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The Elop's Victim: Nokia N9 Ц the First and the Last MeeGo

During the CommunicAsia 2011 trade show in Singapore, Nokia presented the first and the last company device running MeeGo OS. In the beginning of 2010, Nokia's top management promised that by the end of the same year we will see something so advanced, we'll forget about anything else. In other words, "you'll stop annoying us with your iPhone stories because we'll show you an uber-device". By the middle of 2010 all of a sudden there was nothing to show and, announced to a great funfair, alliance with Intel for MeeGo development was sinking. In 2011, during a stockholder meeting, Intel's CEO Paul Otellini called this alliance a big mistake, his company having lost years due to delays and attempts to create MeeGo with Nokia. A very direct characterization of "Breakthrough" technology. If in 2010 Nokia was still working on a MeeGo based product, by the end of the year Maemo 6 Harmattan was reanimated. It was a 180 degree turn back to own design which is compatible with MeeGo 1.2 only because of API (mostly the same Qt).

From the end of 2010 Nokia talks about MeeGo being a project for 2011, the exact ETA is wisely withheld. The top management promises are pouring in, but the most effective quote belongs to none other than the new Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop: "Future Disruptive Technology". To translate into a human language, MeeGo will show the world the technologies that will make its future devices better than anything competition has. Oh, what fantasies that quote brought to life! Any technology news appearing online were imagined to fit a future product, people saw a spaceship of a phone. Even then it was clear that the new product will simply have no competition. Remembering the hype surrounding the previous spaceship Ц the Maemo based Nokia N900 Ц it was hard to believe in. The sales of N900 were not just disappointing, the model spectacularly failed in every single market. Of course, Nokia found a very reasonable explanation to it Ц they never wanted the phone to have a sales success. They meant the next phone after N900 will be a success and N900 was just made for the developers, to get their interest in the platform. For some reason however, these explanations were given after the fact and only after Reuters published the report, based on their sources information, that in 5 months worldwide only 100,000 N900 were sold. Nokia did not dispute the report, but rather took a prolonged silence, then saying that the sales were "satisfactory".

So now the June 21st, 2011 came. The new chapter in the history of Nokia and the whole cell phone market. It's hard for me to abstain from thunderous applause, but allow introducing you the new Nokia flagship, the phone that will tear the Apple iPhone or any other phone imaginable a new one, Nokia N9.

No, seriously, people in Nokia do think they created a historic phone. Stop grinning! They truly believe that this phone is what the market needs, considering that the phone was actually created in 2010. Before we look at the specs, let me tell you this: Nokia CEO, Mr. Stephen Elop, officially stated, that in 2011 the company will introduce the last MeeGo device, because the company chose to use Wingdows Phone 7. He said it Ц he did it. Nokia N9 is the last MeeGo/Maemo device from Nokia. There'll be no others.

Who will be buying a product that is officially declared the last of its kind, is a mystery. Basically, the company put a fat period at the end of Maemo history by introducing the model it worked on for two years. Mr. Elop performed an abortion and its victim is the whole Maemo/MeeGo.

The Victim Nokia N9: the Specs

The phone design took a while, so don't expect anything extraordinary from it. Here is a sort spec list:

 раткие технические характеристики Nokia N9:

  • Frequencies support: WCDMA/HSPA 850, 900, 1900, 1700, 2100 MHz; GSM/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • DIMs: 116.45 x 61.2 х 7.6-12.1 mm
  • Weight: 135 g.
  • Display: 3.9", AMOLED, 854 x 480 resolution, double Gorilla glass
  • Camera: 8 MPx AF, Carl Zeiss lens, dual diode flash, HD (720p) video recording
  • Processor: ARM Cortex-A8 OMAP3630 1 GHz, PowerVRSGX530
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM, 16/64 GB flash
  • Battery: 1450 MA/h
  • Connetcivity: WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v2.1, GPS, A-GPS, NFC, 3.5 mm audio out, USB (micro USB with charging)

Other flagships made a leap forward in 2011, introducing dual core processors 1GHz and higher. This allows not only increasing the speed of most applications, but also bringing about a longer battery time. This is the evolution of phone internals, the whole market is moving into that direction and single core processors are more of a display of a manufacturer's weakness, whether it is truly a weakness or a conscious choice. In case of Nokia N9 the choice of TI OMAP 3630 processor was made because the model was developed for too long. There are no other reasons. However the delay with the development was related to company's inability to finish the OS design. By the way, it's not fully designed today either, but we'll talk about it later.

I had to pick up a magnifying glass to find the breakthrough technologies in this device. Let's try to find them together.

The Display is made with AMOLED technology. This is not bad at all, although Samsung sells Nokia the LCD from the previous generation, we see it on the Symbian-based devices as well. The screen resolution is 854х480 with a 3.9" diagonal. Pretty average specs for a phone of this price level, especially in comparison to other phones, some of them on the market for over a year. The screen is covered with Gorilla Glass Ц also adopted by many manufacturers for over a year. The curvature of the surface Ц not the first. As we can see, there is really nothing revolutionary here. OK, let's search more.

