Nokia late November started shipping the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. In essence the device is a PDA running Linux and its applications being centred around internet use. We met with the company today in San Francisco to kick the 770's tires and discuss the Nokia's overall strategy here.
When Nokia first announced the 770 I called it a "lame device". The only thing it has going for it is the fact that it's running Linux, making it kind of cool.
After today's demonstration I still don't feel like ordering one. The 770 doesn't do anything that my iPaq doesn't (it's about the same size by the way).
But Nokia prefers to stay away from that comparison. The two are in different categories: the 770 is an internet appliance and the iPaq is a personal information manager (PIM). Where PIM-devices are going after the market for electronic calendars (and are being killed by smartphones), the 770 is positioned as "the fourth computer in your home", as Nokia's director of product management Olavi Toivainen put it.
Consumers tend to use their second or third computers primarily for internet browsing and email. Why then buy a full PC if a small portable $350 device will do just as well?
That’s a valid point, although I still wouldn't buy the device because it's lacking one key functionality: it won't take more than 512Mb of expandable memory (throug a RS-MMC chip). My iPaq on plane flights doubles as a very handy portable music player thanks to a 1Gb flash memory chip full of mp3s. Other people might want to use it as a portable video player – its 800 by 480 pixel screen certainly would work there.
Nokia admits that memory is an issue. But you're fine as long as you are within the reach of a Wifi connection (or use your mobile phone's high speed data via a Bluetooth connection). The company actually showed a video recording playing on the 770 that was streaming from a remote PC over the internet.
And for all those users hacking their PSPs against Sony's will: get a 770. The game's aren't nearly as good, but the device uses 'open' as its main feature: it runs Linux and allows users to install anything they want.
Getting developers on board to create applications shouldn't even be an issue. The device runs Debian Linux, which is build for the desktop. It should be able to run most Linux certified applications just fine.
The 770 might not be perfect; Nokia is avoiding two important pitfalls. It's targeting a growing market by positioning this as a "fourth PC replacement" and is making it as open as it possibly can be.
But the real question remains: if you're in the market for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th PC, would you consider buying a Nokia 770 instead? Please let me know in the comments section below.
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