Meego: Can it survive?

It was a year ago that Nokia and Intel announced their Meego joint project. A combination of Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin Linux-based operating systems, Meego had all the pedigree to be the next big thing. Intel dominates chipmaking, Nokia is the dominant mobile phone maker. What could go wrong?

In a word: Android.

Obviously it’s more complex than that but Android’s booming popularity is a significant part of the current troubles both Nokia and Intel are facing.

Google’s mobile operating system has sparked a revival for ARM-based hardware, something Intel can’t be happy about. Android also makes everything else on the mobile OS front (bar Apple’s iOS) look distinctly pedestrian. Nokia’s ageing Symbian OS has simply been no match for iOS and Android, with the result that Nokia has now signed a pact to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 OS.

However, Meego was intended to be the OS of choice for a new generation of mobile devices, including in-car systems, set top boxes and home entertainment systems, not to mention a range of tablet PCs and netbooks.

The future for Meego now looks distinctly uncertain, even though Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini insists that nothing has changed. “I don’t see that Nokia changing its strategy changes the industry strategy,” said Otellini during the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Otellini said that he fully expects to see Meego in tablet PCs later this year and in other automotive and mobile devices soon after that. He may well believe that a Meego tablet is viable this year but who will provide the hardware? Nokia is now in partnership with Microsoft, HP is forging ahead with its new WebOS strategy, HTC and Samsung have both just introduced Android-based tablet PCs.

Perhaps Asus or Acer will be the ones to ship Meego devices? Both have previously expressed interest in Meego, but that was in mid-2010 and now they too could be looking at Android for their future.

Intel’s commitment

Intel clearly has its work cut out if it hopes to see Meego devices in the future. The first thing the company has to do is display its commitment to the platform. Not just by saying that it believes in Meego, but actually show real commitment, byannouncing actual Meego devices and making it easy for developers and hardware makers to get behind Meego.

To date Intel has been very soft on pushing Meego, and while everyone is touting an Android device, Intel is repeating the same old line: “Meego supports a wide variety of devices.” However, anyone doing a search on the Internet for Meego devices will be hard pressed to find anything.

Meego has the ability to be a big player in mobile in the future: It is Linux based, backed by Intel and has less legal baggage than Android. Google is already facing a range of legal threats over Android for alleged patent infringement. Meego could offer mobile makers a safer bet than Android, if sold right.

To realise its true potential Intel has to back Meego fully and engage with the community of developers keen to work on the platform. One of Nokia’s major failings with Symbian was its failure to treat the community with the respect it deserved. Intel mustn’t make the same mistake.

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Meego: Can it survive?