Processor. As I mentioned above, the processor is used in other devices for over a year. The new TI processor is OMAP4 on Cortex A9.

Polycarbonate. It's a Nokia's secret weapon. In the press-release, the company emphasizes the better signal reception, creating an impression that this material was designed especially for N9. There are some "Maemo developers", calling themselves "professionals", who claim this is not plastic, it's a special material. Sorry, but have to disappoint many people Ц it is used in a great number of phones, a pretty standard plastic we can see in both expensive and cheap models

Connectivity. Here we find Bluetooth 2.1 although other flagships have already moved to 3.0. Of course, this is not needed by most Nokia N9 buyers, rightly so. The technologies of today are replaced by the technologies of tomorrow. The phone supports NFC, which has a very rare use in a real world today. That is to say that the phone was designed more for the developers than for the regular users.

Design. Really, can't just pass by this absolutely subjective factor. Many already noted that the phone looks quite like a product from Apple. One of our readers already made up a picture to address is:

Source: @nick_fess

Another one wrote that Nokia designer tried to copy Jonathan Ive from Apple, but lacked the charisma. I agree Ц when trying to fight Apple it's better to go your own road, not to copy the original.

Camera. A clear breakthrough for Nokia. After abolishing the autofocus on the majority of Symbian models, N9 gets it back - a breakthrough indeed. I assume the quality will be on the level with other competing models, but the video is supported only up to 720p, Nokia developers lost their expertise in this field.

Missing Home Button. This is the "innovation" all manufacturing are going to, as well as gesture recognition. In N9 this opens up the screen, a great demo of the MeeGo state. Attractive on the surface, but shallow inside. Let's look further.

Software. During the Nokia N900 launch, Nokia's chant was "Wait a little and the apps for the device will appear, we just need some time". This is exactly what they will say for N9, except that this time the company will not even participate in development, they will give it all away to the developer's community. It's just very convenient to get rid of all responsibilities and to claim that the lack of apps, games is a third party's fault. You can also get upset with the developer's narrow thinking! As far as I remember, Nokia N900 was the only device where a release of any game for it was followed by a great funfair and even dedicated press-releases. The only caveat was that the same games for other platforms were available sometimes for years. It's really wrong to think that anything will change for the N9 Ц there will be too few altruists willing to invest their time into development of something for a dead platform with only tens of thousands of users worldwide.

Why Would Elop Need Nokia N9?

That is the most important question in this story. Nokia CEO really needed N9 to see the light of the day and start selling. For him, the product is very personal and extremely important. This first and the last Nokia MeeGo smartphone will show everyone just how forward looking and correct Stephen Elop is. That whole PR noise around this phone is not for nothing. Just think Ц to spend all this energy and money to sell 92,000 phones worldwide? It's nonsense. Or it seems so. A lot of things in Stephen Elops work make no sense initially, but later they find an explanation.

The choice of WP7 as a main smartphone platform for Nokia smartphones made in February of this year by Stephen Elop, showed that Nokia split into two camps. The majority of Nokia employees felt themselves betrayed and considered the choice as an abolishment of all Nokia values and ideals. They were right. Even more Ц the release of Nokia N9 is a practical demonstration that Nokia had no chance with this product, a demonstration to the Board of Directors, the employees what a spectacular failure was in stock for Nokia with this and other products. Stephen Elop did everything he could to prepare such outcome, by saying and doing everything in his power to make sure nobody buys the phone. And it won't be bought. As I said before, the phone is a victim of an abortion performed by Elop Ц no more, no less. It's also a card played by the CEO to prove by any means that the WP7 choice was the only correct one. In November, as the first WP7 sales results will start to come in, inside the company they will start comparing the sales to the sales of N9. It will be a kind of internal PR, although the correct word to call it is self-deception.

The once great company releases a technically outdated device and truly believes that it is on par with today's competition. On the other side, its CEO does everything possible to make sure the phone flops to prove his point. A real mess. The ordinary buyers however need to know the following: there are no reasons to buy this device in September at release. The retailers and carriers are not optimistic about it and will carry it assortment for only with very few actual units ordered.

The enthusiasm of Nokia fans is similar to the one they experienced when Nokia N900 was announced. That turned into a lot of hot air, but then the company really tried to squeeze as much as possible from the product. Today, Nokia plays against itself Ц they do not need a successful device, they need a failure to prove it inside the company. They will succeed.

P.S. I will not write a review of the device, just add pictures from yesterday's presentation in Moscow. This phone does not deserve much of attention today, its customers will be either the hard core brand fanatics or accidental victims. To conscientiously buy this device after the official OS burial by Nokia is basically impossible.

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Related links

Stephen Elop Ц How Maemo/Meego was Killed by Nokia

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Michael Savuskan

Published — 21 June 2011

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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