An Interview with Dr. Ari Jaaksi of Nokia

A closer look at the new Nokia 770, the platform supporting it and its ties to open source.

The first day of the recent LinuxWorld Summit in New York City was a busy one for Dr. Ari Jaaksi of Nokia. He fielded questions throughout the day, following the press conference that introduced the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. This handheld device induces double-takes from potential users and offers impressive Wi-Fi capabilities. Plus, it is an open-source success story, demonstrating a successful collaboration between a large manufacturer and the Open Source community.

Nokia is encouraging external development for the 770 with the release of the maemo platform. Furthermore, the company actively is supporting mainstream open-source applications, while encouraging maemo developers not to fork from these foundational applications.

Shortly after he delivered his afternoon conference session, "Give and Take: An Open Source Play for a Major Telecom Manufacturer," I sat down with Dr. Jaaksi to discuss aspects of the 770.

Linux Journal: Nokia is known for phones. VoIP is scheduled as an upgrade to the 770 next year. What considerations led to the decision to release the 770 without phone capabilities?

Ari Jaaksi: Phones are Nokia's bread and butter. We got it right. Why would we do it again? We are interested in expanding our reach into new markets. While watching the fast adoption of broadband plus Wi-Fi, we decided that this is a space where we want to play.

LJ: The decision to consider desktop Linux and the open-source application community as sources for the 770 software, was that an easy decision to make within Nokia or did it require a lot of discussion?

AJ: There was a lot of discussion about it. The thinking went as follows: go to where the technology is most mature for the maximum benefit. In my opinion, the current embedded distros need much more work. Also, given our in-house expertise, it takes surprisingly little work to get the kernel from working on the 770 hardware.

LJ: Given all of the various distributions available, what led Nokia to select Debian as the Linux distribution for the 770?

AJ: To be exact, we get our kernel from The processes and package management [come] from Debian. We consider Debian to be the most advanced and most alive, truly open-source distribution.

It is important that Linux for the 770 is not controlled by any company. We go straight to the source. None of the distros were ready for Nokia hardware anyway, and we have internal expertise, so why go through a commercial vendor?

We are in this for the long run. Too many middle men is not a good strategy.

LJ: The 770 is targeted explicitly at the consumer market, but do you envision the hacker community adopting this device as well as its derivatives and hacking them for different purposes?

AJ: Why not? The communities will need to find the way to do that.

LJ: Nokia has stated that the Internet Tablet platform is not intended to compete with the TabletPC. However, is there any R&D you can discuss that could drive your Internet Tablet into larger form factors that could be used for networked applications in a corporate setting?

AJ: We don't have those plans. That's not in our thinking right now.

LJ: Handwriting recognition is quite a difficult application. How committed is Nokia to furthering the state of that art?

AJ: For a device such as the 770, one is concerned with the input and the output. The output is beautiful. We have the challenge to improve the input. For the 770 we actually use the same handwriting recognition engine as in our telephones that support it. We are working closely with the innovators. Handwriting recognition is only one input option. There is also the virtual keyboard.

LJ: Apple routinely comes under fire for storage and battery subsystems in its smallest devices that cannot be replaced or upgraded by the owner. How easy is it for a 770 owner to manage storage and battery upgrades?

AJ: [He quickly popped out the battery and the memory card.] Extremely easy! The 770 battery is the same as in Nokia phones. The card is an MMC card. We don't restrict the users.

LJ: Given the proclivities of the Linux community, it has to be asked: will Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora be supported on the 770?

AJ: There's nothing technical that prevents it. However, the 770 is a consumer device. The challenge is that there is not much [Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora] content right now.

LJ: The 770 is slated to be available in Q3 of this year. Where will we be able to purchase them?

AJ: In the US there will be various Web channels. We are working now to develop other channels.



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Fee's picture

hi there, thats really a nice interview. thx a lot.

Linux on phone

chain saw's picture

Interesting interview. I'm actually really happy to see them go with Linux – that's definitely opening up not only a whole new market, but saying something to the existing market. I imagine my HTC phone sometimes with open-source software. I'm too scared to try and install it, because I'll probably fry something. It's a great phone, but I'm sure I could get so much more out of it if I didn't have to comply to Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile isn't bad, but I still think it's alittle too 'clicky' if you know what I mean.

nice interview.

Valentin's picture

hi, nice interview. thx a lot.

Linux & Nokia

Skischule's picture

mmmmhhh Linux & Nokia fine fine

Well done!

Gratis's picture

Hey, i like this post very much and there are a lot of interestings things in it. well done :)


A bit outdated...

Passivhaus's picture

Time has changed and linux is everywhere - but hold up the spirit!


Anonymous's picture

Voice over IP will be a very interesing market for nokia and their competitives but the ones who will cooperate with skype (like linksys already does) will win this competition.

Supreme concept of a

Thermage's picture

Supreme concept of a personalized web portal.


kostenlose sms ohne anmeldung ?'s picture

How about a Bluetooth keyboard like this one from Think Outside. I'm sure there will be others. The only question is (of course) driver compatability.

keyboard link missing

portrait oil painting's picture

I can’t seem to find the link to that keyboard you’re referring to. Please add in the link so I can check it.

How can i use my phone for

iPhone's picture

How can i use my phone for irc then? I have tested a lot but dont find a good way.


johnyd's picture

lol my question, too. can someone answer pls?

my english is bad sorry.



Robert's picture

That´s my question too.


mudrii's picture

Buterry life is too short :-(
And nice to have usb and keyboard


Gratis SMS's picture

Why you do not like nokia, I would have gladly one :-)


Bedava's picture

Yes i too :)

I think the success will be determined by the community.

