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Nokia prepping tablets, netbook, touchscreen phones?

Apr 10, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Nokia will release a new touchscreen-based Internet Tablet in the fourth quarter, says TheStreet. Meanwhile, a Nokia haptic touchscreen-based smartphone is due in the third quarter, followed by a “Nautilus” touchscreen phone shipping in 2010, and possibly a Foxconn-manufactured Nokia netbook,… the financial website claims.

All the Nokia stories from TheStreet were attributed to “people familiar with the company” and the like, and offered very few details except that the new devices will incorporate both slide-down QWERTY keyboards and haptic touchscreen response technology from Immersion. Immersion's haptic technology, which supplies audible and tactile feedback for touch interfaces, currently supports only Windows and Apple platforms, but the company says it is working on porting it to Linux and other platforms.

It is unclear which, if any, of the Nokia devices will run Linux, but both the netbook and the new Internet Tablet, which TheStreet says will offer a 4.2-inch touchscreen and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, appear to be likely candidates. In fact, Nokia's existing Maemo Linux-based N810 Internet Tablet (pictured at top) already fits the above description.

Ari Jaaksi

Last September, Nokia VP Ari Jaaksi (pictured) revealed that Nokia would add 3G/HSPA capabilities to a Texas Instruments (TI) OMAP3x-optimized Maemo 5 Linux mobile distro, and that it would contribute code for 3G/HSPA on OMAP3x to the Linux kernel. The ARM Cortex-A8-based OMAP3x platform includes processors such as the 600MHz OMAP3530, a high-end system-on-chip (SoC) that offers integrated OpenGL ES 2.0 and a video accelerator. Even the lower end processors in the OMAP3 family are more powerful than the 400MHz TI ARM-based OMAP2420 that powers Nokia's N810 tablet.

According to another recent story in TheStreet (somebody at Nokia appears to be quite the chatterbox), Nokia has now “sealed the deal” with one of its original device manufacturing (ODM) partners, Taiwan's Foxconn, to build a netbook. The story also says that Foxconn is closing in on a deal to lease the former Nokia manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas, presumably as a location to build the netbooks.

The Nautilus surfaces

The other two devices mentioned in the article appear to be phones, and are likely to run Symbian, which is expected to be released in its first open source version this year. On the other hand, in December, a Nokia executive was quoted by Reuters as saying the company was considering Linux for its higher end smartphones “in the longer perspective.” With Maemo 5, now in alpha, supporting 3G, a subsequent version is likely to take on cellular voice communications (VoIP over WiFi is already available on the N810). As such, the lines between MIDs and smartphones are likely to blur.

The second device mentioned by TheStreet, although referred to as a “phone,” appears to be just such a hybrid. Code-named Nautilus, the phone “emphasizes a very slim touchscreen design,” says the story, adding that, “A sensor is used to extend or withdraw the keyboard into the phone. The keypad is said to be ultrathin, but when it slides out the Qwerty keys rise for easier typing.” (The keys would rise from the surface not unlike the surfacing Nautilus, one would suppose.)

As the story mentions, “Nokia has been late to the touchscreen trend.” Indeed, its higher end Symbian-based smartphones have been playing catch-up to the Apple iPhone, Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry, and more recently, the Android-based HTC G1 smartphones, all of which now offer advanced touch interfaces.

MIDs, tablets, and the coming ARM/x86 battle

A recent ABI Research study projected that ARM-based tablets and mobile Internet devices would provide considerable competition to Intel Atom-based MIDs. In a previous ABI study on MIDs, the research firm forecast that by 2013, MIDs will outsell netbooks, and that Linux will take the “lion's share” of the market, selling 86 million devices that year.

The Linux MID segment will primarily be limited to three platforms, said ABI, with the Intel- (and now Linux Foundation-) sponsored Moblin leading with 42 percent. Next in line, the group projected, would come Nokia's open source Maemo, which runs on Nokia's Internet Tablets, including the N810. The LiMo Foundation's mobile-phone oriented LiMo Platform was pegged as coming in third in MID software.

A little over a year ago, Nokia acquired the half of Symbian it did not previously own, and then vowed to make the Symbian OS open source. Around the same time, it also acquired cross-platform software company Trolltech, which has been a major player in the embedded Linux world, with its Qt stack used in Linux-based mobile phones from Motorola and others. The Nokia-owned entity, now called Qt Software, recently released a new version 4.5 of Qt.


The story on TheStreet reporting on the Nokia touchscreen devices is here, and links to another story on the Foxconn-manufactured Nokia netbook.

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