#NW09 impressions. Did Nokia underestimate how good N900 really is?

Nokia N900 Maemo 5 handset was by far the most impressive device launched at Nokia World 09.

It has blown away anyone who was lucky enough to lay hands on it. I am not talking only about Nokia fanboys who are ready to praise anything the company makes. I include skeptics, who are ready to point out every single flaw they find.

Seriously. With about a hundred devices around, and available to every tech writer in place, try finding anyone bashing Nokia N900. And then compare that to the coverage Nokia N97 and N97 Mini got. See what I mean?

Nokia N900 hands on

This reception of Nokia N900, contrasts very sharply with the attitude displayed toward the device by every Nokia exec who was talking about it.

You would think that, having made such a superb device, they would be preaching from every corner and pulpit to make sure we notice.

Instead, Anssi Vanjoki has spent a whopping 3 minutes at the end of 62 minute opening keynote (including OPK presentation), talking about N900. Half of that time was spent talking about the beginnings of Maemo platform, Nokia 770 internet tablet, and how this is just step 4 in five step program (read: somewhat unfinished product)!

And it went downhill from there.

In the follow up interviews we heard how this is just a niche product, how they see an open channel (non-subsidized, non-operator) as the main for N900 sales, that Nokia won’t really push N900 to operators,  how it is important to sell N900 to the right people (read: limited sales and promotion), etc; etc;

The impression I get from all of this is of, if not an outright dismissal of N900 as a flagship for Nokia, then extreme cautiousness, expectations management and downplaying the potential attractiveness of the device.

And I wonder why that is.

One of the reasons might be that they do not want to jeopardize the sales of Nokia N97/97 mini. And looking at the price and specs of N97/N900, the profit that Nokia makes on N900 might be lower.

But, c’mon, Nokia,is that a good enough reason to limit a great device, such as N900, to  a niche tech geek toy category? Have those years in the trenches of uber niche Maemo development community, blinded you to what you accomplished with N900?

The level of interest and praising attention that Nokia N900 got, is almost impossible to replicate with a follow-up product. No matter how much better Maemo 6 device will be, when Nokia completes it’s five step program, it will be very hard for them to repeat the “WOW!” moment of N900’s arrival.

Could it be that Nokia was taken completely by surprise by the reception N900 got? And now, like that dear caught in the headlights. watches the oncoming demand freight train, unsure which way to move?

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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  • I4U

    You're right. I'm also stunned the way Nokia is launching the n900.
    In France, it will be sold 649€! That's 930$!
    They seem to bury this jewel to save an symbian which can't face the concurrence…
    I'm dismayed…

    I just hope they will change their plans.

  • http://www.nokiamobiletalk.com/ Jorge l NokiaMobileTalk

    Could be but at that price

  • jonny

    The way I see it N900 is just the old Nokia Maemo internet tablet with just added phone functionality – where is the innovation? Anssi Vanjoki has stated that Maemo is not a threat to Symbian and Symbian is the platform of choice for Nokia in the future as well.

    This will be niche-device for nerds, nothing else.

  • http://www.umpcportal.com chippy

    As far as I can see there's still some way to go on the software front with the N900 and as most carriers would be careful about taking on a new OS, Nokia would do well to keep this a little 'underground' for the time being. Remember the N801. It matured about 12 months after launch. I think the same will happen with Maemo 5. Also, if Nokia get too many people on board with Maemo 5 and switch to Qt under Maemo 6, they risk a backlash.


  • doppio_x2

    Indeed, N900 is “just” the old NIT, with phone/3G connectivity, smaller form factor, while retaining the superior to any smartphone screen resolution, and an indefinite development potential due to the open source of its OS. The review above did not use the word “innovation” — N900 is just the best device to come out from a pre-conceived development plan. The innovation started with N770, since then there has been no need to reinvent the wheel, but simply to improve on the existing device. Just look at all the devices coming now from Asia and following what the NITs started years ago…

  • I4U

    The technological must have are very often a mix of existing solutions! the comment of Jonny is quite trivial and his conclusion surely wrong.

