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Nokia Skypes its N800 Linux tablet

Jul 6, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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Nokia has released updated firmware for its Linux-based N800 Internet Tablet. The fourth Tablet OS 2007 release this year — “4.2007.26-8” — brings a Skype client, Flash 9 player, and support for 8GB SD memory cards, while Nokia's own VoIP service beta installer has been removed.

(Click for larger view of Skype running on the N800)

Skype was the first company to popularize VoIP softphones, and for many, its name is still synonymous with VoIP. Skype today ranks second in the VoIP market, with a 15 percent share compared to nearly 22 percent for Vonage, according to 2006 market research from Point Topic.

Skype lets users call or chat with other Skype users at no cost. Low-cost “Skype-out” and “Skype-in” services let users place calls to landlines and mobile phones, and receive calls after selecting a telephone number for their device. Users can purchase credit using PayPal and other online billing services.

Skype's current advertised rate is 2.1 cents per minute for international calls. However, one 55-second call placed to our landline seemed to cost 6 cents. On the upside, when asked about voice quality, a housemate said it sounded like we were “in the next room,” (which we actually were). Latency seemed to be about a third of a second.

While Skype's services are based on proprietary protocols, Nokia has in the past promoted Gizmo Project softphones and services, which are based on open source client software and standard protocols, such as SIP (session initiation protocol). A project of Michael Robertson, founder of mp3.com and Linspire, Gizmo offers call-in, call-out, and custom number services similar to Skype. The 4-2007 firmware update includes bookmarks to Gizmo's website.

Previous firmware releases for the N800 included an invitational installer to Nokia's own “Nokia Internet Call” service. However, the beta service has reached the end of its trial period, and will be discontinued entirely at the end of August, Nokia said.

Other new features in the 4-2007 update include a Flash 9 player and support for SD memory cards up to 8GB. The new Flash player renders YouTube video without audible skipping, but with considerable frame dropping. The N800's pair of SD card slots enable the device as a whole to support a total of 16GB of removable storage. The cards must be SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) compatible.

Also, the new firmware brings power management improvements, Nokia said, especially with regard to WiFi. Compared to the older 770, the N800 previously had much shorter battery life, largely because the 770 by default dropped its WiFi connection when the cover was put on. Improvements to WiFi power management should lessen the penalty for this behavior in the N800, Nokia suggested.

Installing the new firmware release erases all user data such as old emails, and any extra applications the user has installed, such as xterm, vi, openssh, or Orb's “MyCast” media player. However, lots of promotional bookmarks and “invitational” installers make it trivial to re-instate those commercial applications that Nokia actively promotes for the device, such as its own Navicore GPS software and the excellent Rhapsody music streaming service from Real Networks. As the only real alternative to Apple's iTunes service, Rhapsody is definitely worth looking at for N800 owners struggling this week with iPhone envy.

More details about the new release can be found at Maemo.org.

Henry Kingman


 
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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