I speculated yesterday that the new Nokia internet tablet the open source world is buzzing about might debut with a price point in the neighborhood of $1K (basing my assumption on pricing for their top of the line phones), and I’m delighted to say that I was wrong. By quite a bit. Unlike the breaking stories I read yesterday that claimed Nokia hadn’t released pricing yet, El Reg is reporting that the pricepoint should be in the $350 range.
Now you should take this with a grain of salt given that devices aren’t my area, but I tend to think that Nokia will sell a lot of these. I, for one, am definitely going to be a buyer (or maybe RedMonk will be). As the Reg points out, the battery life is something of a limiting factor, but let’s remember that this is merely the prototype, the first effort. I’m sure subsequent iterations will improve on this and other deficiencies. In the meantime, the current battery will give me better performance than I’ve ever gotten from my X23, which even with a new battery didn’t touch the 3 hour mark (though my shipping-soon X40 damn well better). In other words, this could serve as a real ultralight internet terminal for conferences where I don’t expect to take many notes but require access.
So all of that’s interesting, but not the real story. The interesting stuff (said the software guy) is rather the software. Nokia’s made what I consider to be a very savvy move, in reaching out to key members of the GNOME community. While GNOME seems to have stolen a march in the corporate desktop wars (default for Red Hat and Sun’s JDS, and gaining strength – IMO – within Novell), KDE was out in front from a device perspective. At LinuxWorld Boston, some of the folks from Trolltech (the firm behind QT, which is the foundation for KDE) were kind enough to show me some new multimedia Qtopia based gadgets that were really pretty cool. I’m not aware of anything comparable that’s GNOME based (though please correct me if I’m wrong). As a result, the partnership with Nokia on what I believe will be a popular device seems to be a win/win, in that GNOME benefits from gaining credibility in the device market, while Nokia picks up mindshare from one of the more influential hacking communities out there.
What will be fascinating to watch going forward will be the degree to which maemo becomes (or doesn’t) a hotbed for GNOME based device development and a new generation of Linux non-PC devices. What I don’t fully understand as yet is how integrated (in the worrisome sense) the whole platform is: for example, can Debian be decoupled and substituted for, say, MontaVista?  How might maemo recruit other ISV (or IHV) partners to make the project more open? Or, perhaps more interestingly, can the device be hacked to add some persistent memory given that it doesn’t have a drive? All questions I’ll have to take up with Nokia and the maemo crowd.
Either way, my first impression of the device is good, and I’ll look forward to seeing how the project progresses.
 Before you get in a twist, relax, Debian fans. I’m at least an occasional Debian advocate (though Gentoo user).