At the Maemo Summit Conference in Amsterdam, Nokia gave out over 300 N900 phones running Maemo 5. The N900 is the successor to the N810, over a hundred of which were handed out at Akademy a year ago. Read on for some opinions about the N900 and the results of 3 days of hacking.
Unlike its predecessor, the N900 has phone and 3G capabilities, which make this device much more versatile. It has a 600 mhz processor with a fast graphics co-processor, 32 GB flash and 256 MB ram + 768 mb swap. Of course it sports a large touchscreen (800x480), keyboard and functionality like wifi, GPS and a camera. However, it is not the hardware which is most interesting to us - it is the software. The N900 runs Maemo, a Debian Linux based operating system for high-end smart phones. Compared to pretty much all competition, the N900 offers a very open software platform and provides a terminal application by default. Most of the GUI is currently build upon GTK, using Clutter on OpenGL and various other FOSS components in the lower stack. But the upcoming release, Maemo "Harmattan" 6 will receive a new, Qt based GUI. Qt is already available for the N900 and in the first half of next year we can expect an officially supported Qt 4.6 release for Maemo "Freemantle" 5.
During the conference various applications were seen running on the Maemo, from the Qt examples we've seen from the blogs to KOffice and a Qt port of KLines. We spoke with some KDE people at the conference, asking about the N900.
Jos van den Oever, Boudewijn Rempt and Thomas Zander from KOffice fame obviously considered the KOffice viewer (expect an article about this tomorrow) Jos had running on his N900 the coolest application available. But, as Jos said, mostly because it has a lot of potential. The best of the currently installed applications is, in his opinion, the web browser - it has a good interface, is fast enough and the gestures rock. Sure, some might say WebKit will work better - but it's not there yet. Niels Slot managed to get Arora, a Qt-only WebKit based browser, working. Arora brings slightly better scrolling when zoomed in but web page loading seems slower and kinetic scrolling doesn't work yet. Luckily we have Ariya Hidayat who intends to work on WebKit support over the next weeks. Speaking of Ariya, he has been showing off his E71 with the Qt 3D demo he blogged about earlier.
Niels also has a Qt-only version of KLines, earlier used for a Symbian port, kind of working. Some KDE PIMsters are playing with the N900, dreaming of beautiful things-to-come and the Gluon developers are working on getting their game framework ported as well. From all the things going on here we're convinced the N900 will see some cool KDE technology over the next months.
The most impressive demonstration of what is to come had been hacked together by Marijn Kruisselbrink, famous for his earlier work on porting KDE to the N810. As he blogged earlier this weekend, he has been able to port the Plasma framework to Maemo. It took compiling Qt and KDElibs and a few hours more of figuring out how to get the widgets working properly. According to Marijn, he needed no more than about 20 lines of code to get things to work. As can be seen in the blog, the widgets look and feel like native Maemo widgets. Furthermore, the Plasma Netbook interface works as well (the normal plasma-desktop not yet). Despite the high resolution creating some problems (buttons are very small and hard to hit), the Netbook interface is reasonably usable. Of course this device has a screen too small for the Netbook interface, but it shows the N900 could run plasma very well. Watch the planet for a blog from Marijn on how to get plasma running on the N900!
Most people at the conference considered the N900 a 'very fine piece of equipment', to use the words of Till Adam. It has already replaced a few mobile phones here in Amsterdam. Till lost his N97 in a cab a while ago so he's glad to be back in the game, and Boudewijn is also hooked - he gave his old phone to his daughter. And your author had been looking for a new phone for a while so he is happy as a clam. All in all, we see a bright future for the N900 series.