[Jaffa Software]

Saturday 25 October 2008

Maemo-based netbooks?

In the latest Internet Tablet School editorial, The future of Nokia, Maemo and the Internet Tablets, krisse explains why a Maemo-based netbook makes the most sense for Nokia now.

Respectfully, I've never heard a more crazy idea:

  • Maemo is a touch-based OS, which doesn't work well with a larger style keyboard.
  • People who don't want Windows would find Mac OS X or Ubuntu Netbook Remix a much more compelling user experience on such a device.
  • What on earth is the benefit of Maemo here, vs. an alternative OS?!
  • The comments when the 770 was released were "where's the phone?", and although Nokia make lots and lots of non-phone devices (such as one of our DVB-T receivers), the comments about Nokia trying to break in to a crowded market (of laptop makers) would be easily compiled into an hilarious book.

IMNSHO, it's just plain bonkers to go down that line instead of a small, tablet form factor - however unproven that may in the end-consumer mainstream.


  1. imo, maemo works well with a keyboard. it even supports all the normal shortcuts for jumping between windows.

    try a bluetooth or usb keyboard and you will see ;)

    benefit? none. but then the same could probably be said about the number of people that stuffed windows onto the early eeepc models...

  2. I re-read your post twice now and still don't understand. (OTOH, I didn't understand Krisse either.)

    To me, there's not much difference between a Tablet and a netbook. In fact, I'd consider the N810 with its keyboard a netbook.

    Maemo is not a 'touch based OS'. Its an OS that works well on touchscreen devices by using the touchscreen as an ersatz mouse. Use VNC to display the tablet's screen on your desktop computer and you'll see how much easier it is to operate it is with a full keyboard and a mouse. Maemo will be great on bigger netbooks!

    The question is if Maemo would be better on netbooks than other GNU/Linux-variants for small devices. If it's not, it's probably not dependent on the device... My guess is that an OS you consider 'better' for any small screen netbook would be better for the N810, too.

  3. And i don't see any competition between Nokia's touch phones and Maemo tablet phone. Any phone with small screen would have very unpleasing browsing experience (and any other serious information processing experience) compared to tablet. And some people don't want to carry and pay for two devices.

    So i'm pro maemo-phone. At least as an option, through buying bluetooth headphone.

  4. And question - author of this "The future of Nokia" post is some kind of official, related to Nokia ?

  5. No: krisse has no relation to Nokia. It's also somewhat misnamed in "The future of ..." when it bears no relationship to the future that Ari Jaaksi was outlining at OSiM World and what we heard at the summit.

    So "What I think the future of ... could be" would be more accurate - but less catchy ;-)

  6. UMPCportal seem to reckon MID's have more of a future than netbooks, see this


  7. Although netbook's are quite cool devices, the current tablet form factor is just about spot on. Large enough to be usable without squinting (well most of the time).

    What Nokia needs to do is improve the apps and user experience. Such as tieing the GPS into location based applications, and vastly improving the standard media apps. They also need to sort the problem which prevents playback of dvd quality video.

    That's what's worked for Apple, which is the tablet's nearest competitor, although Archos seem to be getting there.

    If there is to be any suggestion of a form factor change, then they should buy the design rights to the Psion 5MX case and keyboard, and update the technology.

    Oh, and we also need a calender app which syncs out of the box with outlook either via cable or usb - S60 does it. There is no excuse, and a lot more people will buy maemo.

  8. "It's also somewhat misnamed in "The future of ..." when it bears no relationship to the future that Ari Jaaksi was outlining at OSiM World and what we heard at the summit."

    Misnamed? What do you think "the future" actually means? Ari Jaaksi isn't God, he doesn't control what will happen.

    Ari Jaaksi can say and plan what he wants, but it won't ultimately determine the future of Maemo or the tablets.

    The only thing that will ultimately determine the future of Maemo is how many people actually put down money to buy Maemo-powered devices.

    It's been three years now and Maemo is still on the fringes. Is it likely to EVER become a mainstream platform? How long can this carry on for, five years? Ten years?

    It looks like we're entering a very bitter and protracted recession, how long do you think Nokia is going to keep pumping resources into a product that no one buys? Especially when Nokia themselves start offering a better-selling alternative?

    Imagine this rather plausible scenario:

    -Nokia's touchscreen phones sell well in 2009, and do pretty much the same things as the tablets (at least from a consumer's point of view)

    -Nokia's tablets don't sell anywhere near as well

    If money is tight at Nokia, it would make perfect sense to drop the tablets. They would be a pointless duplication of a more successful product line.

    The only way the tablets can survive is if they offer something radically different to the touchscreen phones, if they're aimed at a different audience. The most logical way of doing that right now would be as a mini-laptop.

    If that's not plausible, then Maemo has no future.

