Nokia N900 - Who Is It?

    Good day, dear reader.
    Let's clarify this article. By name, it may seem that this is another review of the Nokia N900. I assure you, this is not so.
    I believe that there are already more than enough reviews, there’s no point in writing another one. But if you still need a review, then I can recommend a couple. Here's an example: an
    official review;
    article link on a habr;
    article review on a habr;
    Wikipedia article insightful
    review from is
    another insightful review from
    And here is a good demo video that illustrates well the main features and tasks of this device.

    With the review sorted out. Now the actual question: "So what is this article about?" And the essence of the article is precisely in the title. In this article, I will try to figure out with you what or who the Nokia N900 is. Maybe it's just another smartphone from Nokia, maybe it's the evolution of Nokia phones, or maybe it's a revolution in the mobile market. I will consider this from a subjective point of view. Since I am a software developer for mobile and embedded systems, I’ll try to present the point of view of software developers in general. Well, I mix my opinion as an end user to this cocktail. In the end, I hope that the review is "from the inside out."

    Now to the point.

    "Revolution, comrades, revolution." (c) V.I. Lenin

    In the past few years, we have all seen several revolutions in the field of mobile devices. I dare to highlight the most significant and important of them.


    1. The appearance of the Apple iPhone. In fact, this was the first mobile device in which the user interface was implemented with support for a hardware three-dimensional accelerator (although in fact all effects are two-dimensional) and, of course, Apple entered the mobile market. After this debut, the direction of development of mobile platforms has changed, it seems to me personally that it is thanks to the IPhone that we have Android and Maemo 5 as they are now (I believe that some conceptual things were borrowed from the iPhone). What are the key revolutionary moments of the iPhone:
    • multi-touch capacitive touch screen made it possible to comfortably control the device with your fingers;
    • the development environment and libraries available to the developer are the same as for the desktop system, but naturally with some features;
    • the user interface uses graphic effects implemented using the resources of the integrated 3D accelerator

    Perhaps these are the main key points.
    2. Prepared for the battle Palm-Pre. He promised to overtake the iPhone in all respects, but the revolution did not take place. Just came out another, albeit a good, device from a well-known company. Although there were chances. How successful the device’s output turned out to be, I don’t know, but in any case the revolution did not take place.
    3. Exit Google Android. This was really a revolution that “shakes” the world to this day. I remember when only one phone worked under it, even then it was clear that a huge number of devices with Android on board would soon be released.
    What is the revolution here?
    • I think that the main revolution is an open mass Linux-based mobile OS with visual beauties that can compete with the Iphone.

    Yes, not so much at first glance, but if you look closely, Google did a lot. Android turned out to be really convenient and functional.
    4. Exit Nokia N900 and Maemo 5. In this case, the revolution has just begun and I assume that its peak will be a little later. But the scale of "revolutionism" is already large. It covers all the points I have previously noted: finger management, libraries and desktop tools, 3D user interface, an open platform based on Linux. And today we can say that this is a significant event. Here I want to stop in more detail.

    What is the difference?

    It is necessary to clearly determine how all the existing devices on the market in this segment differ. The device can be decomposed into three main components: hardware platform, hardware implementation, and software (OS + applications).


    The first is the hardware platform. In general, all phones on the market in the upper price range are built on the same or similar hardware solutions. One can single out the OMAP-3 platform (the N900 and a number of other devices are built on it). If you compare with the same IPhone / IPone 3G, which is built on the Samsung S3C6400 ARM 620 MHz (the frequency is software underestimated to 412) or the same Iphone 3GS based on the Samsung S5PC100 ARM 833 MHz (the frequency is software underestimated up to 600 MHz), then there are no special differences in performance and features. This also applies to new devices based on Android (Motorola milestone, for example, has absolutely the same OMAP3430 processor as the Noka N900). Only the HTC HD2 based on Qualcomm Snapdragon (ARM) with a clock frequency of 1 GHz stands out here, but the platform is relatively new and I would not talk about the advantages over OMAP from TI or Freescale i.MX31. Who cares there is a smallarticle on this subject . I hope the idea is clear - it’s not critical what kind of hardware platform is the basis of the device, today they all provide a rich set of features for a good mobile computer.

    The second is a hardware implementation. Well, it’s likely to taste and color. There are hardware buttons or not, where and how are the power buttons, a headphone jack and a USB connector. These are all trifles, I think that the really important parameters are the following: the quality and convenience of the sensor on the screen (the so-called “digitizer”), build quality, ease of use, “reasonable” dimensions, screen quality, duration of work, lightness of “small” repair.

    Third is software. There really is something to talk about. Indeed, to use all the features of the hardware platform, appropriate software is required. Plus, no one needs a bare OS either, the set of programs available for this phone is important. And of course, the development prospects of the software platform and attractiveness for developers.

    As a result, we decided that we will discuss two points: hardware implementation and software.

