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A glimpse of potential, never to be fulfilled

Poor old Nokia. They show off a beautiful new phone, and the tech world just responds by dwelling on what might have been.

Allow us to explain. Today Nokia showed off its new phone, the N9. It's gorgeous, with a sleek button-less design, unibody case and fantastic 8MP Carl Zeiss camera. But it's not the hardware that's getting everyone excited- it's the software.

You see, the N9 is running MeeGo, the smartphone software Nokia has been developing for several years. It's been a long road to the first MeeGo phone. The OS began life as Maemo, a Nokia-only project, but last year merged with Intel's rival Goblin to create a new system. Based on what we've seen of the N9, it's pretty slick, with an innovative three-homescreen system that lets you cycle through your app list, running apps and 'events' such as missed calls and social networking alerts.

There's just one problem: Nokia effectively abandoned MeeGo earlier this year when it decided to move its smartphones to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. The N9 is expected to be the only MeeGo phone ever released. Subsequently the glee at its design is being outweighed by the sense of missed opportunities. 'Why in the world is nokia dead-ending the lovely platform they've just made?' asked tech journalist Chris Zeigler.

Of course, it's only when the N9 is really released later this year that we'll see exactly how good MeeGo really could have been. But by then Nokia's first Windows Phone handset should be well on the way to release. It seems the N9 is set for collector's item status as the only phone ever to tout an operating system geeks love to love.

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