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Hands on with the Nokia N900

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First Look Announced last week, the N900 finally gives Nokia something competitive in the high-end market, and offers a great deal for developers to get excited about. I had a hands on today and came away with fairly positive impressions, for an iPhone user. But more importantly, Nokia has a roadmap that takes it into the next decade.

Qt will become the API across Nokia devices, which means developers might actually start writing applications for them. Qt is much easier for quick and dirty applications, and proven for heavyweights such as Google Earth, Opera and Skype, where high performance is a necessity.

Nokia's Maemo 5-based N900

The Linux stack Maemo looks set to blossom into a range of high-end products, Nokia VP Anssi Vanjoki made very clear today. Symbian will fill the mass-market stubbornly occupied by S40 at present. It will continue to be used for "workhorse smartphones" Nokia says, but Linux is where the investment for high performance devices will now go.

The N900 is the first tablet to fit a shirt pocket. It's heavy, and still a bit nerdy, but it looks more of a 'flagship' than anything Nokia has thrown at the market in the past couple of years. As Vanjoki all but admitted, the N97 was badly in need of a patch-up - he stressed how quickly Nokia was working to address criticism.

But tweaks and patches won't update the two-year-old technology in the device, nor give it a forward-looking UI, which is what Maemo 5 finally offers. So the N900 has some of the glitz and slickness of Android, the iPhone and the Pré. After five minutes, most users should find their way around.

Nokia's inclusion of cellular telephony has surprised quite a few people. Motorola has thrown thousands of bodies at Linux, without much to show for the effort. A year ago, Linux still couldn't handle UMTS 3G. Meanwhile, the Nokia Internet Tablet has zig-zagged through three generations: first it was internet radio and browsing, then it sprouted a keyboard and was a GPS device.

Nokia N900

Is it a tablet? Is it a phone? Both?

The Tablet series looked like a technology looking for a purpose. But too many people asked for the 3G capability for Nokia to ignore, Maemo chief Ari Jaaksi told us.

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