By Jared Newman | Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In February 2010, before the iPhone had any well-established rivals, Nokia and Intel announced a little open-source operating system called MeeGo, intended for phones, tablets and netbooks. A lot’s changed since then, but today, Nokia shipped its first and only MeeGo-based phone, the N9.
The N9 is an anomaly among smartphones based on new software. Unlike, say, the Palm Pre with WebOS or the Blackberry Playbook with QNX, the N9 isn’t supposed to be the start of something big. It’s actually the end of something small–an experimental device built on abandoned software. Earlier this year, Nokia committed to focusing on Windows Phones, phasing out Symbian and casting aside MeeGo as “an opportunity to learn.”
Accordingly, the N9 has hardly any apps. It comes with nine programs, including Twitter, Facebook and Angry Birds, and it can gain more if Symbian developers do some simple porting, but it won’t have a thriving ecosystem like iOS, Android or Windows Phone. The motivation for developers just isn’t there. For that reason, you might expect the N9 to get laughed at and cast aside.
And yet, there’s excitement in some corners of the web for Nokia’s N9. A few months ago, readers flamed me over at Techland for suggesting that this phone is doomed from the start. At TechCrunch, commenters are calling the N9 one of the coolest phones they’ve ever seen. Same goes in the comments section at Engadget.
The excitement isn’t without merit. The N9 promises easy navigation through finger swipes, letting you get back to the home screen or to other apps without using a clunky physical button. And it sports a classy design of unibody polycarbonate and curved glass. I haven’t held one of these phones myself, but I’d certainly like to.
That’s the funny thing about the N9. It’s desirable despite offering hardly any apps, going against the conventional wisdom that apps are everything. With nothing to lose, Nokia ended up releasing one of its coolest-looking phones ever. Considering MeeGo has no future with Nokia, that’s kind of a shame.