Mikko lent me his Nokia 770 Internet Tablet and I've started to explore the device. Unfortunately we were in Beijing at the time, so I was missing the documentation and a cable, but that's only encouraged me to start to explore the related websites. I discovered some of the applications work browsing from the tablet itself. I found and loaded Gizmo, a VoIP client. I registered Gizmo and sitting at home on the home wifi network "dialed" the house ... and the phone rang.
And then it hit me. What if I'm holding the future in my hand? The Nokia 770 is clearly Not-A-Mobile-Phone, but ....
- We're rapidly approaching a world of city-wide wifi networks and WiMax, and that assumes you don't already move through a mesh of wifi networks (paid and free) in your daily life. While the mobile cell phone is the technology interface of choice in developing economies today, it's already changing in the developed economies and urban centers.
- The news around the announcement of Apple's coming iPhone pointed out that all the handset manufacturers were probably excited because they may finally be able to break the tyranny of the network mobile operators (NMO) once Apple demonstrates people will pay for device appeal. But what if we didn't care about the NMO anymore?
- It's a Linux device. So Nokia has already dodged the bullet of per device royalties from Symbian and/or Microsoft. (Symbian and Microsoft still think they'll make money with "smart phones" in China. They're both doing the wrong arithmetic.)
- It's Wifi. So specific national and regional comms stack requirements from the government via the NMO, supported through the device OS vendor, are also gone. (Really ... what if we didn't care about the NMO anymore?)
- Input methods easily span the stylus, handwriting recognition, and a finger appropriate touch pad. I'm still becoming proficient in all three, but I also think I like all three in different application settings.
- Google's laying down city wide wifi. Forget the Google phone, Google should be pounding down Nokia's door to work on the Nokia tablet series together. At the very least, Google's apps teams should show up en masse in the maemo community.
Nokia has even gone out of its way to attract developers. They've published the platform as open source. Aside from the Linux platform base, they're building out an applications development community as well. While the home page is stark, and I've barely begun to scratch the surface, there's a wealth of material here. I knew Nokia was already experimenting with open source software communities around MUPE. Here they're raising the bar.
I do not begrudge Apple from locking out app developers initially from the iPhone, because their internal cult-of-customer-design makes me a happy customer on my PowerBook, iPod, etc. But they're still thinking about how to turn a small computer with great screen appeal into a phone, and managing the entire customer experience. Nokia is being brilliant and throwing open the doors on a tablet device that isn't a mobile phone. But from which I can make calls ....
And then I started thinking again ....
Apple and Microsoft are gearing up for the Living Room Wars as the ultimate media experience. They're each staking turf as the real "set top box" which we've heard promised for a decade. They're each approaching it as a PC company -- so the set top box must be a PC. They're each doing business with the music labels and Hollywood, so they think like media channel partners. I trust Apple to get the user experience "right". (Windows OS security pop-ups during movies notwithstanding, the Mac media UI is just easier.)
But Nokia core competencies don't just involve small hand held devices. They do have some experience in "bigger" equipment. What if the home network hub was a device near the front door on which I drop my keys, [ultra small and cheap] mobile phone [which is just a camera/phone], and tablet at the end of the day and it:
- syncs the phone and tablet (if indeed they don't actively live in sync via bluetooth),
- syncs the phone and tablet contacts,
- checks for tablet email and routes it appropriately (possibly uploading and sending the tablet off-line outbox),
- syncs any documents I updated,
- uploads the next TiVo episode for watching on tomorrow's commute [or at lunch] because I really don't need yet another US$400-$800 dollar device in my living room,
- ... <what would YOU like it to do> ...
Oh, and inductive charges the two active devices.
This is actually a second game changing innovation opportunity they could develop, beyond the idea that "the mobile phone company" is developing mobile devices that make mobile phones irrelevant. Let Microsoft and Apple hammer away at each other over media centers, phones, and hand-held media players.
Now I just need to figure out how to get the Nokia 770 to talk to my Mac to get some real file sharing going on. Then I'll think about my killer app ....