Nokia Debuts High-End Linux Smartphone


Nokia, the world's largest mobile device maker, this week pulled the curtain off of its first-ever smartphone that runs open-source Linux software.

The Finnish company on Thursday unveiled the N900 Linux-based smartphone, which features a high-resolution WVGA touch-screen, a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a Mozilla browser and Adobe Flash 9.4 support for video and other interactive applications. The device is expected to cost upwards of $700 before carrier subsidies.

The N900 runs Nokia's Linux-based Maemo 5 software, which is updated automatically over the Internet.

"With Linux software, Mozilla-based browser technology and now also with cellular connectivity, the Nokia N900 delivers a powerful mobile experience," Nokia Executive Vice President Anssi Vanjoki said in a statement. "The Nokia N900 shows where we are going with Maemo, and we'll continue to work with the community to push the software forward. What we have with Maemo is something that is fusing the power of the computer, the Internet and the mobile phone, and it is great to see that it is evolving in exciting ways."

Nokia has toyed around with Linux in the past, using it in Web-accessible Internet tablet devices, which lacked cellular connectivity. The N900 takes that tablet format and shrinks it into a handheld device with cellular access.

The Linux-based N900 is not a sign that Nokia is shying away from its Symbian operating system, Nokia said. Symbian is the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, controlling more than half of the global smartphone operating system market, beating out Apple, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) and Google combined.

Linux will work with -- and not replace -- the Symbian operating system in Nokia's high-end device lineup.

"This is in no way putting Symbian in jeopardy," Vanjoki told Reuters. "Open source Symbian is going to be our main platform, and we are expanding and growing it the best we can, both in terms of functionality as well as distribution."

According to Nokia, the N900 will run ARM's Cortex-A8 processor, offers up to 1 GB of application memory and OpeGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration, which Nokia said offers PC-like multitasking and enables multiple applications to run simultaneously. The N900 lets users switch between applications using a dashboard, while the panoramic home screen can be personalized with shortcuts, widgets and applications.

Additional features of the Linux-based Nokia N900 smartphone include support for up to 10 personal e-mail accounts, organization of text message and IM exchanges in one view and 32 GB of storage that is expandable up to 48 GB with a microSD card. For photography, the N900 and Maemo software feature a new "tag cloud" user interface that works with the 5-megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics.

Nokia will officially unveil the N900 at next week's Nokia World event in Stuttgart, Germany. The N900 smartphone will be available in October, Nokia said.

Offering a phone based on Linux software will give Nokia a competitive edge, Vanjoki said.

"I'm sure this will help us in the market situation with iPhone," Vanjoki told Dow Jones Newswires, adding that the Nokia N900 phone is not a direct slap at Apple and the iPhone. "This thing has been moving at a very well-planned pace long before there was any sign of an iPhone."