I’ve been using a Nokia N810 for the past week and was interested to see how a pocket sized mobile device (but not a phone) might be useful in education.
If you are unware of the N810 it is the latest in a range of devices that Nokia call internet tablets. It has a size similar to that of an iPhone, but it is not a phone at all- it can only use WiFi or bluetooth to access the internet. It also has a touch screen and GPS like the iPhone, but I think that is really where the similarity ends.
Unlike the iPhone the N810 is an open operating system and any software can be installed on it. This openess does a lot to highlight why the iPhone closed system is more suitable for consumers than it will to encourage take up of similar devices.
The device is perfect for me but I can see that it would not be suitable for all. The OS is called maemo and is a linux derivative. The interface is very friendly and it can upgrade over the air which is missing on nearly all mobile devices. The problems come with the software, which is typical of a lot of linux software in my experience in that it just about does what you want. In the week I have been using it I don’t think I have used a piece of software that has not crashed at some point.
Even the apps that come as part of the OS have crashed, and this annoying for core apps like email and the browser (a firefox derivative). Those open source apps that I have installed have worked just about but I can’t see any of them making it in a world where Apple is setting expectations.
I think at this point i should mention that I love the device and feel it is perfect for me. There are times when i want to take a phone out and times when I want the capabilities of the N810 but I am glad that I don’t always have to carry around one device with all my eggs in one basket. It can utilise the 3G connection on my phone to access the internet when there is no WiFi.
It is interesting that Google’s new mobile OS Android can already run on the N810 but in a restricted way (slow). I am not sure of the technicalities but it would be great to see Android replace maemo completly because Android seems to have a much better memory management system and philosophy.
Anyway enough of the technical stuff - how is this device useful in education? Well in short it isn’t - sure it could be shoe horned to have a place competimg against a windows PDA but in all truth without a good range of software it has little use as a school or institutions sponsored device. For an individual who finds it fits their needs then it is perfect!
If Nokia want to make it suceed they need an OS that will give developers more of a platform than one niche device and for that Android makes perfect sense.