Have you ever gone to a buffet and been so overwhelmed by the selection of food that you go into autopilot mode and just take a little bit of everything as you move down the line? Then when you're seated and you look down at the heaping pile on your plate, you can't distinguish one dish from another? Bite-size cakes are swimming in some kind of sauce that belongs with one of the meats, sushi is tangled in noodles, jello is melting over hot prime rib, and you don't know what made that sticky blue streak being covered by the mashed potatoes?
That's what it was like when I used my new Nokia N900 for the first time last night. It arrived a few days earlier than expected and my hunger for it had reached an all-time high, so I just started wolfing down every morsel I could find without coming up for air. Given the mixture of flavors, my subsequent indigestion (confusion, frustration, and even a hint of buyer's remorse) shouldn't have surprised me.
You see, there are some devices that just about anyone, regardless of gadget background or tech experience, can pick up and use with little to no instruction. They can dive right in and swallow it whole. Everything is clearly marked and within plain sight, navigation is a breeze, and the user interface is inviting and straightforward.
The Nokia N900 is not one of these devices.
It isn't a consumer-friendly device that anyone off the street can start using immediately. And it wasn't designed to be. The N900 can do so much in the right hands that when it's in the wrong hands, it needs to approached slowly, methodically.
And by "wrong," I mean someone like me: the polar opposite of the Linux gurus who have done more with their Nokia N-series Internet Tablets than I can comprehend, someone whose gadgets generally tend to stay in their out-of-box states long after they've been unboxed, the person who still reads manuals and user guides even before turning a new device on. In other words, the user that the N900 is not really intended for.
But I didn't know this. I looked at my new N900 for the first time as though I already knew everything about it. I turned it on and expected to be surfing the web, emailing, downloading new apps, customizing, and basically just enjoying it in seconds. Some devices are able to provide this kind of immediate experience to the average consumer, but again, the N900 is not one of these devices.
It isn't a pizza that tastes best when gobbled all at once. No, it's a decadent multi-layered triple chocolate cake with a rich fudge center, smothered in milk chocolate ganache, and topped off with caramel ribbons, gold flakes, and chocolate shavings. Oh, and dusted with cocoa. So many amazing flavors and textures that each ingredient must be tasted singly and the palette must be cleansed between each bite. That's the Nokia N900.
When I stopped trying to rush through my first experience with the N900—tapping everything, searching for menus where I thought they should be, accidentally opening and closing apps, fumbling through the interface that was kind of similar to what I remember on my N810 but not really, and wanting to be everywhere at once—that hint of buyer's remorse I was beginning to feel was completely obliterated by a sense of awe and stupidity that I waited so long to get one of these.
The N900 is not for everyone—not by a long shot—and Maemo 5 still feels partially half-baked in certain places, but when each feature is explored and understood by itself, it's definitely for me. They say "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," but I don't think that's the case with N900. Not yet, anyway.
I need to get to know each slice separately first. Then I can marvel at the entire cake and devour it whole.