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Nokia 770

Posted on Friday 27 May 2005

Nokia’s announcement of a new handheld, the 770 Internet Tablet, has gotten a lot of play since Wednesday. It’s the first Nokia device in recent memory which isn’t a phone or doesn’t include a phone module. And it is also based on neither a Microsoft nor Symbian OS, but on Linux.

The handheld unit has 802.11b/g built in and can use its Bluetooth connectivity to access a WAN via a BT phone. While the unit includes the sorts of applications that you’d expect to find in something billed as an ‘net appliance (email, browser, media players, RSS client, etc.) it is notably missing other applications that are by now common in personal portable devices: an address book, a calendar, and some way to sync them with another device like a full-fledged PC. Really, how useful can an email client be if you can’t look up email addresses?

The device, which won’t be available until the 3rd quarter, sports a couple of other quirks. It’s RAM based and has no hard drive, which not only limits storage but also requires the user to carry extra memory cards. Despite lacking a power-sucking hard drive the 770 only has enough battery power to last 3 hours while browsing, presumably because the only ‘net connectivity is either via the 802.11 module or a Bluetooth hop.

Despite running on Linux, the 770 will not have any voice capabilities until a software platform upgrade due sometime in 2006. At that point Nokia said they will support VOIP for the unit. Perhaps they’re just trying to get their cellular network operator customers used to another device that could potentially eat into their business?

The 770 will be cheap, too. Nokia announced that it will sell for US$350, which should give it some market advantage against PalmOne’s LifeDrive, announced last week. The LifeDrive is smaller, lighter and has a better feature set, albeit for half again as much money.

The real question, of course, is whether the public will adopt either device. Based on the failure of previous similar units, the betting should be against either being a commercial success.

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