The Shape Of Things To Come

Published by Tzer2 at 22:42 UTC, September 2nd 2009

The Symbian S60 smartphone platform has appeared in all kinds of devices, so why couldn't Maemo also be deployed in a variety of different form factors?

In a way this has already happened, Maemo was originally released on paperback-sized tablets with 4.13" screens, and Debian Linux (upon which Maemo was based) was designed for a desktop computers.

Maemo 5 is clearly going to be on more than just the N900, but what will these future Maemo 5 devices be like? Here are some suggestions, ranging from very conservative safe estimates to slightly weirder ones. If you have any suggestions of your own please post them in the comments thread at the end of this article.


  • No Keyboard: Very simple, just make a version of the N900 without a physical keyboard, but everything else the same. Text input could be via a choice of various on-screen virtual keyboards, and the removal of the keyboard would make the overall device much thinner and lighter. We suspect Nokia already has a non-keyboard version planned for 2010, but no one knows for sure.

Nokia Aeon concept device

The Nokia Aeon concept device from 2006. How about doing something like it for real with Maemo 5 in 2010?


  • Classic Tablet: A large 4+ inch touchscreen tablet is probably the most requested form factor on the forums because it's the original form factor on which Maemo was developed. The N900's smaller 3.5 inch screen size is a good idea in terms of reaching out to the much larger phone market, but perhaps a sister device could be released with a 4.13 inch screen as seen on the older Maemo devices?

Classic Maemo Tablet

A lot of hardcore Maemo fans would love to see a new classic-size tablet with Maemo 5 on it


  • Sideways Clamshell: This would be a broadly similar idea as the N900 or N810 but with a much larger and clickier keyboard thanks to using a clamshell design instead of a slider. This form factor would be somewhat similar to Nokia's Communicator line, and indeed such a device could carry the Communicator sub-brand if Nokia wanted to use it.

Nokia E90 next to Nokia N810

A clamshell design allows the keyboard to be the same size as the screen, and also allows the screen to be far better protected when not in use.


  • Non-Cellular Version: The Apple iPhone was also available in a cut-down version branded as the iPod Touch, which had most of the same features but lacked cellular radio. Perhaps Maemo could have a similar cut-down alternative model? This would be especially useful once Ovi Store, Nokia Music Store and other Ovi services become fully available on Maemo, and it might be an interesting way for Nokia to reach out to customers who currently only buy Nokias from phone networks. Perhaps if people get into the habit of buying non-cellular Nokias from electronics retailers, they might get into the habit of buying unlocked cellular Nokias from retailers too.

Nokia N900

Most of the N900's functions are non-cellular, and perhaps a non-cellular N900 might encourage people to buy unlocked cellular versions too?


  • Netbox: Not a specific device type as such, but a suggestion for a feature which offers a new way of using any kind of computing device. If a Maemo device came with a digital video output of some kind (DVI for example) it could be plugged into a monitor or television set, a keyboard and mouse could be attached via USB or Bluetooth, and the setup could be used as a simple computer. This would be better than the current analogue TV Out which is rather fuzzy. Dedicated netboxes have come and gone since the 1990s, but conditions now are much more suitable for the concept as internet connections have become more media-centric, and televisions have become physically larger so you can read website text more easily. Because most TVs now come with high definition and a digital input as standard, they can double up as high resolution monitors if required.

The Nintendo Wii is primarily a games console, but can also function as a netbox.


  • Mini-Laptop / Netbook: Ever since mini-laptops with SIM card slots became popular, many people had wondered if Nokia would enter the market. We now know they are entering it with their forthcoming Booklet 3G, but disappointingly for Linux fans it comes preinstalled with the Windows operating system as standard. However, perhaps Nokia and/or a community-led project could produce a version of Maemo 5 which could be installed on PCs and work with a mouse instead of a touchscreen. We've already seen Maemo 3 running (sort of) on a laptop as a proof of concept, so why not Maemo 5?

Nokia Booklet 3G

Nokia's Booklet 3G mini-laptop comes with Windows preinstalled, but could it be made to run Maemo too?


  • Large Home Tablet: This is perhaps the most expensive alternative suggested in this article, but just for the sake of some radical suggestions here goes... The form factor would be a large tablet, something akin to a Tablet PC or Kindle DX in size, with a colour touchscreen. You would be able to use it for two different functions. The first function would be in vertical mode as a sort of casual reading device with which you could browse websites just like browsing a magazine, which would be largely touch-driven. The second function would be in horizontal mode when placed into a deskstand and paired with a wireless keyboard and mouse, when it would effectively be a simple desktop computer. This would only be intended for use at home so it could have fairly light construction compared to most mobile devices.

Amazon Kindle DXHome Tablet Concept

On the left, the Amazon Kindle DX. On the right, a DX-inspired mockup of how a "home tablet" might look. Free websites are a lot cheaper and more fun to browse than expensive and DRM-loaded magazine subscriptions.

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