We get hands-on with Nokia's much-touted internet device.
Nokia announced its N900 internet device last week, but it's available for journalists to play with for the first time at Nokia World today. ME naturally elbowed our way to the front of the queue to get hands on with the device.
Our first question: can you make calls on this thing? It was left a bit vague in the announcement last week. But yes, you CAN make cellular voice calls using the N900, as you would a normal mobile handset.
However, the interesting thing is that when we got a hands-on demo, tapping on a contact and selecting the option to make a call offers three options: regular voice call, a Skype call, or a Google Talk call. That's if you have that contact signed up on those services, of course.
If operators are comfortable with this, they'll have come a long way. If not... well, it could be interesting for the N900's retail prospects.
But moving onto the device, the first thing to say is that it makes Nokia's first touchscreen handset, the 5800 XpressMusic, look like a clunky first-generation model - which, of course, it was.
The N900's Maemo-powered user interface is much, much slicker, with plenty of iPhone-esque flicking between screens and content. It's certainly up there with Apple's device on that score.
Judging by the tone of the Nokia staffer giving us a demo, the company will make a big deal out of the N900's ability to multi-task. Particularly impressive was a screen of live widgets - web pages, conversations and so on - presented as thumbnails and all updating live.
The N900's browsing experience seems excellent at first sight (and touch). Full Flash websites - we surfed the full-fat YouTube - and a copy'n'paste feature that feels more intuitive than that of the iPhone.
UPDATE: We've posted a TwitVid (shot with, ahem, an iPhone) showing the browser in action. If you squint.
Also neat is the way you swipe your finger from right to left across a web page to bring up your browsing history - presented in a CoverFlow style interface of webpage thumbnails. A little touch, but it shows Nokia has learned the importance of such little touches from that Cupertino-based rival.
The Conversations functionality, bringing together SMS, IM, emails and other messaging - as well as presence - looks good, but we'd need more of a hands-on to judge how intuitive it is. But the thumbnail/swipe theme runs through everything - from music and video through to contacts.
Can it take on the iPhone and iPod touch? The N900 certainly has the horsepower, and it looks to have the usability too. Much will depend on how Nokia gets it out there though, and what kind of compromises it has to make - if any - with mobile operators to bring the price down from its RRP of 500 Euros.