    It can't carry on without telephony, but if you add telephony it would be just duplicating an existing Nokia product.

    "So i'm pro maemo-phone. At least as an option, through buying bluetooth headphone."

    Why would Nokia make a large screen Maemo phone?

    If there was a market for such a thing, it would be far quicker, cheaper and easier to just increase the screen size of their Symbian phones. In fact that will probably happen next year when the first Nseries touchscreen phones appear.

    They could in theory make both, but why do that? It would just duplicate costs without necessarily increasing sales.

  9. @rich, chippy has a thing for slate devices. look into his earlier carrypad.com.

    to him, netbooks are just very small laptops using SSD's.

  10. @krisse: I don't disagree with your logic; just your conclusions. I can't see any business case for Nokia getting into the netbook market with an evolved ARM-based Maemo as its OS. An x86 based one seems just as unlikely.

    If Maemo hardware became too expensive for anh market to support; and there was no merger of the smartphone and Maemo-based device channels; I'd expect Maemo to be canned, rather than more R&D budget to be burned (in a recession) on a wholly new form factor with an OS which doesn't offer anything but limitations in that form factor compared with its competitors.



    PS. Without getting into a debate on the many-world intepretation of quantum mechanics; the definitive article "the" in front of "future" would be more appropriate from Ari (given that he, more than a god, has more direct control over Nokia's Maemo-based devices ;-))

  11. Re:

    1) BS. Touchscreen netbooks exist (Raeon Everun Note). There's nothing that prevents the mix of a touch screen UI and a bigger keyboard.

    2) Ubuntu Mobile doesn't run on ARM yet, and looks like it's trying to imitate Maemo's look and feel (they're basing it on Hildon after all). If you're anti-Atom, as several people have good reasons to be, and if you'd rather have a mature UI ... Maemo on a touchscreen ARM Netbook probably sounds a LOT better than just punting to Atom.

    3) For ARM MID/UMPC/netbook devices, what out there is better right now than Maemo? Certainly not WinMo. Gonna try to hack the OSX from the iPhone to run on it? Didn't think so. Mature ecosystem, mature UI, mature OS layer. And on a CPU that has lower power draw. Sounds compelling.

    4) The netbook market is currently a bunch of barely differentiated, low end, commodity devices. No one gets rich on commodities that are well supplied (you need a market shortage and a big inventory to make that happen), because there's no differentiation -- if you raise your price, they can just buy someone else's.

    Unless Nokia can:
    a) Create a significant product differentiation,
    b) keep the price down (Fujitsu has differentiation, with netbook sized devices that have twist screens, but without price competitiveness -- they're MUCH more expensive),
    c) do so in a way that isn't a financial risk, in a low margin market, during economically fragile times.

    I really don't think it's viable. I think it'd be interesting to see Apple or Nokia do a Fujitsu Lifebook U810-like or Samsung Q1 Ultra like device, but I don't see it being viable right now. Apple could make it work by using all of their features/etc. to bear on being "significantly differentiated", but I honestly don't think Nokia can.

    IMO, instead, Nokia needs to:

    Focus on their core market, phones. Work toward Maemo based smartphones and featurephones.

    Figure out how to leverage Android and Pandora, and perhaps steal some of their market (Maemo bundles support for Android software (java and native), and ability to run Pandora software as well). 1 platform that can run all of Maemo's ecosystem, all of Android's ecosystem, all of Pandora's games, and maybe even throw in a way to run N-Gage games.

    Finally get PIM software, with SyncML, Airsync, and Kolab support built into the base apps.

    Focus on the phones. Don't move from one low-margin low-differentiation niche market (MIDs, essentially) to another (netbooks).

  12. @johnkzin

    You're kidding, right? Steal Pandora's market? A market of about 4000 people who don't even have devices yet? Are you off your rocker?

  13. @johnkzin: you're confuusing Ubuntu Mobile (equivalent to Maemo) with Ubuntu Netbook Remix. The latter doesn't use Hildon, but still has a sensible fullscreen UI for lower resolution screens. It's so useful, I even use parts of it on my son's ThinkPad.

    Despite ARM's recent statements, I think an ARM-based netbook would have to be either super-cheap or have some other very compelling feature. Reviewers, and so the mass market, won't be able to get past no option of Windows.

    As for the usability of a touchscreen on a larger device with proper keyboard; it feels very different and more detached IMHO, having used - for years - a Psion netBook.

    Now, a Psion Series 5mx form factor - in addition to a tablet style - could be an interesting half-waay house; but that's not the point of this: as you say, netbooks are increasingly commoditised why would Nokia (with any chipset) be better placed than dedicated laptop manufacturers?

  14. ubuntu has been successfully ported to Arm by "Cortez", check it out at http://www.oesf.org/forum/index.php?showforum=155

    not only that, it's the same guy who's extracted android to run on the zaurus too.