[maemo-users] my two big fustrations with the N800 - please help me find aworkaround!

From: Theodore Tso tytso at mit.edu
Date: Fri Jul 20 20:56:32 EEST 2007
On Fri, Jul 20, 2007 at 04:03:33PM +0100, Andrew Flegg wrote:
> The community *has* tried to do calendar and contacts applications;
> off the top of my head:
>  * GPE Suite's (calendar, contacts, todo)
>  * Opened Hand's Dates and Contacts
>  * Winzig
>  * DejaPim
> ...and probably a few others. But decent PIM applications (see Palm OS
> or EPOC) are fairly involved, and these disparate efforts have had no
> consolidated resource and leadership. Currently, with the Maemo
> community so disparate, Nokia is best placed to provide that
> leadership.

And in fact, the problem is that one of them haven't gone ahead of the
others. If one of them were easy to extend, was 90% of the way there,
and had an open contribution model, it would probably rapidly
accelerate ahead of the others.  But it's hard to *make* that happen.
Open source communty is an organic process; it takes time for it to
develop; but once it does, the rate of change can take off very, very,

> As you say, it's a fantastic piece of hardware (video bandwidth
> notwithstanding), but it's only marketing which makes it an "Internet
> Tablet" rather than "high-end PDA" or "palmtop computer" (if I were in
> an uncharitable mood, I'd point out that it's not the RSS reader or
> email client which makes it an Internet Tablet ;-)).

I've always suspected that the "Internet Tablet" moniker was just an
excuse for the fact that Nokia didn't have the budget to implement a
decent set of PDA apps or a decent off-line RSS reader which could
suck down entire web pages when you're off line, and then allow you to
read them when you're on an airplane, ala my Advogato reader on my
Palm.  (Again, why is it that I am choosing to take my 12-year old
technology gadget instead of my N800 all the time?  Maybe because it
got a lot of things Just Right?  And for people who point out that
Advogato is a commercial application, I would pay $40/year for a
decent RSS feed reader, as I do with Advogato to get the advanced
service, and I would pay $40 for a decent calendar program, as I would
with Datebk3/4/5, and I would pay $40 for a decent addressbook
application that was feature-compatible with the Palm.  Unfortunately
the ISV community for the N800 hasn't happened yet like it has for the

> My phone doesn't advertise itself as a PDA, but it has a calendar, a
> countdown timer and decent contacts management. Various people working
> at Nokia have expressed the opinion its PIM functions should be
> adequate for my needs. It's not: the screen is too small and the data
> entry is crap.

The way my cell phone displays contact information is also crap, and
it doesn't have good searching capabilities.  In addition, the
calendar program doesn't display multiple overlapping entries well,
nor does it support repeating entries.  Again, Nokia needs to look at
what Datebk3, or even the original Datebook application from Palm had
12 years ago, before they try to claim that what they have is
"adequate".  It's not even close.  But that's not the N800 team's

> The pragmatic point has also been made: *every* review of the 770/N800
> has mentioned the lack of PDA-like functionality (whatever that is
> taken to mean), if that results in a slightly more negative review, it
> *will* cost additional sales. Presumably, at the moment Nokia
> Marketing have decided that the cost of development is greater than
> the cost of the lost sales.

Yep.  The reviews also generally refer to it as a "toy", because as
*just* as a web tablet, it's not compelling enough for someone to
spend $399.  Techheads buy it because of the possibilities, but to be
honest there hasn't been enough useful apps for me to pack it most of
the time when I go out.  I bring just my phone and my PDA, and that's
it.  Or if I'm going to bring more, I'll probably bring my X41 laptop,
suspended so I have the same kind of "instant on" that the N800 has,
with a 12" display and much faster ability to execute javascript for
those Web 2.0 sites.

> Ted's made the consumer point: it's one of practicality, if I need an
> MP3 player, PDA, phone and Internet Tablet; there will be times where
> one or more has to stay behind. If I can manage one day without my
> N800, why not two, four, a week, a month? Once it falls into disuse,
> the community dies.

The other problem is that even when I bring it along with me, and
people see it and ask me about the N800, I have to grimace and say,
"it's a neat toy, but...."  Because in all honesty, it's hard for me
to plug something when it's missing what I consider to be basic
functionality.  If an Internet Tablet doesn't replace my PDA, but is
defined as something that is *missing* a decent calendar, and
*missing* a decent contact database, it's not very useful.  (And memo
to the Nokia marketing department: my honest assessment, which
includes the hopes that someday it will get the killer apps that it
needs, has probably cost them at least a half-dozen sales so far.  And
if there are enough people who feel the same as I do --- and this
seems to include most of the reviewers on the Internet ---- it doesn't
matter how much Nokia tries to spin things or tries to define the
"Internet Tablet" category.)

The bottom line is that a web browser, combined with a pathetic RSS
feed reader that requires you to be on-line to read the full story,
and a pathetic mail client, and a skype client which is only useful
outside of my home country when I'm trying to make international phone
calls on the cheap, isn't useful enough for me to give it a strong
recommendation to friends, families, and colleagues as providing value
for its price.

Hopefully, the community-contributed applications will create the
killer apps to turn around my current assessment, but at the moment,
that's my frank assessment of the N800.  I hope my $400 investment
plus hours and hours of my time in the N800 won't turn out to be
wasted, but we'll see.  At the end of the day, it is what it is.

And in a few month, if I decide to buy the Foleo, and it's only a
hundred dollars more, and it has a keyboard, and a clamshell design so
I don't have to worry about cracking the screen on my N800, and it has
decent PDA functionality --- who knows?  I may start end up
recommending to my friends and colleagues that they should use the
Foleo instead.  After all, it runs Linux inside, and it has a compact
flash, and it's relatively cheap.  Or maybe this will spur Nokia into
making the N850 something that has the needed functionality to
compete.  The way I see things, competition is a very, very good
thing.  :-)

	    	   	   	    	     - Ted

P.S.  If I were to give some free advice to the Nokia folks, it would
be to evaluate the current community PIM projects, determine which one
is the best and most likely to have legs, and then see if the project
lead(s) is willing to work with Nokia, and then *annoint* it to be the
winner.  Give it some marketing help, and some resources to help it
fix bugs, translations help (always a potential shortcoming with open
source projects), and eventually, working with the project owners,
offer to help implement key features.  This will help draw more
developers to the project, and while it can be potentially dangerous
to pick a "winner", if done thoughtfully and with a transparent set of
criteria, in the end I would think this would be a good thing.  And
maybe it will help Nokia make available critically needed
functionality at a fraction of the costs if they had to do it
themselves.  And eventually, I'd encourage them to consider including
the PIM software it in the base O/S upgrade for some future release.

More information about the maemo-users mailing list