Nokia Trots Out Wi-Fi Tablet

By Clint Boulton

May 25, 2005

The Linux-based tablet facilitates broadband access to the Internet over Wi-Fi.

NEW YORK -- Finnish phone maker Nokia today introduced a Linux-based computing device that provides speedy Web access over Wi-Fi technology.

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, a departure for the communications company because it doesn't include a phone, will allow consumers on the go to tap into broadband services anywhere within the range of a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Nokia expects Wi-Fi use to continue to grow significantly, said Janne Jormalainen, vice president of convergence products at Nokia, who introduced the tablet at the LinuxWorld Summit in New York Wednesday.

The executive said roughly 150 million homes in the United States use broadband, with 43 percent of new broadband users opting for Wi-Fi. There are also nearly 125,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S., he said.

With Wi-Fi use growing, Jormalainen said Nokia created the tablet to make it easier for consumers to browse the Web or use e-mail clients.

"Most Internet use is done from a PC, which is usually fixed to a certain place and is pretty restrictive," Jormalainen said. "Wouldn't it be nice to make a VoIP call from anywhere in the house, do instant messaging at the kitchen table, or do a Google search in the bedroom?"

Nokia hopes its new tablet and subsequent tablet devices will make this a reality. The gadget is geared to render content easily viewable over Wi-Fi, because it has a high-resolution (800x480 pixels) wide-screen display with zooming capabilities and an on-screen keyboard. The device can also connect to the Internet through Bluetooth wireless technology via a compatible cell phone.

Nokia 770 Internet Tablet
Nokia's 770 Internet Tablet
Source: Nokia

Nokia expects the tablet, which will eventually be sold with a media player and RSS reader, to sell for $350 when it appears in the third quarter of 2005.

From a software perspective, the gadget also represents a flashpoint for Nokia, which is well known for its Symbian operating system for smartphones.

Because Nokia views its tablet as more of a computing device akin to a PC, Jormalainen said the machine is based on Linux software from the maemo development platform, which will provide "fast and efficient solutions to build products."

Nokia created maemo for developers to design applications for the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet and other maemo-compliant handheld devices in the future. Open source developers will be able to use the Hildon user interface in maemo and other tools to collaborate with Nokia on future devices and operating system versions.

"This is the first step in creating an open-source product for broadband and Internet services," Jormalainen said. "We will be launching regular updates of the software. The next software release, planned for the first half of next year, will support more presence-based functionalities such as VoIP and instant messaging."

Nokia announced further commitments to Linux Wednesday. Jormalainen said Nokia will allow all of its patents to be used in the future development of the Linux kernel. The company has posted a patent statement describing its intentions here.

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