Opinion: Nokia netbooks and mobile computer plans

The rumors about the upcoming Nokia netbooks/mobile computers/mobile internet devices are intensifying.

Only yesterday we reported about upcoming Linux (Maemo) based  Nokia MID and Nautilus devices.

Then there was a recent report by TheStreet.com that Nokia is nearing a deal with Foxconn to produce it’s first netbooks. It seems to be a  continuation of February rumor that Nokia is considering joint development of netbooks with some Taiwanese companies.

And then we got that Nokia Sparrow device that they showed to partners during MWC. Which may or may not be the same Nokia Nautilus.

nokia-sparrow-mock-up1

Also various Nokia execs are hinting for months now that Nokia is strongly interested in a small mobile computer/netbook opportunity and will use Linux Maemo OS on them. Here are some of these hints:

  • Back in December Ukko Lappalainen, VP of Nokia markets unit stated that Nokia will start using Linux OS in it’s high end devices instead of Symbian S60 OS.
  • In February Nokia’s CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said that they are looking very seriously at a netbook opportunity for Nokia.
  • But probably the best outline of Nokia plans in this field was given by Nokia VP Anssi Vanjoki in a roundtable discussion he had in Moscow few weeks ago. When asked whether Nokia has any plans to enter netbook market, he replied:

“It is important to understand that today we have three classes of mobile devices – ordinary mobile phones, personal computers, and also the third class, which are devices designed for a very wide range of functions that are always-on.

This last point (always-on) bears particular attention. They are different from personal computers, which are designed for use in sessions. These devices have a different architecture, and from that (always-on) perspective have nothing in common with those mini-notebooks that you were talking about (EeePC, etc;). In the end, the netbooks are based on the same PC software, have the same shortcomings, and, basically, are just less functional versions of a full fledged PC. So the area of their use is pretty limited. We do not think that this paradigm will be the main one in future mobile devices.

You noted correctly that these inexpensive and not very powerful computers today have a pretty strong demand due to their compact nature and possibility to use some standard applications, e.g. during travel. So due to these market opportunities we are looking into this segment as a tactical possibility. It is possible that we will have some devices of this type in the future.

But I want to emphasize that this direction is not a strategic one for us. We are aiming at a different type of mobile devices. “

(The quote is probably not very exact. It was translated by Mobile-Review.com from English to Russian and then by me from Russian back to English, so some things were lost in translation. However the general meaning remains).

So what can we tell about Nokia plans from all the above?

Nokia tends to make most of it’s important high end stuff itself, probably outsourcing things that it does not consider to be very important to other OEM’s.

So the tactical approach to netbook type of devices jibes very well with these rumors about joint netbook development and outsourced manufacture we are hearing now.

Nokia does not deem traditional netbooks really important and does not want to commit to the development effort that such independently made device would require of them. So they are working with some of their traditional OEM’s to make one and are outsourcing the production to them.

We will probably see some of these Nokia netbooks by the end of the year. But they will not be considered as something very important to Nokia and, unless there’s some unexpected demand, would not be strongly promoted or developed in the future.

And then there are those always on mobile computers designed for continuous use.

This is where Nokia will be putting most of it’s mobile device development efforts and pushing the limits for the next several years. We will also be seeing at least one of them within next few months, probably already in September. 4.2” Nokia MID and Nautilus are probably the first results of this approach.

These new devices will most likely be based on Linux Maemo 5 platform (*.pdf). They will have well animated and finger touch optimized user interface. Which, unhindered by the legacy of Symbian S60,  should work much better then UI on current Nokia touchphones like 5800 and N97. And we will be seeing quite a few of them in 2010/11.

Getting back to tradition Nokia/OEM netbooks, I wonder what OS they will be running on? Android or Microsoft Windows seems to be an unlikely choice for Nokia. The new Maemo is optimized for a pocket sized devices/handhelds, so might not be a very good thing for a bigger 8-11” traditional netbook screen. And then there’s that capability to run some traditional PC apps Mr. Vanjoki mentioned. Another version of Maemo? Some other Linux flavor?

What do you think?

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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