Convergence devices are forever promised, a device that fits comfortably in your pocket, can make phone-calls, plays all manner of media from books to music to video, will play games, handle basic office tasks such as documents, email and PIM tasks, as well as acting as a hub for your various groups of online friends via social networking and IM, with a vibrant development community and a non-restrictive platform, but has such a device ever arrived? Arguably not, most notably because of the conflicting challenges of making a device big enough to both display a lot of information information and house some serious power, and then small enough to remain pocket-able in a way that allows it to be always at hand. Will we ever reach this Nirvana?
Probably by the start of 2011 is this blogs best guess:
The Iphone 4 due to be announced any day now is going to pretty much nail the format, at the very least it will come a lot closer than any device has managed yet. With a 960×640 screen it will offer plenty of resolution, but at 3.5″ it simply won’t be big enough for productivity work. Likewise with the store and development community, its depth and breadth is unsurpassed, but it remains a fundamentally restricted platform that prevents this blogger treating it as a go-to device, for all its polish it is a console and not a computer to use a gaming metaphor.
The Dell Streak is an interesting device, a 5″ Android internet tablet with full phone capabilities. The platform is moderately open, and the app-store thriving, so we can hope that productivity applications and media portals will arrive to make use this ‘huge’ screen space. Is the device truly pocket-able however, and will the growing fragmentation of the android platform between vendors and versions prove to be a brake on the platforms success?
There is one more potential contender, a future Nokia smartphone using the MeeGo linux platform partnered with the Ovi Store. With the first release of MeeGo targeted at smartphones due for release in October 2010 we can predict a product announcement from Nokia shortly thereafter, and worldwide shipments of devices early in 2011. What does this blog consider to be essential specifications for Nokia’s first MeeGo smartphone to have a shot at the crown of convergence king, and thus compete with the like of IphoneOS and Android?
First it needs class leading performance, both to allow for serious productivity work from the CPU side, and to provide parity with Iphones on the GPU side given that they are the industry standard to which mobile games publishers strive. Given Nokia’s preference for Texas Instruments this would suggest an Omap4 SoC, as the dual-core Arm Cortex A9 CPU will provide serious grunt, and the PowerVR 540 GPU will provide the same 28 MPolys/s, 500Mpx/s that publishers expect when they target Iphones using the equivalent 535GPU. A Ti Omap4 would be a suitable base platform around which to build a standard for developers targeting MeeGo, and it would prove more capable than even the Apple A4 SoC and the Snapdragon SoC popular among android devices.
Second, Nokia need to reach back to their past internet tablets and revive the larger screen size that “N” devices used to boast. With the n900 Nokia decided that the market wasn’t ready for a 4.3″ smartphone from them, so they worked to the established perceptions of consumers grown used to android devices and iphones by providing a high-resolution 3.5″ screen, this needs to change. Soon both iphones and android devices will have stolen the n900’s high-resolution clothes, and Dell and HTC have already released products with 5″ and 4.1″ screens respectively. The first MeeGo smartphone should have at least a 4″ OLED screen with a QHD resolution as this will make it far more useful and usable for creating and consuming tasks and media.
Third, Nokia should ditch the hardware keyboard and rely on capacitive multi-touch to make-good the user input deficit. Consumers expect to be able to do everything with the screen, and a larger and higher resolution screen will enable productivity applications previously deemed inoperable without a hardware keyboard. Further, ditching the hardware keyboard will allow Nokia engineers to keep the device slim, an absolute requirement if a 4″ plus device is not to be considered too bulky to be comfortably pocket-able. This blogger is a very happy owner of the n900, but it is not the future.
Fourth, MeeGo and Symbian are open platforms, and Nokia should open the Ovi-Store to third party device manufacturers who meet its platform standards with regards to application compatibility. If a device manufacturer meets the required hardware and software specifications Nokia should encourage them to adopt Ovi as their app-store, and do so by revenue sharing appropriately, because the Ovi-Store has a long way to go to achieve the critical-mass enjoyed by Apple’s app store and the android market place. Not all device manufacturers will be interested in this, fine let them go their own way, but Nokia should see their future as a platform vendor like Intel, who are providing their own open app-store for x86 MeeGo devices, rather than the closed shop they might secretly like to remain.
Nokia’s strength is the openness of its platforms, it should capitalise upon that factor rather than ape the business models of its competitors whose dominance relies on the polish that a closed platform can bring. It goes without saying that Nokia should actively adopt emerging technologies such as digital compasses and the like, and continue to provide class-leading camera functionality (both front and rear), in addition to pushing QT as hard as possible as the future of mobile app development.
Oh, and if this blog could offer one more bit of advice; buy kobobooks and compete right now in the fast growing market for ebooks, before it comes to be dominated by services that run that run on your competitors platforms rather than your own…………
Perhaps the idea of opening up Ovi Store is not so crazy after all as some Samsung and Sony Ericsson Symbian phones are now officially able to install QT, and presumably run QT applications. If that is already happening, why would third parties not do the same with MeeGo models, and why would Nokia not reciprocate by selling QT signed applications on the Ovi Store for those models?