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Nokia's Linux Tablet due stateside Thursday

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Nokia's Linux-based Tablet will be available in the USA this Thursday, a week after its European debut.

The imaginatively titled Internet Tablet is an unusual move for Nokia in a number of ways. Linux PDAs such as Sharp's Zaurus haven't shown much staying power on the market, and have in recent years been hard to find outside Japan.

Nokia is effectively launching a brand new PDA platform - its open source Maemo - that starts with zero applications against competition from PalmOS and PocketPC that can boast abundant software catalogs. As a hardware platform, the Tablet looks decidedly underpowered, with its smartphone OMAP chip from Texas Instruments no match for similarly priced StrongARM-powered competition. Expanding the Tablet is much more expensive than it should be, as it uses an expensive RS-MMC slot, and as a PDA, Nokia's Tablet even lacks a built-in calendar.

In its favor, the Tablet is lighter than the competition and boasts a better screen, at 800x480 pixels. (More specs in last week's report here, on the Maemo site, and at the Internet Tablet Talk community site.)

However Nokia has managed to cultivate an enthusiastic hacker community since announcing the Tablet in June - the well-thought out Maemo API poses no great challenge for Gtk developers, and end users can flash the firmware from Mac OS X and Linux as well as Windows, giving it tinker appeal.

Nokia executives are determined to keep the platform open, encouraging developers to produce software that makes Nokia's traditional customers - mobile phone networks - nervous, such as VoIP and file sharing software. It's a stealth product in other ways - while existing PDAs have been retrofitted to use Wi-Fi, Nokia is hoping a low-power device designed from the ground-up for internet radio and browsing might be a better fit. We'll see.

Nokia will be selling the Tablet direct from its US web site. Nokia's European sites report that the £245 (€349) Tablet is sold out.®

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