    Hardware implementation of Nokia N900


    Here you can argue, you can agree, but you can not believe at all. But I will express my point of view.
    1. The touchscreen is really very, very pleased. This is perhaps the best resistive screen if you control your fingers. But he is resistive and this is his main minus. Of course, the ability to operate with a stylus is good, for example, for handwriting. But why is it for a device with a built-in keyboard? I am really looking forward to a Nokia solution with a capacitive touch and multi-touch support (this is not so important).
    2. The screen does not cause complaints. More than sufficient resolution of 480x800 and a large diagonal of 3.5 inches allow you to comfortably work with almost any type of application. The brightness and saturation of the picture are also pleasing. The only gripe is the viewing angle - it’s not so bad, I didn’t feel any discomfort, rather, find fault and compare with competitors. Yes, and this is not so important for a mobile device.
    3. Build quality on top. The device is plastic, but comfortable and does not creak. The keyboard is held securely. The feeling that one can tear it from excessive effort is not. The screen is not recessed, it is convenient to hold both vertically and horizontally.
    4. "Ease of use" also liked. The only criticism is the location of the headphone jack. It’s more common to have this connector on top, not bottom.
    5. It’s hard to say unequivocally about dimensions. In principle, the device is rather pot-bellied, and it seems to me that it would be possible to fit everything into a more compact body (even taking into account the presence of a keyboard), but in reality it is not catastrophically thick. And if you make it thinner, will not the two previous points suffer? On the other hand, my very first desire was to increase the diagonal of the screen. It turns out that you want thinner and more. And to summarize, this device cannot be called a masterpiece of minimization, but it is also not to blame for gigantism: it turns out something in between.
    6. With the battery here is also debatable. The battery is standard and it is not difficult to change it. Cheap counterparts can also be found a bunch. Therefore, having a couple of charged spare batteries in your bag will not be a problem. On the other hand, the battery is not very capacious and with intensive use it lasts only for a day.

    It turns out that from the point of view of hardware implementation, we have a very high-quality device, but nothing supernatural. I think a good solution for Nokia would be to have the same device in the line, but without a keyboard and 10-20 percent cheaper.

    Maemo is a new animal in the Linux family.


    It remains to discuss the software stuffing of the device. Linux is the heart of the device - this is not an innovation; there used to be devices based on this OS. But this is exactly what Linux - this is more than a surprise. Maemo did not debut with the N900, but rather evolved. Prior to that, he stood on pocket tablets from Nokia. But on the N900, Maemo first appeared as an OS for the phone. There are a number of Linux systems running on these types of devices: Access Linux Platform, Android, LiMo Platform, Mobilinux, Moblin, MotoMagx, Openmoko, Palm webOS, Qt Extended, Ubuntu Mobile. Some of them can be thrown out, since they are more likely focused on netbooks. Of the remaining competitors, Android and Palm WebOS can be considered. Maemo has advantages over these competitors - a software implementation approach. The fact is that Android and Palm WebOS are essentially Linux systems, and they execute the application programs in the “sandbox” and the program must be written in accordance with the standards of this sandbox. For Android, applications must be written in Java using special classes from the SDK to implement the interface and interact with the system and other programs. For Palm WebOS applications should be written using web technologies: HTML, CSS, JavaScript. And Maemo does not impose such restrictions on the developer. Maemo is standard Linux, as it is on a desktop system. There is a huge range of development tools available, from web-based technologies (like Palm WebOS) to C kernel modules or assembler. True, there is no official Java support yet, but it is more a matter of time, not a platform limitation.
    In addition to this, Maemo 5 on the Nokia N900 already knows a lot from the box and works quite stably and quickly. Convenience and simplicity of the interface are admirable. Unlike previous versions of Maemo, progress is on the face.
    To not talk a lot, just look at this demo video:

    Here you can talk a lot, and most importantly. Therefore, I will devote the following articles to a more detailed overview of Maemo and show how easy it is to write or port an application to this platform.
    What can be said immediately about Maemo:
    1. Very beautiful and nimble 3D effects.
    2. Really convenient and simple, targeted at any user.
    3. A lot of opportunities come right out of the box.
    4. There is a full Flash player, the only mobile phone that can boast of this.
    5. There is a full-fledged Linux OS, again the only mobile phone that can boast of this.

    Here you can safely say - hooray! Here it is, the revolution!

    Conclusion or “beginning of continuation”

    I am deeply confident and hope that I could prove to you that this is a "revolution". The full-fledged Linux OS represented by Maemo and the worthy “carrier” of this miracle represented by the Nokia N900 represent the beginning of a new era. This is the era of the intersection of desktop and mobile devices, and the Nokia N900 is a huge step towards this event.
    This was an introductory article where I tried to show the potential strength and revolutionism of the Nokia N900 against the backdrop of turbulent events in the mobile technology market. In subsequent articles, I will describe in more detail what Maemo is and what is hidden in it. Next, I will show how easy it is to write or port an application to this platform and how development for Maemo is critically different from development for other mobile platforms for the better. And in conclusion, I will show how you can functionally expand the kernel of the system, using the example of writing a kernel module for the N900.
    The purpose of these articles is to show users the capabilities of the new amazing platform. The second goal is to convince developers that writing for Maemo is simple and promising.

    UPD: A little thought on the background of yesterday’s presentation of the iPad: Apple's course is to put the mobile axis on a fairly large gadget (in fact a netbook), Nokia's course is to put the full axis on a small mobile gadget. That's how the policies of the two giants diverge in this regard. And great, let's see what this will lead to, and plus the end user can choose for himself what he needs today.

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