After over a month of waiting I have finally received my very own, much anticipated Nokia N900. Yay! But... well, it quickly turned out that initial impression wasn't too much to "yay" about, as my N900 unit is apparently affected with random reboots issue. Despite quite positive contribution of Nokia engineers to Maemo Bugzilla entry regarding this issue, the exact cause wasn't determined (yet) and the most likely explanation is simply a piece of faulty hardware within the unit I have. Having no software-based solution to this yet and knowing there are lots of happy random reboot-less users of N900 out there, I'm planning to arrange a warranty replacement for my N900 next week, so hopefully new unit will work properly.
I was planning to post another "N900 as a default phone..." series of articles, just like I did some time ago with HTC Magic, but obviously that didn't work. Nonetheless, putting reboots problem aside, N900 works pretty much OK and I was able to use it and shape some overall opinions about this. However, I don't want to go too deep about specific details just yet, but rant a little about it in much broader perspective instead for a start.
Describing N900 in just one sentence
Main thing that comes into my mind when I try to describe this device in just one sentence is that Nokia N900 is the type of device which you will either love or hate. Good chances are that someone from "love" side is type of modern geek (Linux-geek, even better), open source fan who loves trying new stuff and isn't afraid to push mobile devices to their limits in various wacky ways. "Hater" on the other hand, will most likely come from group of typical phone users, ie. the ones who expect phone to be operated by one hand, in vertical orientation and have set of physical green/red/home/back buttons.
Now it all comes down to personal preferences. My choice is clear: I love it. I used to have Nokia N810 before, I was familiar with Maemo platform and I was pretty happy with it. Naturally I was very keen to get N900 - simply because I knew what to expect from it. And looking at Nokia N900 from perspective of previous Internet Tablet-series devices, it is simply great and actually I think it exceeds initial expectations by miles.
(Un)fortunately, Nokia has decided to throw in a phone functionality to their new Internet Tablet device and the hype has started to rise exponentially. Although it was never officially targeted as a "phone" but a "mobile computer" (very accurate, btw), I am pretty sure that everyone who never had experience with previous IT device, started to think along the lines: Nokia => phone, Maemo => new super-whizzy OS that will take over the world and bring Nokia back on track to lead the market.
Well, having used N900 for few days, I am almost certain it will quite dramatically fail as soon as mass-market suddenly realises this device is not very usable as a phone. Surprise! Saying "mass-market" I also think about all those faithful Nokia worshippers who believe "Nokia" is a synonym word for a perfect phone. I am sorry for those guys, because their faith is going to be pushed to limits with N900 and Maemo experience and either they will learn to love it or ditch it with hate, quite possibly dismissing their whole Nokia faith altogether.
Is Nokia N900 and Maemo 5 genuinely great? Yes. Is it ready to hit the masses? No. Does it have a potential to be both great and appealing for mass-market? Maybe.
Life beyond Maemo 5
By pulling Maemo out of geeky niche with release of N900, Nokia has given a clear signal of upcoming changes, and now it all comes down to how they handle it further. Personally I am fairly optimistic, and I think Maemo 5 is a kind of "beta" label next to Google Mail logo we've been all used to for years, just as Nokia was telling us something like: "here it is, Maemo 5, we know it's not perfect, but we're working on it, so please stay tuned". Surely some Maemo 5 shortcomings are going to be ironed out by software updates, but I believe a truly "big" thing is going to be Maemo 6 later next year. Time will tell.
Another factor which tells me that Maemo is very likely to go in right direction is the whole community around it. It is naturally saturated with geeks coming from previous IT-series devices, but I'm fairly confident a bunch of more regular users new to Maemo thanks to N900 will join that boat and start their contributions. Semi-geek type of users will quite likely appreciate openness of the platform, opportunity to take part in shaping its future or simply submit bugs noticed in the platform, which are then read directly by Nokia engineers. On top of all that there's Maemo Community Council which members are voted by and from community, and its main responsibility is to proxy between community and might Nokia itself, somewhere deep in cold Espoo.
That's how I personally feel about the whole thing at this time. Now let the time and actions to verify how right or wrong I am.
I am not alone
Obviously, I did not discover America with article above. Few others that I came across very recently:
http://vowe.net/archives/011094.html (particularly accurate, imho)