Now that certainly was refreshing. The Nokia N900 is different from anything else we have seen recently in the touch phone market. Better yet, it's different with a purpose. The Maemo platform is all about simplicity and multitasking - we guess that's music to the ears of power users. The Maemo will certainly seem unusual but - take our word - never unfriendly.
Of course there are a few shortcomings left to fix but the internet tablet background has made sure none of them is a deal-breaker. And we certainly believe the Maemo community will be playing a key role in making having this smartphone and any upcoming ones an exciting thing.
Indeed passionate users and developers are the most valuable asset of a given platform. Just look at the Apple iPhone if you need further proof.
But Maemo is not another OS trying to beat the iPhone. While it certainly nears the easygoing cool handling of the iPhone, it's also reaching for the versatility of Symbian S60. However, even if N900 is a little short at both ends at this point anyone can see the promise. Most importantly though, it's Nokia who need to be aware of that promise and keep it.
The big and chubby device is anything but mass-market but that's perhaps Nokia's way of reiterating the fact that it's no run-of-the-mill handset either. We can see some of the low-key cautious design approach of the 5800 XpressMusic in the N900. However, the 5800, on which the touch-enabled Symbian debuted, was trying to get into everyone's pocket. It was so affordable it was literally trying to bribe people into forgiving all the Symbian touchscreen imperfections. The N900 in turn is not trying to paint the town red but it comes across as more elitist, insider kind of gadget for the real geeks. Anyway, the N900 is the better debut, by far.
But the competition counts big time for shoppers, so let's have a look at a few of the Nokia N900 alternatives among rival platforms.
We start with a family feud which might escalate into a major conflict. The Nokia N97 and N97 mini are more pocket-friendly and offer even more features. And while we do appreciate the Maemo experience, Symbian purists might prefer the "Home sweet home" feeling of the S60 5th edition.
The WinMo world probably has the largest number of alternatives to offer. The HTC Touch Pro2 and Samsung B7610 OmniaPRO (and we should probably include the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2, too) are true power devices who have each other as their main problem. Given the incomparably larger number of applications available for WinMo, some users might take the readily available richer functionality over the great potential for growth. And we can't blame them either.
Finally, we take a peek at one the most interesting Android offerings on the market. Motorola MILESTONE offers a slightly bigger display with a drop more resolution (3.7" and 480 x 854 pixels) and runs the latest Android - 2.0 Eclair. A bold comeback for Motorola against a Nokia revolution - it doesn't get more exciting than that.
Now, how about revolution eating its own children? We doubt the N900 will fall victim to the market it's changing. There are very few handsets we would so much as consider against the N900 for Internet browsing. Its tablet roots are strong enough to take care of that. The N900 has put Maemo on the mobile platform map and has finally given Nokia an edge in the catch-up game they've been playing with their controversy-ridden Symbian S60 5th so far. Nokia now have two touch platforms to work with and we have front row seats. We can hardly wait.