Nokia debuts N900, first Linux smartphone

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Nokia released its first smartphone running Linux-based Maemo software, a day after a Reuters report indicated it would do so. The company said the device, called the N900, represents an evolution from its Internet Tablet devices (which did not sport cellular connections) that had run on Linux.

The company said that the phone would allow users to multi-task and have a better Web browsing experience. Despite the emphasis on the benefits of Linux, Nokia said the gadget would complement its Symbian OS--its standard smartphone operating system--and not replace it.

"This is in no way putting Symbian in jeopardy," Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's head of sales, told Reuters. He said Symbian would remain Nokia's main platform and that it would look to continue to expand its presence in the market. Vanjoki told Bloomberg that the N900 was aimed at "technology leaders, who represent about 200 million on this planet."

Research firm CCS Insight echoed Vanjoki's sentiments. The firm said Nokia likely would use Symbian to flesh out its portfolio across a number of market segments and price points. The firm said the N900 was essentially an experiment, to see what stick on the high end.

"CCS Insight believes the N900 will be a niche product that will primarily be purchased by early adopters," the firm wrote in a research note issued today. "Its uninspiring design further reflects its experimental nature and signals that the appeal of the device lies more in the software platform than the hardware. The N900 has an extensive set of features and adheres largely to well-established open Web principles (such as OpenGL and WebKit). Nokia's goal may be to get developers to use this 'Swiss army knife' device as a test bed to establish what is possible on a computer-like mobile device. Advances would signal the next steps it needs to take to be successful in this emerging category."

The N900 runs on Maemo 5 software and will have a 3G cellular connection (WCDMA and HSPA at 900/1700/2100 MHz), a WVGA touchscreen display and a Qwerty keyboard. The phone will run on a ARM Cortex-A8 processor, features up to 1 GB of application memory and includes OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration. Nokia boasted the device would be able to perform "PC-like" multitasking. The phone's browser will be powered by Mozilla, makers of Firefox, and it will have Adobe Flash 9.4 support. The N900 also has 32 GB of storage, which is expandable up to 48 GB via a microSD card.

Nokia said the device would be available beginning in October for around $712, before taxes and subsidies, though it did not say where.

In other Nokia news, the company announced the formation of a new Solutions unit to drive Nokia's services business and bring it into line with its device portfolio. Nokia has made services a major focus of its business strategy going forward. Alberto Torres, currently the head of Nokia's devices category management, will lead the new unit. Additionally, Nokia said that Robert Andersson, who currently heads up finance, strategy and strategic sourcing in the company's devices units, will transfer to Nokia's corporate development office to run the company's corporate alliances and business development operations, which includes Nokia's recently announced partnership with Microsoft.   

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this release
- see this release
- see this release

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