Nokia may enter netbook market with ‘Sparrow’ device

by Caroline Gabriel, ReThink Wireless

Speculation is growing that Nokia will enter the netbook market, following comments by CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who said in an interview with Finnish TV that “we are looking very actively at this opportunity”.

There have been rumors for months that Nokia would not want to miss out on a product category that is thriving in its traditional cellco channels, and which could be a good platform for boosting uptake of its web services. The Finnish giant is said to be working on a cut-down, mobile web-optimized PC, based on the recently announced ARM multicore Sparrow processor, and incorporating elements of the existing N800 internet tablet, including its Maemo-based Linux software platform.

Such a device might not become real until early 2011, arguably missing the first boat for netbooks, though Nokia is likely to try to outdo the traditional PC makers in terms of form factor and mobility, playing to its strengths and building on the N800 experience to create a new approach, as well as capitalizing on its vast scale and logistical excellence.

Already, leaked features of the supposed prototype, nicknamed Nokia Sparrow, include a multi-slide keyboard with different layouts, automatically revealed as the device is moved in different directions; and a multidirectional display, similar to the tilting display of the N97 smartphone. A transparent widget-based interface is also being developed, according to Unwiredview.com, with each service having its own semi-transparent widget.

This backs up Kallasvuo’s statements in Barcelona that Nokia would expand the definition of the smartphone “into categories and form factors that have not yet been explored”. The use of an ARM-based chip will disappoint Intel, whose main entry point into Nokia’s huge chip purchasing program could be netbooks – it has so far worked with the phone giant only on the now defunct WiMAX version of the N800.
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