Secrets @ MWC09. Nokia Sparrow, Android 3.0, Luxury Android from Motorola and more

Eldar Murtazin from mobile-review.com is probably the best connected journalist covering the mobile industry,   with amazing access inside almost any major cellphone maker.

And he proved that again at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

When we all were busily running around reporting on all the new mobile products , Eldar was sneaking inside the closed demo rooms of Nokia, Motorola and others to check out what these companies are preparing to launch as far as in 2011.

Lucky for us Eldar has started sharing some bits and pieces about these things on his personal blog and in some other public places. (Disclaimer: everything below is only rumors, but considering the source, I put a lot of trust in them)

Let’s start with some pretty far out stuff.

Nokia Sparrow multi-core computer running Linux

ARM’s multi-core Sparrow chip has just been announced last week, and Nokia is already working on it’s first compact mobile computer with some blow-out specs, running Linux OS on this CPU. But don’t get your hopes up – this Nokia device is slated only for 2011 release.

Eldar got to play some with the early prototype and found it mighty interesting.

The design of Nokia Sparrow device does not follow the current netbook trend, going more the MID way, with some passing resemblance to Nokia N800 internet tablet.

It will have multi-slide keyboard, with different layouts/keys revealed as you slide it in different directions. The display also slides in several directions for different functions – think Nokia N97 tilting display.

The new Nokia computer has a very interesting keyboard with diamond shaped, elevated keys inverted to each other. At first glance it seems very uncomfortable – the keys are pretty small (about half the size of normal key), actually the device itself is rather small. But when you start typing on it, it works very well. It is very difficult to hit multiple keys with a finger, even on purpose.

The Nokia Sparrow computer has a novel, transparent widget based interface. Each running application gets it’s own semi-transparent widget to put it’s content in. Multiple applications can be stored in memory “for months”. E.g. when you are writing a document or e-mail, just swipe the finger through the screen and semi-transparent panels with active or pre-set applications and their content pop-up. Select one and you can start working with it at once.

Well, that’s about it for now. I asked our Ilinca to draw up something from the musings above. What with all the things lost in translation, and not really very exhaustive visual description from Eldar, I’m sure it’s pretty far off the real thing. But one needs to start somewhere:

nokia-sparrow-mock-up

Understanding Android

Android is pretty well stuck right now, because of Google, which does not really want to strongly promote Android devices yet. They have a key partner – HTC – which already released/announced phones (Dream, Magic) based on Android 1.0.

The first release of Android OS – it’s  Google making a claim for the future position in mobile OS market. It is  more like a marketing tool to train the  public on Android and also to give the developers a live device to make the apps for. Though there will be some interesting new Android devices coming from HTC and others later this year.

android

Android 2.0 looks pretty sad. Android won’t get to the level Google and partners want to see it on until releases 3.0 and 4.0. It has multiple partners working on Android 3.0  devices and  there were some demos of the handsets with Android 3 in closed showrooms. They look fantastic. The problem is that Android 3.0 is not slated for release until the mid of 2010, with version 4 to follow in 2011. So it will be a while until Android devices reach their full potential.

Some good news for Motorola?

There might have been a reason why Motorola looked so lame at MWC 09. According to Eldar:

The biggest surprise of the show? Motorola –no doubt about it. 100, 1000 percent. Elegant and very unusual. Common words hide very uncommon things. Someone smart, very smart joined the company. And clearly with the experience not from the University bench.

Disinformation is pouring through all the channels inside the company and everyone gets his own, different spin. The foot solders get one part of the picture, which, while using the right words totally confuses true meaning. Middle management gets confided with a bigger part of the story, as a “big secret”. Higher level managers outside the States get one more peace of the puzzle. But even the partners of the company do not have the full info.

Everyone is confused, competitors won’t even look Motorola’s way, which allows it to do some very unusual things.

Will it work or not? I won’t say. Actually I can’t say, because I’m not sure myself yet. The basic idea is very simple and elegant. It could work.

But before it get’s public, there will still be some announcements of the models we are used to. So do not expect anything exciting from the next few announcements. They are just placeholders.

Motorola is also definitely working on an Android device. And will use the chassis of one of the recently cancelled models. It may be VE1/RAZR3/Ruby, but I am not sure about that. Eldar mentions that there’s something of the RAZR style in the new phone, but it’s actually kind of new form factor, which will be launched at the end of the year.

motorola-ve1

The most interesting thing about the new Motorola Android phone is that it is not targeting the mass market. It’s aiming towards the truly  luxury one. Something on the theme of Moto Aura – expensive chassis and unusual services, somewhat comparable to Concierge from Vertu.

