Nokia’s recent announcement of the upcoming N810 Internet Tablet is very exciting news for mobile Linux enthusiasts. We have already covered the initial announcement, but this followup discusses some additional details about the N810 operating system and development platform that have been revealed by Nokia’s Maemo team.
The N810 will ship with Nokia’s OS2008, which is based on Maemo 4.0 (codenamed Chinook). Significant API changes between Maemo 3.2 and Maemo 4.0 prevent some applications from working on both. Fortunately, the Maemo 4.0 beta SDK has been available for some time now, making it possible for developers to get a head start on updating their applications for compatibility with the new platform.
Nokia and the Maemo community have been working hard to push GTK modifications upstream. Hildon 2.0—the underlying widget toolkit in Maemo 4.0—has only a few minor deviations from GTK 2.10, which means that porting desktop GTK applications to the N810 is vastly easier than it has ever been with previous versions. Developers who are already experimenting with the new API seem to be very impressed. In a recent blog entry, Renato Filho demonstrates his Maemo 4 port of Abiword and says that workarounds are no longer needed for such porting endeavors.
The transition to Maemo 4.0 also adds several new frameworks, including the Cairo vector graphics rendering library and the HAL hardware abstraction layer. According to Maemo 4.0 documentation, HAL manages memory cards, keyboard status, camera status, and the ambient light sensor. This means that third-party application developers will be able to use D-Bus to easily ascertain the current ambient light level and whether or not the keyboard is open or closed. Maemo 4.0 also includes improvements to the theming system and the new extensible, open source Hildon Input Method system.
Nokia’s OS2008 obviously has a lot to offer developers, but there are plenty of improvements that will please end users as well. The new user interface looks great and includes important usability improvements like better finger-based interaction and more flexible desktop widget layout system. GStreamer improvements also provide support for additional multimedia formats. OS2008 also uses Nokia’s new web browser with the Gecko-based MicroB rendering engine. GPS and mapping software is included by default, complete with voice-guided navigation. According to Nokia open source director Ari Jaaksi, the company plans to backport OS2008 in its entirety so that it can be used on the N800.
For additional details about the hardware and the OS2008 environment, check out ThoughtFix’s video tour, which shows off the impressive keyboard backlighting feature, YouTube performance with OS2008’s new updated version of Flash, and several other new features.
As an N800 owner myself, I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on an N810. You can look forward to Ars Technica’s official review as well as ongoing coverage of assorted Maemo development topics. I’ll also be writing some tutorials that explain how to build your own Maemo applications with Python and Hildon.