A coworker purchased a Nokia 770 Internet tablet some moons ago, and I thought it was a pretty clever little device when he let me play with it. For him, it was a good option for reasonably mobile email access, since a Blackberry or Palm Treo was too small and too complicated and too expensive to use. He could take the 770 with him to and from work, and access email, the web, and internet radio from anywhere he could get a WiFi signal.

Time passed, and he slowly stopped using the device. I hadn’t thought about it at all since I first played with it, but for some reason I asked him if he still had it. He confirmed this, and asked whether I was interested in it – he was willing to sell it for cheap since it wasn’t doing him any real good.

I picked up the unit from him today and spent some time on and off through the day playing with it. I still think it’s a clever little gadget, but my interest has cooled a bit after using it. First of all, too much screen space is consumed by the built-in interface. Web pages are too small to read comfortably on the space left over for applications. The system is slow, but I wasn’t expecting any kind of blazing performance. The default software load is pretty modest, but there are plenty of Internet tablet applications available for installation.

The really attractive thing about the Nokia 770 is its support for Google Chat and Google Talk, allowing for IM and VoIP communications. To my surprise, there’s also a Gizmo client available! I got my dad and sister using Gizmo over Skype, so I’m happy to see that supported on the Nokia. Using the Nokia 770, I can (theoretically) engage in VoIP conversations with anyone using Google Talk or Gizmo.

While it’s not terribly useful as a general purpose internet device, the idea of using it as a portable communications device does have a lot of appeal. I’m strongly considering taking this with me on my trip abroad next month, so that I can keep in touch with $work without having to dig out and boot up my laptop. All I’ll need is an open WiFi connection somewhere, which ought not be too hard to find (famous last words…)

This certainly won’t replace my Palm Treo smartphone, which affords me the ability to check my email in the absence of a WiFi signal. I deeply wish that my Treo could use a WiFi connection were it available. My boss recently got a T-Mobile Blackberry 8320, which supports both cellular and VoIP calling, and I’m insanely envious. When in range of a WiFi connection, his phone will use that to initiate a VoIP call, which uses none of his plan’s minutes. When no WiFi signal is available, it’ll use the cellular network. I keep hoping that Sprint (my cellular provider) will come out with a cell/WiFi phone soon, but realistically I don’t expect to see any such device in the near future. The combination of Treo + Nokia 770 rudely approximates the features, but falls far short in terms of size and convenience.

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