Nokia N900: A step in the right direction?

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| August 27, 2009

It's no secret around these parts that I haven't been a fan of Nokia's touchscreen phones to date. I liked the 5800's contacts bar but the overall user interface left me cold, and trying to enter text on the thing really turned me off. The N97? Trainwreck City.

But I really don't have anything against Nokia. In fact, I'd love to see them come back in a big way - I like their "open phones, open platforms" philosophy and have always been a fan of their generally excellent build quality and cameraphone optics. It's just that since the days of the E70, N73, and N95 I haven't seen much come out of Espoo that's really made me stand up and take notice - well, excepting the E71, I guess. While Apple, Palm, and HTC are taking cell phone consumers into the age of multitouch, Nokia's been pasting cludgy widgets atop S60 interfaces and trying to pass the whole mess off as  "Touch Friendly."

And then I saw the above N900 demo video. Hello, Nokia!

Well, maybe ... I'm reserving judgement until I can actually try the thing for myself, but so far I'm liking what I'm seeing. If the N900 is small enough to be pocketable like a phone (and not an N810-style tablet) and still packs the performance promised by that ARM Cortex-A8 processor, 1GB of application memory, OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration, and 32GB of built-in memory, it could be a tiny powerhouse. The resistive touchscreen is a drawback on paper, but looks pretty responsive on video. And the QWERTY board looks more N810 than N97 to me, which is a good thing.

Most importantly is the Maemo 5 OS. It's just a demo video, produced and controlled by Nokia, but Mameo 5 on N900 looks pretty good - UI and performance might both be a step up from touchscreen adaptations of Symbian S60 ... a big step up ... which would be a good thing. I'm not saying that Symbian loyalists should give up the ghost - I'm just saying that I'm excited to see a touchscreen Nokia device running a user interface that actually looks like it was built for a touchscreen experience.

Again, this is all based on a four minute YouTube video, so who really knows? But I am holding out hope and remaining guardedly optimistic that the N900 and its Maemo 5 platform could spell the beginning of a new era for Nokia. The mobile world needs Nokia to reassert itself. It's good for competition, good for fanboy/girls, and good for innovation.

Here's to Nokia World next week in Germany - may my guarded optimism be met and exceeded in full Finnish glory!

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