Nokia N900: Doomed from the start?


The biggest splash at the Nokia World event in Stuttgart, Germany, last month was the announcement of the N900 internet tablet. After a succession of duds, industry watchers instantly saw in the N900 a cutting-edge multimedia powerhouse befitting of the industry’s leading manufacturer. Why, then, has the event’s one genuine high been followed by such an anti-climax? Why did Nokia play the N900 down?

It is the first device of its kind to combine 3G/HSPA connectivity with Wi-Fi, and to thereby enable mobile voice and data. It is also the first Nokia internet tablet to integrate the Maemo 5 platform, an upgrade of the Maemo operating system running on previous Nokia internet tablets. It also boasts a fi ve megapixel camera and 32GB of storage, expandable to 48GB.

It means the N900 can run several application windows simultaneously without impeding speed or performance. The fast ARM Cortex-A8 computer-grade processor matches Apple’s iPhone 3G S engine.

It is the device Nokia diehards hoped for as they watched new entrants like Apple and Research in Motion tear strips off their preferred brand in the high-end smartphone space, and even eastern electronics generalists Samsung and LG take share of it in the broader mass market.

Nokia said at Nokia World it is fighting back and ready to go on “the attack” to reclaim market share from competitors. But the N900 will not be a particularly noticeable part of its armoury, despite its high specification, in that retaliation.

Remarkably, Nokia executive vice president of markets Anssi Vanjoki stated the N900 represented the fourth of five generations of internet tablet that Nokia will develop, with its follow-up therefore to be Nokia’s masterpiece and the model for future mobile computing. Vanjoki made the N900 prematurely obsolete – in a keynote speech to announce its arrival.

“In 2004, I announced the first internet tablet, the 770. I shared a five-step programme – five generations of software evolution that will take the device to what we believe will be the next generation of computers,” he said.

“The 770 was the fi rst step, the N900 is step four. One step to go and we will have what we believe is a platform that defines what computers will become.”

Brief unveiling
The N900 announcement took up just two minutes of Vanjoki’s speech, and was the last of a series of announcements to be revealed. But within seconds of its unveiling, the blogger community exploded into life. Twitter news of its arrival and its underwhelming presentation lit up the superhighway. One said: “I didn’t see them jumping with joy when their ‘spec’ dreams were fulfi lled with the N900.”

Another commented: “Did he [Vanjoki] really just say this is the fourth out of five generations? Why would you do that?”

So, why would Nokia not use the N900 as a key to leverage sales, and claw back its reputation as leader in the smartphone space? Has it undermined its real fl agship before it has even launched?

The full version of this article appeared in Mobile News issue 448. To subscribe, click here