Nokia is introducing a handheld tablet for Web-browsing over a wireless broadband connection, the company's first nonphone mobile device...
NEW YORK — Nokia is introducing a handheld tablet for Web-browsing over a wireless broadband connection, the company’s first nonphone mobile device and the latest in a long line of attempts to create a so-called “Internet appliance” for quick online access around the home.
The new Internet Tablet, unveiled yesterday and slated to go on sale this summer, is based on the open-source Linux operating system rather than the Symbian platform Nokia uses for “smart” cellphones.
Priced at $350, the Internet Tablet is being positioned as an alternative to buying an extra personal computer or laptop for different rooms, providing a cheaper, quicker and less-cumbersome way to connect to the Web and e-mail at home.
There’s no hard drive but rather 128 megabytes of onboard flash memory and a memory card slot. Nokia says the device is not intended as a rival to Apple Computer’s iPod or other MP3 music players. A software update is expected early next year to add features such as voice-over-Internet telephony and instant messaging.
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While fairly unique in terms of its handheld size, the Internet Tablet can be seen as another variation on a concept that has repeatedly failed to catch on — a device that offers easy Internet access and basic tasks such as e-mail for which the computing power of a full-blown PC is unnecessary.
During the Internet bubble, prominent names from a wide range of technology industries dabbled with Web appliances. Intel, Gateway, 3Com, America Online, National Semiconductor and Honeywell all either launched or promised such devices. Nokia itself weighed in with a tablet called the MediaScreen.
Many were wired devices, such as the “Audrey” from 3Com, though a few such as the Airboard from Sony and the WebPAD developed by National Semiconductor used wireless technologies similar to Wi-Fi.
Since the Nokia tablet is meant to be carried from room to room, its 4.1-inch screen is considerably smaller than the display on most of these predecessor appliances but also far bigger and sharper compared with most cellphones and handheld computers.
And rather than serving up stripped-down versions of Web pages like most mobile devices, the tablet uses an Opera browser to display sites as they’d appear on any computer.
Weighing half a pound, the Internet Tablet is three-quarters of an inch thick, 5.6 inches wide and 3.1 inches long. It includes a loudspeaker but there’s no typewriter keyboard for thumb-typing e-mail as on popular handheld computers such as the Treo and BlackBerry.
Instead, the tablet comes with a stylus to tap a virtual keyboard on the screen.
The device is designed primarily to use at home, though its Wi-Fi transmitter can also connect with public and commercial hot spots. There’s also a USB port to connect with a PC and a Bluetooth transmitter that can be used to connect with a mobile phone that has cellular online access.
The Nokia announcement marks the second time in days that a prominent producer of mobile devices has veered into a new product category.
Last week, PalmOne unveiled a $500 device called the LifeDrive, essentially a cross between a mobile media player, portable hard drive and an organizer.
The LifeDrive features 4 gigabytes of internal storage and a high-resolution screen for on-the-road access to music, video, digital photos, e-mail and office documents.