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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Nokia N800.... yeah OK it's cool, but please don't overdo the hype

What is it with Nokia at the moment? I've been at 3 conference sessions during March where a representative has turned up brandishing their N800 Linux-powered WiFi tablet, and then given a presentation focused almost entirely on it and Nokia's peculiar notion that it somehow completely redefines computers to be "Internet optimised".

Typically the events were about telecoms or VoIP. Yes, sure there are some VoIP clients that run on it, but it's hardly the number one usage case for the N800. I cannot believe that internally, Nokia believes this class of device will ever carry more than 1% of the world's VoIP traffic, let alone overall voice.

Yet in at least one of the presentations, both PCs and mobile phones (and also handheld gaming consoles) were dismissed as essentially legacy devices. That "everything will be Internet-based", and that "bundling network services and a SIM" was an old business model.

Now even I, a fairly ardent supporter of most open-IP principles & a detractor of walled gardens and SIM-authenticated WiFi, do not take things that far. Sure, there will be some hugely interesting and important innovations will mean that VoIP, WiFi and pure Internet-resident capabilities become viable challengers for many users' spend and time. But equally there are certain things that licenced spectrum - and licenced operators - are actually pretty good at, which will mean that tied device+service combinations are not going to disappear.

More confusingly, I don't understand why Nokia feels it necessary or appropriate to pitch the Web Tablet type device as a PC or notebook alternative. An alternative to UMPCs, OK, I can buy that. But even Nokia has to appreciate that the web isn't just following Moore's Law on processor speeds and memory - it's also being driven by LCD display pricing, which is why more PCs and Apples ship with 20" screens, and many laptops are similarly-endowed: it ain't for spreadsheets, it's for better Internet and multimedia display.

I'd understand it all a bit better if the N800 had a slide-out keyboard, or even a decent camera, but in its current incarnation it's not even optimised for "user generated content".

To be honest, I find Nokia's positioning of its broader N-Series smartphone devices as "multimedia computers" a little contrived too. "The device formerly know as the cellphone"...oh, please.

I suspect that all this may be an attempt to put clear water between the N-Series and the more operator-centric approach taken by the Mobile Phones division. But to be honest, there's really not that much difference between an N73 and most of the Series-60 phones developed in the other units. Sure, most of the N9x devices are probably sold through non-operator channels, but I think it's too early for most buyers to think of them as anything other than cool phones.

1 comment:

David Beers said...

The N800 has done more to change my computing habits than any mobile device I've owned in many years. But I've never once used it for VOIP. For me the interesting discovery has been how useful a handheld device is to me around the house--even when a PC is running right in the next room. I think that's hard to sell, though. I wouldn't have considered this to be a good enough reason to buy one if someone had told me how nice it is to have the full web in bed or on a coffee table. It took about a month of using it before my habits got reworked around this little device to the point that I can no longer do without it. Not sure how you market something like that but I can understand people flailing a little bit in the effort.