Nokia's N9 Beautiful, But Not Business-Ready

The first--and last--MeeGo handset is a gorgeous piece of hardware that will have little impact on Nokia's smartphone ambitions.
Nokia N9
(click image for larger view)
Nokia N9
Nokia reminded the mobile industry on Tuesday why it is the number one maker of cell phones in the world: It knows how to design hardware. The N9, which debuted at an event in Singapore, is all that most have come to expect from Nokia when it comes to high-concept phones. It's a shame, really, that such an attractive phone is a one-off product for a platform that will have almost zero relevance in the smartphone space.

The N9 has a 3.9-inch AMOLED display, and relies entirely on touch gestures to interact with the user interface. Nokia refers to the new interface as "swipe."

The body of the N9 is made from curved polycarbonate, which Nokia says helps with cell signal reception, improves call quality, and results in fewer dropped calls. It can be used for turn-by-turn directions thanks to the GPS radio, and the inclusion of near-field communications means it can be used for tap-and-go payments.

On the entertainment side of things, the phone has an 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, and it can capture HD video. It can be used to watch 16:9 movies, and includes Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Digital Headphones audio processing software for better sound. It will come with either 16GB or 64GB of internal storage, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and support for most of the world's 3G networks.

The hardware is simply stunning, as many have come to expect from Nokia's design team.

But for businesses, the N9 is a risky bet.

The new Linux-based platform, called MeeGo, looks fantastic. It's fluid, smooth, and the "swipe" idea looks really interesting. From an application perspective, however, it is extremely limited.

Nokia has worked with app developers to make sure some key apps are available when the N9 launches--by the way, Nokia didn't announce a launch date. Some of those apps include Vimeo, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, Angry Birds, Foursquare, AccuWeather, and a handful more. Nokia has been pushing its Qt developer environment for ages, and though the tools are amazingly robust, there's little incentive for developers to go crazy making apps for one handset.

Instead, they'll do what Seesmic did yesterday, and focus their efforts on the platforms that they know will make them money: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7.

Good thing, then, that Nokia is switching to WP7 for its future smartphones. We can only hope that its WP7 smartphones are as attractive and capable as the N9.

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