Nokia's New Netbook and Handsets Offer Useful Innovations

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Nokia's new Booklet 3G is an innovative netbook that highlights why Intel and Microsoft should stop hobbling netbook innovation. It also points the way for cellular carriers to become more involved in selling wireless data services.

The 2-cm thick Booklet 3G, with an amazing 12-hours of battery life (promised) is about as cutting-edge as a netbook can get. It is being shown this week at the Nokia World 09 event in Stuttgart, Germany.

Other exciting Nokia developments include two "social" handsets that give users an easy way to post their location and status updates to Facebook. Nokia calls this "lifecasting" and you can read more about it here.

The Booklet offers 1280x720 resolution, an HDMI-out port, GPS, and Windows 7 available at launch. It also sports a wireless-friendly hot-swappable SIM port. Alas, this comes at a price as the Booklet 3G is supposed to sell for a whopping $810.

That is a lot to pay for what is mostly extended battery life and it can be blamed in part on the price premiums that Intel and Microsoft place on netbooks that might cannibalize more-profitable laptop sales.

This means the Booklet also features an oh-so-average 10-inch screen, a less-than-sexy Atom Z-series processor, and a mere 1GB of DDR2 memory. The 120GB hard drive is slow (4200 RPM) and there are the usual 3 USB ports, Ethernet port, and webcam. Yawn.

Nokia already has a huge global wireless channel and I expect the Booklet 3G to be fairly successful, if less expensive models from other vendors don't cannibalize its sales.

Many Booklet 3G units will doubtless be sold at a lower price thanks to subsidies provided by wireless carriers. Customers, of course, always end up paying for those premiums but they make the buy-in price more attractive.

Still, there are lots of netbooks already selling for less than half the Booklet and that could prove a major obstacle to its success. Subsidize those and they can be given away while the Booklet would still seem pricey.

More important for all netbooks are what Microsoft and Intel are doing to cripple lowest-cost portables by limiting hardware specs that qualify for the lower processor and OS prices necessary to support the $300-$400 price tags common to the tiny portables. (Here is a story from March that explains, toward the end, how this works).

Stray too far, as Nokia may be doing, and a vendor ends up with an expensive netbook that doesn’t perform nearly as well as less-expensive laptops.

We have Microsoft and Intel to blame for this and the two companies should stop standing in the way of portable progress. Slow processors and a lack of memory may hobble netbooks, but the segment won't be stopped.

Expect to see the Booklet 3G about the time Win7 ships on October 22, though Nokia has not offered a specific ship date.

David Coursey is a netbook owner who tweets as @techinciter .

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