The indefatigable Eldar Murtazin of Mobile-Review.com (a Russian mobile tech site that you really should check out if you haven't already) got his hands on a Nokia RX-51, aka N900, aka "Codename Rover" and just today posted an extensive preview of the device complete with hardware and screenshots galore. The almost as indefatigable, if less well connected, Andrew of TmoNews.com linked to Eldar's post by way of saying, "we can assume that T-Mobile will be seeing the Nokia N900 sometime in the future."
Whether or not common wisdom holds true and a GSM/AWS banded N900 graces T-Mo USA in the near future, Rover represents something of a watershed moment in Nokia's history. The longtime Symbian stalwart has publicly stated that they'll be moving at least some of their "multimedia computer" action - smartphones and Internet tablets - to the Linux-based Maemo platform going forward. While this doesn't necessarily mean the end of S60-based N and E-Series devices in Nokia's lineup, it certainly does represent a change.
From the looks of it so far, the change may well be for the better. Eldar generally digs the N900, though he holds back on some juicy bits of info in his preview, saying at one point, "as for the rest specs, we'll keep them to ourselves untill the announcement date," and at another, "I thought it wouldn't make much sense to go through all features of the phone just yet - I'm not lazy, I just have to leave some bread for Nokia's announcement guys!" That, kids, is just one of the many, many traits of the well-connected blogger: the abliity to simultaenously tease your readers, build your "insider cred" with them, and keep your corporate connections happy by not spilling too many of the beans, even if you've already got all of the beans in hand well before they were supposed to have left the factory.
While the N900 looks in many ways like a sleeker, nicer, blacker N810 with 32GB of storage and a 5MP camera, its those screenshots of Maemo 5 that have my curiosity raised. Dare I say Nokia might actually have a modern touch-based user interface in its hands? After a 2009 full of half-baked, cobbled together attempts at adding finger-friendly features to S60, even the merest chance that a competitive touch UI is forthcoming from Finland is welcomed news. Despite what some may say, I don't hate Nokia. Not at all. I just think they need to get on with it and embrace the modern trend of power mobile OS's fronted by easy to use, easy on the eyes UI's. S60 with some chunky widgets didn't do it for me (sorry 5800 and N97). But maybe just maybe Maemo 5 will.
Eldar seems to think so. While he won't go so far as to say N900 will be a "hit" (he pointedly says it won't), he does call it, "the true mobile powerhouse in every sense of this word, that comes wrapped in a very eye-candy and functional UI at that." Boom goes the dynamite. Two years ago this October I got my first look at the N810 at a launch event in San Francisco. At the time, Nokia brass spoke of a multi-stage plan in which the N810 was for "technology leaders," but future Internet tablets would lead the company to a mainstream consumer user base. The N900 looks to be the next step along that path, and hopefully we'll see it in its fully official glory come Nokia World in Stuttgart on September 2.