Nokia’s N9 is Windows phone preview

June 21, 2011

The walking dead never looked so good.

Yes, Nokia promised to release a phone this year based on the MeeGo OS, a merger between the company’s Linux Maemo software platform with Intel’s Moblin, also based on Linux. But the soon-to-be former No.1 handset maker later announced that it would be their last, relegating MeeGo and Nokia’s other OS, Symbian, to zombie status.

Would-be smartphone buyers don’t fancy buying into an apps ecosystem with no potential for growth. And Nokia’s announcement that it would abandon its Symbian OS platform in favor of Microsoft’s Windows phone software should have been a lesson. Yet, Nokia still has plans to release Symbian-based models while it loses ground in key markets like China as smartphones become cheaper and alternatives proliferate.

Never mind that the N9 is as good looking as they come. Made from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic, it won’t leave unsightly marks if the body is dented. And the 3.9″ curved screen won’t easily scratch since it’s made from Corning’s ultra-tough Gorilla Glass. Wired’s Charlie Sorrel compares the N9’s aesthetics to “a giant iPod Nano, in a very good way.

And forget that it appears to be a stellar performer. The N9’s user interface is fluid and navigation is natural, writes Engadget’s Vlad Savov; it comes pre-loaded with apps like Vimeo, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, Angry Birds Magic, and Foursquare; it can act as a WiFi hotspot; it offers free maps for GPS navigation; the onboard NFC chip makes pairing bluetooth devices like speakers or headphones to it a matter of a tap; the AMOLED display consumes less power than other LCDs and is surprisingly easy to read in sunlight; and the N9 sports what looks to be a excellent 8MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics.

It won’t matter how cool the N9 is if there are no plans to develop the MeeGo platform. Intel said MeeGo was created because Microsoft didn’t offer enough Windows 7 support for its Atom processors. And it’s unlikely that Nokia will backtrack on its promise to make the N9 its last MeeGo smartphone because doing so would create another rival platform to its Windows based phones, the latter of which CEO Stephen Elop admitted will be Nokia’s priority. And Nokia has said it will support its Symbian platform until 2016. Lastly, no price or ship date was announced, so it’s not  beyond belief  that the device will get limited release or not make it to market.

So, why develop any phones based on software that has no future?

Wired’s Sorrel inadvertently poses the most compelling, albeit expensive, reason beyond Nokia trying to squeeze as much out what’s left in its lame duck operating systems.

“If Nokia can knock out phones this good with Microsoft’s lovely Windows 7 Phone series phone OS, then things might not be as bleak as they seemed,” Sorrel writes.

With the introduction of the N9, Nokia is scrambling to reassure investors and customers alike that their patience will pay off when it debuts its first Windows-based smartphone later this year.

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One comment

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What a shame. Nokia could have backed MeeGo to the hilt and had total control over their own future.
I’d prefer to develop using C/C++/Qt/OpenGL over XNA and Silverlight any day of the week.
Now they will just be one in a sea of hardware manufacturers licensing other peoples technology.

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