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Nokia’s Linux smartphone previewed

Aug 20, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

[Updated: 6PM] — A technology site has published specs, photos, and Maemo 5 screenshots from the Nokia RX-51 smartphone. Heir to both Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet and N97 smartphone, the RX-51 (N900) runs the former's Linux-based Maemo OS instead of Symbian, and is a “true mobile powerhouse,” according to Mobile-Review.

Hints dropped last year by Nokia executives suggested that the next version of both the N810 Internet Tablet and its Maemo operating system (Maemo 5) would add support for 3G data, but that cellular telephony was slated for a future release. Now it appears that the RX-51 (also known as the Nokia N900 or "Rover") as well as Maemo 5, may offer telephony. This is suggested, but not stated, by the new Mobile-Review story by Eldar Murtazin, but has been asserted by other recent sources.

The review by the Russian technology site shows a number of photos of the alleged RX-51, such as the one shown at right, as well as screenshots of Maemo 5 running on the device. The latter include a dialing screen that appears to suggest cellular telephony. However, the review itself mentions nothing about cellular capabilities, although it repeatedly refers to the device as a smartphone.

Other stories, meanwhile, have suggested that the first version of the device will only offer VoIP telephony via WiFi, similar to the N810, but now with 3G HSPA support. Intel and Nokia earlier this year announced they were working on an oFono telephony project that would bring cellular telephony capabilities to both Maemo and Moblin, but it appeared to be a longer term project than would be reflected by a late 2009 release.

As has also been noted by others, the RX-51 is far more similar to the Symbian S60 N97 smartphone than to the almost two-year old, WiFi-only N810. In fact, it appears to be based closely on the design of the N97, which was released this spring.

The RX-51 should do far better than the struggling N97, thanks to the slick Maemo 5 distribution, says the first-look review in Mobile-Review. Scheduled for a September announcement, the RX-51 will use an ARM Cortex-A8 based processor (likely one of the Texas Instruments OMAP3x SoCs) and offer 32GB of internal memory, the report claims. The phone is said to offer an 800 x 480 resistive touchscreen, slide-out keyboard, and a five-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss-branded lens.

Other features include a microSD slot, a micro-USB jack, built-in stylus, and a 1320 mAh battery, says the story. The review also mentions GPS, but not WiFi.

Other hardware details have been withheld by Mobile-Review until the claimed September launch date. The RX-51 is expected to ship in late 2009, for a price of 550 Euros (about $783), says the story, although it will likely be subsidized by carriers for much less than that.

High praise for Maemo

The review's kindest words were for Maemo 5, currently in beta, which is said to bring Nokia up to the general level of the iPhone and other high-end smartphone UI's. Two of Maemo's influences can be felt directly in hardware, according to the review: much faster boot-up and quicker response to touchscreen input compared to the N97. The interface is also said to be marked by visual effects and smooth transitions not available with the N97 or the N810. The first look review especially praises the task manager, as well as the easy-to-clear, pop-up based context menus.

The RX-51, concludes Mobile-Review, is a "true mobile powerhouse in every sense of this word, that comes wrapped in a very eye-candy and functional UI at that. It won't become a hit, but at the same time the RX-51 is a milestone both for Nokia and the industry that won't just go unnoticed."

Is Samsung prepping a Linux-based mobile OS?

Reviewer Eldar Murtazin does not provide any clues as to why he believes the RX-51 will fail to reach "hit" status. Perhaps it is due to the tepid response to Nokia's similar N97, as well as the rampant competition in the smartphone arena. Speaking to the latter, the review is prefaced with a lengthy analysis of the mobile industry, including some interesting rumors that are presented as de facto statements of truth.

The first rumor, which has been backed up in recent months by some other observers, is that Microsoft appears to have given up on Windows Mobile, ceasing or freezing further development on the platform. The second is that Samsung, which just introduced its first Android phone in the i7500 (pictured), is working on its own vertical Linux-based operating system.

According to Murtazin, Microsoft will put Windows Mobile on the back burner until the next Windows 7.5/8 version, scheduled for release in 2012, which will be offered in a mobile version. In this, Microsoft appears to be following Apple's lead in pushing the vertical integration approach, based on its successful adaptation of OS X's BSD for the iPhone, writes Murtazin.

Samsung may also be looking at Palm and its WebOS-based Palm Pre as a model as it works on a "vertically oriented" Linux OS for release in the coming years. The story offers no other details about the Samsung Linux platform, but notes that Samsung and others will likely follow Nokia's lead and drop S60, the high-end smartphone version of Symbian. Maemo will fill this role for Nokia, writes Murtazin, while it continues to push S30 and S40 for lower-end feature phones. Samsung, meanwhile, is likely to focus on Android until its own Linux platform becomes available.

Other tidbits from the analysis include the writer's belief that LG doesn't understand the mobile market and will not be a major player in smartphones, and that Sony-Ericsson will be playing catch-up after losing two years to reorganization.


The Mobile-Review first look review of the Nokia RX-51 may be found here. The Russian version is available, here.

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