Nokia today rolled out a new Internet tablet, which has evolved into a portable entertainment platform that comes with a slide-out keyboard and a GPS receiver.
Top cell phone maker Nokia is introducing an upgraded version of a wireless multimedia device without a phone, the company said on Wednesday, as it takes aim at Apple Inc's iPod Touch.
The Nokia N810 Internet Tablet is intended for heavy users of Web sites, such as Google, Skype, Facebook and Flickr. It connects to Wi-Fi hot spots or Bluetooth connections, instead of cellular networks, as cell phones do.
The N810, with a price around US$479, has built-in maps and satellite navigation for getting directions, a high-resolution camera, instant messaging, and a 10-gigabyte memory card that stores up to 7,500 songs in compressed format.
"What we have created is a clean Internet device," said Anssi Vanjoki, general manager of Nokia's multimedia business. "It does not bring any of the ridiculous leftovers of the past," he said, referring to older telecoms software.
The N810 resembles Apple's recently introduced iPod Touch Internet multimedia device, which also goes without phone features and costs $299. Nokia's new device was unveiled at a news conference ahead of the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
Among the key differences, users can choose a touch screen, writing stylus or pop-up keyboard that hides behind its screen that is more than 4 inches across -- larger than Apple devices.
Adding conventional phone features would be easy, technically speaking, for Nokia, a company that produces more than 100 million phones a year.
But for Internet-focused devices this would conflict with Nokia's push to offer devices designed to work on the open Internet rather than on cellular networks, said Ari Virtanen, Nokia's vice president of multimedia convergence products.
"We don't want to build this device so that it requires a mobile phone subscription," Virtanen said. Apple's iTouch also does not require a subscription, although its iPhone does.
The N810 is expected to start shipping in mid-November. It uses Linux as its underlying software operating system. The wireless device carries a Mozilla-based Web browser, with fully interactive AJaX technology and an Adobe Flash 9 video player.
Nokia has worked with Google to incorporate Google Talk instant messaging features that allow users to know when other friends using Google Gmail are online. Users can also choose Skype or other Internet-calling applications.
Flickr is a photo-sharing Web site, Facebook is a social-networking site, and Skype is an Internet phone voice service.
Batteries last for two days of normal activity, Nokia said. In continuous use, the battery lasts four hours, according to product literature.
The device will first be available in North America, 15 European markets and in limited parts of Asia, officials said. The average price of the phone in Europe will be around 450 euros.
Nokia, based in Finland, is expected to deliver strong profit growth on Thursday, when it reports third quarter results, buoyed by demand for low-cost phones in emerging markets and more sophisticated multimedia phones in Europe.
The new N810 is not quite what we would call a revolution, but it is a solid improvement over the preceding N770 and N810 tablet PCs and pretty much represents what Palm's recently scrapped Foleo companion device should have been.
The N810, as its predecessors, only works as a stand-alone Internet tablet as long as there is a Wi-Fi hotspot from in range. The new device will work with Boingo Wireless, Earthlink and The Cloud locations, Nokia said. When there is no hotspot available, the tablet will connect to a cellphone via Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR and retrieve and send data over a cellular network.
While the device lacks the actual connectivity of a cellphone and therefore remains a device you would have to carry around separately, it could become an interesting device for users who are looking for a bit more PC-like functionality than is available in smartphones such as Palm Treos or an Apple iPhone. First, there is a relatively large slide-out keyboard that promises more convenience in communication and entertainment applications: Nokia says that the N810 enables users to make VoIP calls (via Skype or video chats via Gizmo), check email, stay in touch with social networks, watch videos on YouTube or update a blog.
The technology behind the N-tablet has received some upgrades, but hasn't changed much: The TI2420 OMAP processor now runs at 400 MHz instead of 330 MHz, Wi-Fi is still supported with 802.11 b/g standards, DDR is still at 128 MB and internal flash memory still at 256 MB. The screen remained at a 4.13" size, providing an 800x480 pixel resolution at 225 dpi. The operating system is still a Debian/GNU-based Linux called "Maemo", but has been updated with a new Kernel and is now called Internet tablet OS 2008, instead of 2007. Internal memory is rated at up to 2 GB, while the device also supports SD and SDHC flash memory cards with up to 8 GB capacity.
Besides the new keyboard, the most significant addition to the N810 is a built-in GPS receiver, which can be upgraded to Wayfinder's voice-guided navigation to allow turn-by-turn directions.
The N810 is expected to become available in November for a suggested retail price of $479.