This week I attended Mobile Geeks Vancouver where we were given a presentation by Samir Agarwal, Head of Maemo Operations at Nokia in Mountain View, California. The presentation by Samir was definitely eye opening. After winning an Android phone at the Vancouver Android Developers Meetup last week I thought I’d covered all the bases of what’s happening in the mobile world. If I were a mobile applications developer, and I might be, should I be developing for the iPhone or for Android? Well, it appears there’s now a third choice. The N900 was demo’d with a promise of a far superior phone in the second half of 2010. It was running the Meego platform, which we’re told we should all be excited about.
Meego is open-source and is a collaboration between Nokia and Intel. It’s basically Linux under the hood and can incorporate any number of open-source technologies. Applications are generally written in C / C++ or something that can compile onto it (Objective-C ?). We were demo’d some OpenGL appplications, which are always a good crowd pleaser, even with the technologically enlightened. I was pleased to see see the OpenGL game Angry Birds running on there, since it’s the only game I currently play on my iPhone.
Video Skype was of interest to me. Nokia have decided “the genie is out of the bottle” on this one and doubts that, moving forward, network providers will continue to have problems with such technologies. I’m sure they’ll still have problems with it, but I agree that this is becoming a forced change if the entire Internet is to go mobile and the lines blur between what is “the Internet” and what is “a phone-call”.
I noticed Nokia as a business is not doing so well, with frustrated stockholders. Will these new phones apease the stockholders and fly off the shelves? I’m not sure. I understand what Nokia is trying to do by building, not a phone, but a small computer that fits in your pocket and is potentially capable of doing anything that your computer can do. It did seem very capable from what we were shown.
It has Flash in the browser, which I believe was Firefox? It must have one heck of a battery. The video-out on the N900 was impressive, but I doubt personally I’d use the feature too often. It’s here where Apple strives, making decisions on the needs of the majority in order to reduce bulk and weight for everyone. When the phone was demo’d I thought the Meego looked relatively slick, but when I used it hands-on it didn’t feel especially intuitive to me. The Android phone (did I tell you I won?) seemed much more intuitive to me, though I have still to find any Android 1.5 applications that draw me away from my iPhone. Meego, like Android, seemed to be widget friendly. This is an area in which the iPhone is really lacking. I find the home screen on my Android tells me most of what I need to know. The calendar shows what’s next, what time, and where. The news shows what’s happening in the world and I can see if I have new email. All this without entering an application. But this is not a Android review, so I’ll stop there. Multi-touch is not yet in there, but will be in the next [super] version.
Nokia seems to be focusing on services. For instance, I was interested to see Nokia be doing a great deal in China with services for farmers. Could be a big niche. I checked out Nokia’s ovi.com . The site is very slow loading, inconsistent and many pages, mostly in the maps area, did not work in the Google Chrome browser. Are these the services that cost $10 billion to develop? If this is an example of the services we can expect on the phone, I might give it a miss. I thought that might be a bit harsh, so I went to https://europe.nokia.com. Again, slow loading pages. Click around there any you’ll get a “404 Page not found” every few page clicks. Refresh the page and it’s fine. The word “flakey” springs to mind.
In conclusion, I’m interested to find out more about what Nokia has install for the short term future. Unlike Apple, they have several technology streams in the mobile area. Apple is simple – they have the iPhone. I hope we see a great phone come out with Nokia in the 2nd half of 2010. It could be in a few weeks, or in 7 months time. I hope they figure out how to have so many heavy-weight technologies running in a mobile phone, without the need for a heavy-weight battery. If they do, and keep the weight down, it could be good contender with the iPhone and Android. I also think they should focus on hardware over web services.