At first glance, the ROAD S101 looks like a new version of the Nokia 9500, but it isn't. In fact, the S101 is a Linux powered device from a German startup called ROAD GmbH (ROAD stands for Remote Office Access Devices). Read on below
ROAD are marketing the 210 gram S101 as a tiny pocket based PC rather than a phone, and it certainly has impressive credentials.
Inside the S101 is a 620×240 pixel display, which (unlike the Nokia 9500) is touch sensitive. There's a full keyboard which looks a little more usable that the 9500, plus it comes with WiFi, quad-band GSM, GPRS and EDGE support (but not 3G).
The interface on the S101 is Qtopia, which is specifically designed for handheld Linux devices (there's a development environment called Qtopia Greenphone to help developers create and port applications). Out of the box, the ROAD S101 is bundled with a web browser, email client, Microsoft Office viewer, drawing application, MP3 player and a set of PIM functions.
The ROAD S101 is based around the pretty standard Intel Xscale PXA 263 processor running at 400MHz. It has 64Mb of RAM, plus 64MB Flash and the internal storage can be expanded with SD cards. The S101 scores well in connectivity too, with Bluetooth, infra-red and USB 2.0 connections. Talktime is quoted as 4 hours when in use as a phone, with up to 10 days standby. In "PC mode", the S101 has 5 hours of operation plus up to 30 days standby time. We understand that there's an optional 2 megapixel camera too. The S101K adds added "encryption" to the standard S101.
Inevitably, the ROAD S101 will be compared with the Nokia 9500 Communicator. In many ways, the S101 is pretty similar to the 9500 – both pitched at a mobile computing market rather than a mobile phone market. The S101 has an edge in hardware terms over the 9500, but then the 9500 was announced back in February 2004.
Crucially though, the Nokia 9500 (and the 9300 and 9300i) were never huge successes for Nokia, and as a result Nokia ceased development of the Symbian Series 80 platform on which those phones are based. But then, out of the blue, Nokia produced the Linux based Nokia 770 device. It's not hard to image that the next generation 9000 series Communicator would be something very similar the the ROAD S101.
So, this is an interesting and capable device that's pitching to what it currently a pretty small market. Perhaps the ROAD S101 will be good enough to persuade people to ditch their laptops and go with an ultra-portable Linux device. If not, then ROAD have a larger version of the S101 called the L101 under development which might appeal more to notebook users.
No pricing or availability details are known at present.