Thursday, October 15, 2009

Booklet 3G netbook: Nokia turns a page

A notebook from Nokia? What is the netbook world coming to? Maybe to a Best Buy near you ... or at least Nokia hopes so.

At a splashy press event in New York this week, Nokia introduced the Nokia Booklet 3G, its first foray into the already crowded notebook market. Not surprisingly, the 2.76-pound netbook focuses not on top-shelf processor power or on graphics muscle, but on connectivity and uptime, and in these respects it may succeed.

"It was a decision to start with what we know," said John Hwang, head of the Nokia product team which developed the ultrathin netbook. "And that's mobility."

The Booklet 3G ($299 with a 2-year data service contract) includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 support, but also includes a 3G HSPA wireless data modem for the AT&T Wireless network. A slot is provided for the necessary AT&T Wireless SIM card. The unit also promises 12 hours of battery life per charge.

"It's not 12 hours in the brochure, it's 12 hours true battery life," said Lars Boesen, senior director for OEM emerging market business development for Microsoft Corp.

He noted that the Booklet 3G comes with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 operating system, which is optimized for the 1.6-gigahertz Intel Atom Z530 processor at the heart of the unit. Windows 7 will go on sale Oct. 22.

He said the unit comes with just a small suite of preinstalled software, thus allowing the user maximum use of the Booklet 3G's 120-gigabyte (GB) hard disk and 1GB of RAM. Also missing is a fan, he noted; the Booklet 3G doesn't need one.

The 10.1-inch, 1280-by-720 pixel display was bright and sharp, but that resolution proved too low for some Web sites, like the newest version of Yahoo! Web mail. The site bumps users who come in at too low a screen resolution back to the less-glitzy "classic" version.

As small as the 0.8-inch thin unit is, it still has room for three USB ports, an HDMI port, a combination microphone/headphone jack and an SD Card slot. Just above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel webcam.

You can access the 3G data network directly with the Booklet 3G or via a Bluetooth connection with a cell phone. You can also synchronize your contacts, calendar entries, tasks, photos and other data between a cell phone and the unit via a Bluetooth connection. Boesen noted that the unit could move smoothly from a 3G data connection to a Wi-Fi connection without interupting the user's Internet experience.

The Booklet 3G, available in black, white or blue, will be sold exclusively at Best Buy until the first week of January 2010, when other stores will offer it, said a Best Buy representative. He said demonstration units would begin appearing in stores Oct. 25, at which time pre-orders would be taken. The units will ship about Nov. 15, he said.

The AT&T Wireless Web site will begin selling the unit Oct. 22. The Booklet 3G is $599 if purchased without a data plan.

Entering the PC space is something very unique," said Boesen. "We think this product is very, very good."

But a notebook from Nokia? Can it succeed in a market already laden with nifty low-priced netbooks? It certainly will be tough.

Then again, many of us gurgled and laughed a few years ago when Apple announced it was entering the cell phone market with something called an iPhone.

Text and lower photo Copyright 2009 Stadium Circle Features
Top photo courtesy of Nokia

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