    “Old Nokia Maemo”: with a completly renewed UI, the support of GSM/3G, the support of HiDef camera, the (not yet achieved) transfer from Gkt to Qt… “Old Maemo”: deeply extended and rewritten!

    The innovation: to propose a true multitasking (the applications works when in background, and even the thumbnails are updated in real time), multiwindow system, in the form factor of a professional smartphone, with a truely open system, using a true and recent java, a true firefox and a true and open application management!

    If you don't understand the interest of such a device, iPhone or Android are done for you! But if freedom and power have sense for you, you had to consider this device with more attention. Its potential is huge.

  • I4U

    If it's a transitional device, why are they shipping it at a premium price. I hope they will subsidize by operators!

  • http://www.my-symbian.com/ ceroberts75

    I4U, good job on your response, the only think i would rebuke is the fact that iPhone and Android are confused with the “mutliwindow system” that you compare with.

    the iPhoney has no ability to mutli-task AT ALL. just try to be on the phone and send an MMS or SMS, or be on the phone using the Wifi to use email at the same time. not going to work.

    Android has the ability to be beefed up to compete, but is still way behind as they are just gettting the media to be bettter suited.

    the only OS that is even close to the maemo 5 would be the Palm PRE, but they are on thier way out and the memory is limited and so are the windows that you can have open.

    this maemo device can have dozens of open windows and with the 256mb RAM with a hidden 744mb, making a total of 1gb usable ram to truely multi-task, llike all the n and e series nokia already do, there is nothing close to this maemo platform for now, especially when you get your hands on the true PDA part of the device and searching functionality that was lost from the s80 symbian devices to the s60 series devices.


    at this point, there is not a way for hte carriers to revamp and ruine the maemo 5 softwaree on the phone with thier own crappy renditions to bog down the true usage of this handset. personally, i would still only purchase a factory unlocked version at full price, which is already up for pre-sale on Nokia usa's site for $649.00, so that i have full functionality…not dummied down.


    it is a premium device, and at the price of $649 USD, i cant understand why it would be cheaper then the n97, other then to give the illusion that there is going to be an e-series-type of maemo phones to rival and/or replace the current e-series business devicees like the e90/e71/e75.

    also, we must remember that while maemo is here, there are still going to be symbian foundation releases 4 and 5 coming in the next 12-18 months with the new symbian showing its teeth.

  • observer

    This is nothing but Linux with phone functionality. It's your plain old internet tablet that has linux installed. Canonical is bringing its Ubuntu Linux on mobile devices also (project called Ubuntu Mobile) – it will be another distribution that you can run on devices like this and you can have all Qt software, Gnome software, full version of Firefox, flash, Java etc. installed with that also, so what is Maemo offering that Canonical's Ubuntu Mobile is not? Also, this N900 is using GTK! Where is the much hyped Qt? Oh, and BTW – did you know that N900 is incapable of handling MMS?

    Is the price tag really going to be 600-650€? Chinese are bringing their own N900 competitor called “Optima” RUNNING MAEMO on market any day now. This device was just introduced in Berlin and you can watch this video to see it in action. It will cost about 300€ and will be sold worldwide.

    Specs here:


  • observer

    Hmm.. looks like messages are deleted. I recently informed chinese are brining N900 clone that runs Maemo Linux for half the price of N900, but the message got deleted. Oh well, as a result I will post this info on 20 other boards.

  • Chinese Maemo

    China Telecom is bringing their own Maemo Linux mobile computer. Yes, it's running Maemo (wonder what Nokia thinks about this?) and it's price is 300€. There is a video demonstration on YouTube. Product will be sold worldwide soon.

  • I4U

    The device you are speaking has a 4.3″ screen, a 10 times less powerful processor (two generations before the omap3!, 200Mips against 2000Mips for omap3), it weight 320gr against 181 for n900. The camera is a 3.2Mpixel, 128Mb of RAM against 256Mb, no mention of swap (768Mb for n900).

    No gsm support, if I believe the specs given by the maker. The only voice call supported are the VOIP.

    About the software, it seems far from the effort of simplicafication done by Meamo5.