Anonymous's picture

The community could extend this in a lot of fun ways. Being able to SSH into servers, etc. I think the usefulness will all depend on the community (mostly gnome) and how much they extend it. If they start hacking a lot of cool apps then it will be great.

Here's hoping.

Ideal for field promotions

Panayotis Vryonis's picture

*IF* it is open enough, 770 will be the ideal device for field activities and promotions. I work for an interactive marketing agency and having a nice portable Linux device that can be loaded with a small app will be like a swish army knife for us. Data collection, event organizing, promotions; in each one of these cases we need a "nice, programmable device (running Linux if possible)" and 770 looks like the perfect candidate.

A cool device

john miller's picture

The first time, I read about this device - I said ... hey, THIS is a cool one. The only question will be the price, as for about 750 US$ you could get a transportable, nice - new Acer-Laptop. So every price above this is just too expensive 8-)

It is a lot less

Anonymous's picture

I thought they've said it will be only $350.

IMHO the things I'm waiting to see is the music capability. I mean surfing the web doesn't seem to be enough alone. They need good song playing capabilities too. I'm sure ogg will be offered by some hacker but what about storage. I think I read you could only get flash memory which is less than ideal. On the other hand having a HD would probably go in areas where they don't want to go. It's an interesting idea and the device looks very nice. I just want to see what it does beyond email and web since that doesn't seem to be a big enough niche to justrify it.

Memory card?

Takis's picture

As it supports MMC, and a quick googling showed MMC cards up to 2GB available for 100EUR, I think it quiet OK too. Unless you really want to use it as some kind of iPod, meaning Gigs of storage. Inhouse you could stream from a streaming server though :)

Atually, it will cost $350 in

Anonymous's picture

Atually, it will cost $350 instead of $750.

770 -- a perfect (Free)NX Client?

Anonymous's picture

From what I hear and read about the Nokia 770 it seems to me a perfect appliance for a (Free)NX client...

I wonder if anyone has ever tried to install the NoMachine embedded NX client (or the Debian version) on it?

770 -- a promising (Free)NX Client indeed!

Kurt Pfeifle's picture

"From what I hear and read about the Nokia 770 it seems to me a perfect appliance for a (Free)NX client...
My own thoughts too, indeed! ;-)

So if Nokia is willing to give us three developer samples of the 770 for their "special offer" price (Nokia: hint, hint...) -- we'll for sure work on getting a good (Free)NX support ready for it!

Kurt Pfeifle
(FreeNX Developer Team)

Well, we won't just search yo

David Weinehall's picture

Well, we won't just search you out and hand them away... I suggest you
go to and follow the instructions there on how to register
as interested in getting developer samples, unless you've already done

Regards: David Weinehall, member of the Nokia OSSO team

Thanks for the hints!

Kurt Pfeifle's picture


thanks for responding here. We'll surely go to the website and register (haven't done so yet).

However, lemme say even now -- a missing USB plug in the device makes it majorly feature-restricted! (Hmmmm... maybe there is hope, and in the final release it will be in?)

Kurt Pfeifle
(FreeNX Developer Team)

Any developments on this?

Anonymous's picture

I see you posted interest on creating an embedded client for nokia 770. By the way, I love NX client. Did you get to do anything with it?

It is possible to set the dev

oggialli's picture

It is possible to set the device to USB host mode and use external USB peripherals with it.

I cancel what I said, I am no

oggialli's picture

I cancel what I said, I am not sure about it, just that I've read it would be so.

terminal and keyboard support

Anonymous's picture

I have been looking at Sharp Zaurus and other handhelds as a solution for remote administration in a small package. When the 770 has support for a keyboard on it's USB port, and a terminal can be accessed (which is surely already possible via some minor hack), then this device will be exactly what I've been looking for. I'm already setting back money to buy one as soon as these things are ready.

Simple and clear! Even

Bannerdesign's picture

its really goot to know, thanks ...

How about Bluetooth?

lizardb0y's picture

How about a Bluetooth keyboard like this one from Think Outside. I'm sure there will be others. The only question is (of course) driver compatability.

Or why not Nokia's own bluetooth keyboard?

Anonymous's picture,,58982,00.html

Nokia should be in an ideal position to make this keyboard work ;)

me too

Jos's picture

If there was a way to use a keyboard with this thing, it would be great.
On the road I could live without or with a small one, but it would also be a great little machine for coding and writing without needing to fire up the laptop.

i don't like nokia. i like

witze's picture

i don't like nokia. i like sony ericsson, the make better phones!

USB & Keyboard

Alain EMPAIN's picture

Yes, a real keyboard and a way to ssh into a[n application] server for maintenance or debugging will provide me a useful device with 'variable geometry'.
Without this ability, it is just a nice device, interesting because 'Linux inside' ;-)

Have a good day



Anonymous's picture

would it be possible to irc from it?


Heizung, Energie, Solar, Sanitär's picture

definitelly there are possibilities to use this phone for irc too. i am not sure if it´s possible with any program out ther but theoretically it´s defini9telly possible.

best regards
Heizung, Energie, Solar, Sanitär


sms-lotse's picture

Hi there,
I can confirm that there are possibilities! I know how it works that you can use your phone for icr, too.
Those who want to know more, let me know it! I will help you

Nokia and Linux mhhhhhhhhhh

Martin's picture

very interesting article. Nokia and Linux mhhhhhhhhhh I hope that become which! And to the problem from above. Simply say which is and we help gladly. Vit