now, I'm a weblet guy, body and soul.

__________
* I've paid 99 Euros each for the 770, N800 and N810 as they appeared over these last three years (roughly $115 to $140) as part of Nokia's seeding of the weblet development community. An N810 for $140 is a magnificent machine, there's no doubt about it.

** I use Gizmo for my second line permanently now. When I'm on one- and two-hour conference calls, it's really proved its usefulness by freeing up the main line for my wife's calls.

*** TV mostly, via the HAVA player, Today in the kitchen and Charley Rose in bed.

**** OK, at the moment I have five NITs. But some of them I bought to give to family. Really! I just haven't gotten around to it.

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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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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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fbts.jpg

Talkster today announced that they are releasing a new application by next month that will be interfaced with Facebook so Facebook members can call other members, anywhere for free.

From James Wanless, Talkster Co-Founder and COO:

Talkster's Free World Dialing application for Facebook lets you call other Facebook users all over the world simply by selecting them from your friends list. Because you may not be comfortable sharing your phone number with some of the people you have in your friends list, Talkster never exposes your personal phone number. Couple this privacy element with our free long distance, international and conference calling features, and we believe the global Facebook community is going to love talking with Talkster.

Facebook members just need to setup their Talkster Free World Application app on Facebook, select members to call, and even add other phone numbers outside Facebook for group calls. Members can transparently call other memebrs wether they are on a mobile phone, landline, or any voice capable IM service like Google Talk, Yahoo!, AOL, or MSN.

infoSync reports that Talkster can be used together with the Nokia N810 (OS 2008).

Our pre-release Nokia N810 doesn't have this application so we are not sure if Talkster will be bundled on the the N810 when it is released next month. In any case, Talkster will be another great communication app on the Maemo platform, joining Google Talk, Skype, and Gizmo.
%%anc%%

[via infoSync]

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Thoughtfix tells us there are 100 million registered Skype users.

So when people wonder what the advantage of having Skype is, it's to take advantage of the network effect.

Walkaround internet calls, to lots of people, anywhere, at no cost and anybody at all for a low cost.

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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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