David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

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January 17th, 2008 at 8:00 am Print This Post Print This Post

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet: On Its Way!

Quite a lot going on at the moment! I spent nearly all of yesterday (Wednesday) working on several helpdesk issues ranging from setting up two new Palm Centro cell phones to diagnosing a sound card issue on a laptop to stuff I can’t even remember at this point! It’s the longest I’ve spent away from my desk in one day in a while, and my brain is fried, so I sat down to crank out this post. Perfect time to write a blog post, right? :-) (I polished it a bit later before publishing.)

I have contemplated the HTC Shift in the past. It does not appear to be released in the US yet, however, and the price when it is will likely be $1200 to $1500. That’s not bad for a 7″ screen UMPC running Windows Vista (and Windows Mobile!), but I’m ready to compromise: The Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. It used to cost between $400 and $500, but Amazon.com carries it for about $230 right now because its big brother just came out, the N810. What do you get for the N810’s $440 that you don’t get for the N800’s $230? A slide-out thumb keyboard, an 8% smaller unit, and a built-in GPS receiver (that costs more to get full use out of).

But first things first…why get one of these things anyway? Well, I do have a laptop, a nice 12.1″ Core 2 Duo Lenovo 3000 V100 that I like very much. It’s small enough and light enough to carry from home to work and just about anywhere else, when it’s packed up. It’s my main PC at home; the desktop rarely gets used! However, my office is in a central-yet-distant location from nearly everyone else in the building at Lakeview, and since the middle of 2007 I’ve been using HelpSpot to track helpdesk requests. It is easy to work within HelpSpot when I’m at my computer, but I often must trek to the office of an individual user to help them with a problem (yes, remote control is an option sometimes, but hardware problems are another story and many times, demonstrating something to the user in person is much more powerful for training purposes). When I do this, I often get sidetracked by others needing assistance and, like today, may end up working on 4-6 different issues before I’m back at my own computer! By that time, I probably won’t remember half of the actual problems I worked on, much less all the details it would be useful to log for future reference.

My laptop is simply too heavy and bulky, even as small as it is, to carry around everywhere, especially if I’m carrying hardware as well. My Treo 650, on the other hand, never leaves my pocket unless I’m using it. However, while there is a mobile version of HelpSpot that is usable, I must log in repeatedly from my phone to use it, and the small keyboard and screen are not conducive to typing extensive notes. Enter the N800. It’s not a cell phone, but here are a few highlights that it does have:

  • WiFi access (with a better radio than most laptops from several reports)
  • Bluetooth
  • 4″ touchscreen
  • Gecko-based web browser supports nearly all sites that Firefox supports on the desktop (including JavaScript/AJAX) and has Flash 9 support
  • Built-in video camera along with Skype and Gizmo video chat ability
  • Google Talk (my favorite) and other IM services
  • IMAP, POP3 and web-based email
  • Multimedia playback in multiple formats
  • Expandable memory using up to two SD cards
  • On-screen keyboard with expandability using a Bluetooth keyboard for a real, touch-typing keyboard
  • Linux-based system using the Maemo platform for free add-on software

There’s more, which I know after reading nearly ever review ever written about it, but that’s the gist. Mine is coming from eBay with an iGo Stowaway Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard (it’s only $50 from Amazon right now) and an 8GB SCHC memory card for less than it would all cost from Amazon brand new. I am very, very excited to get my hands on this thing! It will let me do a lot, but it should also solve my helpdesk logging problem: I’ll carry my N800 and keyboard with me, using it to log helpdesk requests as I work on them, giving me more detailed and time-accurate logs. Everything else it can do? Really, really tasty icing on the tiny tablet cake! And the N810? I want touch-typing, so the keyboard on that is just a nicety (especially with the touch-typable Stowaway coming with the N800 for me). The smaller size would be nice, but it’s not that much smaller, and the screen is the same size (both 800×480 resolution). The GPS would be nice but I’ve read reports that it’s slow, and to get actual directions on it costs an additional $130 to $200 or something. All three come nowhere near being worth twice the price! And the N810 only supports miniSD and microSD cards, rather than standard SD. The standard cards are bigger and cheaper.

The Nokia Internet Tablets are getting popular, too. Over at Amazon.com they were in the top three hot sellers over Christmas in the PC category! You can be sure of seeing some N800 posts coming up right here, and count on them coming right from the N800 itself!