Other interesting tidbits

Sony Idou presented at MWC was only a plastic mock-up. SE does not have a working Idou model yet. And, regarding the 12mpx camera, Sony Ericsson themselves have not yet seen the actual camera modules.

Windows Mobile ain’t doing too well. Plans to reduce the WM license price by half are under way, just to keep WM handset makers on board. Very many of them are looking Google’s way.

About WM Dialer app. It was a major problem in earlier WM versions, resulting in dropped and lost calls, etc;. The reason was pretty bad quality programming of dialer app, which was constantly reloading every 30 mins. When  Eldar asked some Microsoft reps whether they solved the problem and rewrote the Dialer app, the answer was – “Yes, sure, everything’s OK now.  We don’t have to relaunch it anymore, now we have a separate utility that clears memory from it… every 15 mins…”

Well, that’s about all I was able to fish out of Eldar’s musings for now.

But stay tuned

Source: Eldar Murtazin Live JournalRadio-T podcast (mp3 in Russian)

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • http://phandroid.com Rob Jackson

    Hey guys, I'd love to cover the Android 3.0 portion of this on Phandroid.com but I'm having trouble tracking down the source of the info on Eldar Murtazin's blog. Would you mine contacting me? Much appreciated!

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    It's not on Eldar's blog, it's in the Radio T podcast, as is all the info about Nokia Sparrow, and some other bits. But that's audio in Russian (the link is in Sources), so unless you speak the language, you'll have to trust me on this

  • Arnoud, Tweakers.net

    Not allowed to say anything else on the other matters, but Idou certainly was not just a plastic mock-up. Or, to be specific, not all were.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Sorry, my mistake. Misinterpreted something on Eldar's blog. The gist of it was that Idou is pretty far off, and was more of a PR stunt at this point, then an actual working model.

    But SE admitted that during presentation as well

  • outlawjosiewales

    Staska, I'm interested in the comments above about Motorola… “Some good news for Motorola?”

    It's no secret that Motorola and Microvision collaberated on a projector phone and they do have a working prototype as of early 2008.

    I confirmed with Motorola IR at Alex Tokman's challenge and was told it is / was embedded in a “Q” handset…

    From a 2008 CC…

    Alex: Good question Joel, our work with Motorola is progressing very, very nicely. We have completed the development of first handset prototypes with the embedded picop projectors, this is truly a historic event since it represents for the first time in the history that a pico projector has been installed a fully functional handset, and I don’t think anybody can claim this. Both Motorola and Microvision recently demonstrated pico projection cell phones at the mobile world congress GSMA in Barcelona, this was done in private settings, and we’re very proud about this accomplishment and our continuing relationship with Motorola. We expect both parties, Motorola and Microvision, expect to show the handset prototypes privately, specifically focused at major events, with primary goal of engaging the consumer interest, assess the full market potential, and refine the requirements for the final product.

    Joel: Might that be at like CTIA, or SID 08 in L.A.?

    Alex: Good question, listen, when I said at most of the major events, I believe that CTIA falls in this category, but if you really want more precision on specific dates and shows, it would be wise to call Motorola PR and get this information from them because we’re under the restriction of what we can say.

    J: Good, hey listen, in Barcelona that was a fully functioning, I could pick it up, make a phone call, and flash my pictures on the wall, cell phone?

    A: That was it Joe, that’s why it was an historical event, and I think all of us and all of you should be proud that we achieved this before everybody else.

    A: You asked a very good question Joseph, I can’t answer it. Even if I had the answer, I can’t tell you this because we’re not privy to discuss a lot of information, so I apologize, but that’s the best answer I can give you. What I can tell you, something that is really cool. The cell phone that Motorola has shown, if you’ve seen it and you’ve held it in your hand, you’d never guess there’s a projector built in, and the reason is because you know, we’re able to produce ultra thin embedded engine that no one else has.

    Source
    http://uneducatedinvestor.blogspot.com/2008_03_

    Staska, my question is, do you know of, or have you heard anything about this prototype or do you believe that
    this could be part of a product that Eldar Murtazin is referring to?

    Thank you

  • http://www.thegeniusfiles.com thegeniusfiles

    Google has a bad habit of introducing cool ideas, then never following through on execution of them. So far, Android is a case in point. Yes, the cell carriers are difficult to work with.. so forget 'em for now. Make some Android MIDs with WiFi. The iPhone Touch sells, doesn't it? The key thing is to make the device affordable to the mass market. $99 would be a perfect price point. Once the platform takes off, carriers will be more eager to pick it up.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    To tell the truth, I have no idea if this can be the one. Though it seems
    that they were talking this a year ago. But we'll see in a few months

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Well, I wouln't be so pessimistic about Android.

