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Live from the Nokia launch

  [intro]I'm in San Francisco for the announcement of a new Nokia product - could it be the N810 web tablet?[/intro] I'm out in California for


I’m out in California for the Web 2.0 summit, where Microsoft boss Steve Balmer and Nokia honcho Anssi Vanjoki are speaking about the wonderful world of web applications (and I’m thinking: shouldn’t we be talking about web 3.0 by now? Or at least 2.1?).

Not only am I hoping to find the scoop on the future of the global superdatamation infohighway (4D virtual eco-habitats? Downloadable rice?), I’m also hoping to find out more about the Linux-powered web tablet that will supercede the N800 and – who knows – maybe take a small bite out of the iPod Touch’s none-too-plump rear.

It’s very hush-hush right now (oh, except for the pictures – see left – that keep appearing on websites such as laptopmag.com and the press release accidentally issued by Def Jam recordings, which named the thing), but things are about to become a whole lot clearer over the next couple of hours…

08.30 We’re in a small room in the Four Season’s Hotel in San Fran, gorging ourselves on free breakfast and listening to Nokia’s multimedia boss Anssi Vanjoki, who is telling us that the future web is ‘context aware’ – a device that’s active all the time so we can ‘start to extend our soul into the network’. Woah.

08.40 The N-series is the future for Nokia because it represents the beginning of the move from mobile telephone to mobile computer. And the new N810 web tablet takes this a stage further. It’s a fully functioning computer that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect to the web all the time.

08.42 The N810 shares most of the functions of the N800, including the touchscreen, but it has a QWERTY keypad and satellite navigation. And presumably a better battery because it’s designed to be left on ’24/7′. It’s made for web 2.0 apps like Flickr and Skype and still runs on Linux. In fact, there will be new developer tools for Maemo, the specific type of Linux that the N810 uses.

08.45 The first generation tablet, the 770, was for the ‘super geeks’ – around 300,000 were sold. The second generation, the N800, was for ‘geeks’. But this device is for a wider consumer market – the ‘tech leaders’. I’m not sure which of these three groups I’m in, but I guess the fact that I have a 770 AND and N800 says something…

08.48 In answer to my initial question, Anssi is suggesting that the context-sensitive web could be Web 3.0. So now you know.

08.52 The battery life issue is improved, but it’s still only 4 hours of active use or five days of ‘active standby’ – ie connected online but not being used.

08.55 The software: Skype (including video calling), support for Rhapsody, internet radio, Flash 9, support for YouTube and Google Docs, maps.  Definitely more fully featured than the iPhone.

08.56 The screen is still VGA but the luminence is better for outdoor use. Has 2GB of flash storage and SD expansion.

08.57 It will start shipping in November at $479 in the US, around 450Euros including tax

09.00 So, why no SIM? This is apparently a ‘clean internet device’ that has got rid of legacy technology of mobile phones. However, Anssi Vanjoki has made it pretty clear that we can expect to see a version with a built-in mobile phone modem in the future – this is a third-generation device, and they have five generations mapped out.

09.05 There will be tie-ups with Wi-Fi network providers – the Cloud is the partner in the UK. We’ll also see a WiMax device in the US in the first half of next year when Sprint launches its WiMax network.

09.06 ‘We are competing with Apple on all fronts, on all cylinders,’ says Anssi Vanjoki. ‘Currently we have a 56% share of the converged multimedia market. Apple has sold just 1.5m so they have a long way to go.’ It’s clear that the N810 isn’t an iPhone-killer but it does offer a more sophisticated browsing experience, and a keyboard – so for some users it might be preferable. Not least because Nokia believes in open systems rather than closed ones: ‘There is a big philosophical difference between us an Apple – we believe in openness. We encourage users to tamper with their devices.’

09.07 I’m off to get hands on with the N810. I’ll be posting a report as soon as I can…