    This device isn't a phone. It's a clone of the n810 with addition of 3G (form factor – even 100gr heavier, processor, lack of GSM), not a clone of n900!

    In fact, it's a mid with 3G when the n900 is creating a new category of device (speedy, when the mids are well known to be slow; always in your pocket, fully multimedia with camera, graphic acceleration and gps, as powerful as a computer).

  • Michael

    Yes no matter how they downplay a device. If it's good then it will sell itself.Word of mouth will the the N900 around. I will get one and then when I show it to my collegues and friends I'm fairly sure they want one too.

    It's a bit like the e71. A great device but wasn't really pushed at the market and Nokia didn't expect to sell so many.

  • Anonymous

    Great article, I thought it's only me having the impression that Nokia is somehow disturbed by the N900 success.

  • Name

    Bottom line is…..this is a great device. a PC and a phone finally!!!!!

  • overkoreone

    its the n-gage all over again…sigh.

  • soulfarmer

    On Finnish Nokia.site, N900 pre-order price is cheaper than N97. In online-stores which allow for pre-order, the price is likewise, N900 is cheaper. Makes me wonder why.

  • http://www.my-symbian.com/ ceroberts75

    dunno about other countries, but here in the USA the n900 is $50 more then the N97. the N97 dropped to $599 the day the N900 went on pre-sale.


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  • h

    I think that this is a marketing technique also used by car manufactures. The photos get leaked on purpose. Then you release a few official photos. Then you give a few to the press. You don't make noise: you let rumors and trickles of information do the work to create a “buzz”. That's what I see happening here…

  • Name

    you live in ideal America… in real America your own mobile operators resist anything what makes them cheap bitpipe – and one of items in list is to _avoid_ subsidizing devices like these… if you have different opinion – go and try to make them order for 10,000 N900 _without_ strings attached: you will be surprised and overwhelmed 🙂 fix your own country…

  • Name

    I would buy the N900 but it doesnt work on AT&T's 3G network. And the N97 was an even bigger mistake than the N96. I'll Keep My N95 8GB until something worthy comes along for purchase

  • JoeAnne11

    Interesting topic, I must admit. I would buy the N900 only if it would work with procell batteries, no joking. I am as serious as possible. i have bought all kinds of new/on top/best cellphones Iphones, Laptops on the market and believe me, there is no difference between them. Just the aspect and the way they manage to impress the fools.

  • Tom

    Say what you will but I think this remains impressive nonetheless.
    Honestly I have never been an iPhone fan nor a Nokia fan, on the contrary, I was never impressed with the Nokia mobiles and always used Sony Erricson.
    Regarding the iPhone, people say it has the most apps and it's the best, now I don't own an iPhone but my sister has one and I was really frustrated by the phone! so many apps I couldn't even find the basic functions.
    And the thing about Capacitive VS Resistive screen, oh yea, it's a MUST! pfft please, if I wanted to pinch and twitch something so much cellphone wouldn't be the main thing on my mind.
    LAST but not least is the camera, I have a cellphone with 8mp and honestly I RARELY use the camera and it's not the main thing for me, also I have heard that on cellphone mainly but in cameras generaly, right now it doesn't matter THAT much if it's 5mp or 8mp, it's the photographers skills that matter, and I'd be damned if this was an issue for reconsideration.
    Now I bought a N900 and I can't wait to get this neat phone and start using it.
    1 last thing…Shun the non believers!

  • Kees Onman

    Useless remark, you obviously don't understand hardware at all.
    Of coarse all windows laptops wil be similar (just as crap).

    But to even dare compare an iphone to an n900 is proof of you're ignorance and inability to look beyond the cover.

    Maybe you should have used less devices and looked a bit deep, so you would have seen the diferences.

  • Kees Onman

    Useless remark, you obviously don't understand hardware at all.
    Of coarse all windows laptops wil be similar (just as crap).

    But to even dare compare an iphone to an n900 is proof of you're ignorance and inability to look beyond the cover.

    Maybe you should have used less devices and looked a bit deep, so you would have seen the diferences.