five years ago this month, it was not only Nokia's most sophisticated phone to that point but it also remained the most sophisticated phone in Nokia's range for two years.
In many ways the N900 represented a critical point for Nokia
that had been struggling to compete with rivals such as the Apple
iPhone 3GS. If Nokia wanted to remain competitive in this market,
it was the last point in time that it could pull something out of
the hat to wow the world. Nokia desperately needed the N900 to be
a success, but for a variety of reasons it wasn't.
The N900 was Nokia's first and last smartphone running the Linux-based
Maemo operating system. Despite this being the first time it was
in a smartphone, Nokia still regarded this as an Internet Tablet
and it was the latest revision of a line that had been around since
2005 with the Nokia
770, followed by the N800 and
This meant that it was actually quite a mature product, and the
Maemo 5 operating system had most of the rough edges ironed out
and was easily as capable as anything else on the market.
When it was officially launched, Nokia found itself up against
the last of the first-generation Android devices as well as the
iPhone 3GS, which should have been an easy target. But the rollout
was agonisingly slow, and in some markets it only started shipping
in 2010 when it was up against second-generation Androids such as
the HTC Desire.
why did the N900 not become the breakout device that Nokia needed?
One problem was the way that it was launched - Nokia hinted that
there would be even better models around the corner which created
effect where many customers held off buying an N900 in
anticipation of a better model to come.. when in fact there was
no such model in the pipeline.
Clearly the N900 was a promising device, and a next-generation
version with a bigger capacitive screen, faster processor, more
memory and an improved interface would have strengthened Nokia's
position hugely. But then Nokia made a terrible mistake with the
Maemo product line - it tried to merge it with Intel's Moblin platform
to become the completely new MeeGo
MeeGo turned out to be a massive strategic disaster. When
the merger was announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2010,
people were expecting to see an announcement for the N900's successor,
but what happened instead was that all product development
stopped while the codebases were merged, and customers were left
waiting. And waiting.
By the time Nokia announced its first (and only) commercially-available
MeeGo handset, the elegant Nokia
N9, it was too late. The market had moved on and iOS and Android
were king. Nokia's new CEO had given up and committed
Nokia to Windows for high-end smartphones, the beginnings of
a move which eventually led to all other products being killed
off and Nokia's handset business being taken over by Microsoft.
However, there is a glimpse of what could have been if Nokia
had come up with true replacement for the N900, and that is the
very rare Nokia
N950 developer phone which can sell for between €600 to
€2000. Perhaps if the N950 had come out in 2010 then Nokia might
still be an independent manufacturer.