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Nokia’s Internet Tablet Need Not Be a Lobster

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So, fewer than 10,000 units of Virgin Mobile’s Lobster 700TV have sold if the figure reported by that old fashioned piece of treeware 1991842 00.html the Guardian is accurate.

I can’t say I am surprised. I’m a real sceptic, about broadcast TV on your mobile and wasn’t exactly bowled over by the Lobster 700TV when I reviewed it last October.

According to that Guardian article, even a £2.5 million advertising push couldn’t save the Lobster. This may or may not bode well for BT Movio which intends to be the one-stop shop for third parties to access mobile TV and sell it on to us punters.

It is often difficult to be a market leader and there are several possible reasons the Lobster fell at the first hurdle.

When launching something new it is important to get the timing right. It is possible that in three or four or five years time we’ll be watching live TV, Catch-up TV and pre-recorded and saved footage on mobile devices and thinking nothing of it. But right now it is early days.

Design often matters a lot. The Lobster was not the best designed, most ergonomic to use Windows Mobile Smartphone I’ve ever seen – I found it chunky and plasticy.

Doing what is says on the tin is imperative and here the Lobster was adequate but no more. Signal reception was reasonable while sitting still, though the handset did pause at times while it buffered content. Using it while moving – in a car, on a train – during the short period I had it on loan, produced mixed and often unsatisfactory results. Finally, the Lobster doesn’t offer that many channels – if you’ve anything other than standard analogue TV at home it is going to appear very short on choice.

So, the long and the short of the Lobster’s lack of overwhelming success didn’t come as a great surprise to me.

I can’t claim the same level of accuracy (or self satisfaction!) when it comes to Nokia’s SIM-less Internet Tablets.

The 770 Internet Tablet launched late in 2005. At the time I was on a crusade to find a device appropriate for ‘comfort computing’ and it popped up in an editorial I wrote on that topic.

I wasn’t sure the 770 Internet Tablet would be a success, but it was clearly enough of one for Nokia to come out with a follow up at this year’s CES. This time rebranded as an N series device, the N800 Internet Tablet is an altogether sleeker, better designed piece of kit than its predecessor was.

There are things I like about it and things I loathe – and I can see a way Nokia could make the N800 into a potential winner, but will they? Before I suggest a route to success, here we go with a likes and dislikes list.

My main issue is that the N800 Internet Tablet is at its best when you are in range of a Wi-Fi network. Then you can use its 800 x 400 pixel screen for things like web browsing, email, Internet radio, RSS feeds, Internet calling and voice and video-calling over IP if you have either a Google or Jabber account.

Move out of network range and you are left with activities like reading PDFs, drawing to the screen, viewing images, taking text based notes, using the built in calculator and playing the provided games. There’s no calendar, no to-do list management, and so no PIM functionality or synching. That’s not a great deal of functionality in ‘unconnected’ mode. Bluetooth is built-in but I wouldn’t want to rely on that for any connected activities via a mobile phone.

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