    It took Apple 2+ years to perfect their mobile O.S. to someting that is
    almost fully featured smartphone OS (iPhone OS V 3.0) and stop claiming that
    the lack of such basic things like MMS and Stereo Bluetooth is actually a
    feature and not a defect.

    I am almost sure that the first version Palm's WebOS will be similarly
    halfbaked. We don't have real SDK there, do we? And Palm is claiming that
    their html/Javascript SDK and lack of native app SDK is actually a
    feature. Just like Apple did with Web/Safari Widgets in iPhone 1.0

    So I guess it takes time to get mobile OS to a certain level and that will
    happen with Android in about a year. You probably have to have these have
    baked handsets out there also – to see how you OS fares in the real world

  • http://www.thegeniusfiles.com thegeniusfiles

    You make some valid points. However, there remain several strategic obstacles to Android as a ubiquitous smartphone OS in the USA. ATT will not want to dilute its iPhone monpoly with an open source competitor. Sprint will not want to jeopardize its Treo Pre launch either. Verizon has a long-standing hostility to open platforms. That leaves little T-mo and other niche players. That is the reason why I think Google should push Android as an MID-type device.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Yep, MID's, netbooks, etc is one way to go. Smartphones is another.

    And looking from a glass half full perspective -

    AT&T's iPhone exclusivity will expire. Granted, there probaly still are few
    years left, but they will want to have something before that

    Sprint's Palm Pre exclusivity will be a fleeting thing. 1 year, tops, IMHO.
    And the way the things are going for them, they better start adding some new
    interesting devices soon. Plus they are building their Wimax network, where
    they could use both some Android based smartphones and MID's

    While Verizon (and every other U.S.) carrier hates open systems, that does
    not mean they won't have to get more open soon. Verizon have their open
    network initiative at least publicly. And if Google can make Android
    Marketplace into at least something a bit similar to iPhone AppStore, the
    carriers will get on board. Google seems to have revenue share that some
    carriers like:
    http://www.unwiredview.com/2009/03/25/orange-an

    On the “cons” side – I'm not sure how Android will work with CDMA networks.
    There probably are some technical issues there, and I haven't seen any CDMA
    Android phone yet

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    To tell the truth, I have no idea if this can be the one. Though it seems
    that they were talking this a year ago. But we'll see in a few months

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Well, I wouln't be so pessimistic about Android.

    It took Apple 2+ years to perfect their mobile O.S. to someting that is
    almost fully featured smartphone OS (iPhone OS V 3.0) and stop claiming that
    the lack of such basic things like MMS and Stereo Bluetooth is actually a
    feature and not a defect.

    I am almost sure that the first version Palm's WebOS will be similarly
    halfbaked. We don't have real SDK there, do we? And Palm is claiming that
    their html/Javascript SDK and lack of native app SDK is actually a
    feature. Just like Apple did with Web/Safari Widgets in iPhone 1.0

    So I guess it takes time to get mobile OS to a certain level and that will
    happen with Android in about a year. You probably have to have these have
    baked handsets out there also – to see how you OS fares in the real world

  • http://www.thegeniusfiles.com thegeniusfiles

    You make some valid points. However, there remain several strategic obstacles to Android as a ubiquitous smartphone OS in the USA. ATT will not want to dilute its iPhone monpoly with an open source competitor. Sprint will not want to jeopardize its Treo Pre launch either. Verizon has a long-standing hostility to open platforms. That leaves little T-mo and other niche players. That is the reason why I think Google should push Android as an MID-type device.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    Yep, MID's, netbooks, etc is one way to go. Smartphones is another.

    And looking from a glass half full perspective -

    AT&T's iPhone exclusivity will expire. Granted, there probaly still are few
    years left, but they will want to have something before that

    Sprint's Palm Pre exclusivity will be a fleeting thing. 1 year, tops, IMHO.
    And the way the things are going for them, they better start adding some new
    interesting devices soon. Plus they are building their Wimax network, where
    they could use both some Android based smartphones and MID's

    While Verizon (and every other U.S.) carrier hates open systems, that does
    not mean they won't have to get more open soon. Verizon have their open
    network initiative at least publicly. And if Google can make Android
    Marketplace into at least something a bit similar to iPhone AppStore, the
    carriers will get on board. Google seems to have revenue share that some
    carriers like:
    http://www.unwiredview.com/2009/03/25/orange-an

    On the “cons” side – I'm not sure how Android will work with CDMA networks.
    There probably are some technical issues there, and I haven't seen any CDMA
    Android phone yet