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Nokia Enters the Smartbook Race, Reveals the N900

It’s really Nokia’s week for new gizmos–first the news of its first netbook, and now it’s pulled the veil from the N900, a high-end Linux-powered touchscreen device. It’s basically a smartbook–the device that could supersede the smartphone.

It’s really Nokia’s week for new gizmos–first the news of its first netbook, and now it’s pulled the veil from the N900, a high-end Linux-powered touchscreen device. It’s basically a smartbook–the device that could supersede the smartphone.

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Any doubts about the smartbook label should be dispelled by Nokia’s tagline on the device’s press release: “Computer-grade performance in a handset.” Apple’s been basically banging that drum about the iPhone since its launch, and even used it for a reason why it wasn’t entering the netbook market. Now it looks like Nokia’s trying to really compete on the same basis.

The N900 is an evolution from Nokia’s previous Internet tablets, but it’s ditched the Symbian OS that Nokia holds close to its heart for the new Maemo 5 O.S., which has a Linux core in a Nokia wrapper. In terms of pure technology, the N900 has an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU, 1GB of application memory from its 32GB of built-in storage with microSD expansion, 3G HSPA and WLAN connectivity, a full QWERTY slide-out keyboard, a 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens, dual LED flash, GPS geotagging, and a WVGA touchscreen.

One interesting thing is how Nokia’s really pressing the advantages the N900 has over the iPhone–the press release also makes reference to “full Adobe Flash 9.4 support” and “PC-like multitasking, allowing many applications to run simultaneously. Those are two direct shots at Apple’s smartphone which can currently do neither of those things. But the “panoramic homescreen” which can “be fully personalized with favourite shortcuts, widgets and applications” is basically an iPhone-aping feature.

Nokia, despite being the world’s biggest cell-phone maker, was caught sleeping by the revolutionary iPhone and its success, and it really seems that the N900 is its first serious attempt at competing with the device. It’s even pretty close to matching the iPhone in size at 110.9 by 59.8 by 19 mm versus the iPhone’s 112 by 62.1 by 12.3 mm–though that does make us wonder: With the sliding keyboard taking up room in the chassis, there’s not much room for a big battery. And with full Flash support, multitasking and LED lights for the camera, is the N900’s battery going to be its achilles heel?

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