While Nokia has kept its promise to actively develop for MeeGo, nobody else did. Intel, AMD, and other companies outright abandoned both developers and startups that were embracing MeeGo, and dumped it in-favor of the non-realtime Tizen.
This week, Nokia quietly released MeeGo 1.2 for the Nokia N9. MeeGo 1.2 “Harmattan” was the final official release of MeeGo before the project was “abandoned”. Technically MeeGo is still an active project, according to the Linux Foundation, but its steering partners refuse to allow code to be admitted. It’s a black eye for the Linux Foundation, which should either formally close the project, or appoint new steering members, mainly, the community that prefers MeeGo over Tizen.
Neither course of action is likely to be taken, all the parties involved know that giving MeeGo a future would hurt Tizen. And while Nokia touts that “Plan B is for Plan A (Windows Phone) to succeed…” the company’s behind-the-scenes actions indicate otherwise. They all indicate they’re still working on MeeGo, on their own.
It would be hard for Nokia’s acquisition by Microsoft to be challenged, should it come to pass. After all, Google is acquiring Motorola, and Apple could build hardware for years into the future even if all revenue streams stopped tomorrow. Some would raise potential antitrust issues, many would accuse Steven Elop of being planted at Nokia to stage the company for acquisition. However, at the end of the day it would go through.
Still though, lets put aside the Microkia path for a minute… what should Nokia do if it is to continue on its own? The company has acknowledged that Windows Phone royalties don’t fit when device costs must be at a minimum. The company has committed to supporting cross-platform technologies that it pioneered, such as Qt. Microsoft won’t even allow Qt on its platform.
So, we’re left with this new build of MeeGo 1.2, that has new UI adaptations and features that build on top of the abandoned MeeGo code. It runs Qt as flawlessly as Android, Mac OS X, Windows on the desktop, and any other Linux platform. It also handles everything from Adobe Flash to the web browser engine of your choice.
It’s the perfect superphone platform. It’s deplorable of Nokia that they never released it in the United States, but it’s still the perfect superphone platform.
Could it also be the perfect platform for people that have never held a cell phone before?
At its core, MeeGo is a streamlined Linux build with a lot of the grunt work done. Package selection, build customizations, and performance optimization for ARM9 CPUs. If you strip away the magnificent AMOLED displays, Carl Zeiss optics, and 4.5G LTE Advanced silicon… and MeeGo still works.
Let’s fast forward about a year or two. CPUs with the performance yield of Apple’s A5 will be dirt cheap. The RAM, SSD, and 3G chipsets that make up a typical baseline MeeGo phone today will also be cheap. And, Nokia will continue to fuel Qt development on all the existing platforms, including advancing its support on Android. One could argue even with a Windows Phone and iOS lockout, that Qt will run on a larger market share of devices two years from now, than it will today.
Add all that up, and it starts to make more and more sense that MeeGo would be used to power the “next billion” of devices.
MeeGo is also a lot more adaptable than Windows Phone, it can adapt to the needs of the consumer. In an area that solar power is more important than ten-point multitouch? It can go monochrome. It can do e-ink, even. Windows Phone platform restrictions would shoot down the innovation that Nokia will need to drop smartphone technology in places where it cannot thrive today.
Wireless connectivity is also a major issue in areas where the next billion are lacking devices. In many areas, due to bandwidth, lack of local loops, and other issues, SMS may be the fastest data out there. MeeGo can offer services that allow for small data bursts to be turned into an app-rich environment, and then quickly toggle over to low-power Bluetooth or Wi-Fi when faster data is available.
In all, don’t be surprised if you don’t see any more major firmware updates to the Nokia N9. Nokia will keep their commitments, but also does not want to anger the company writing a billion dollars in support to them… Microsoft. Likely, much like major endeavors such as Apple’s Marklar, Nokia will fork MeeGo internally, keep the team focused on making checkpoint releases that run on older hardware… older hardware selected to mule the latest low-cost smartphones out there today.
If we ever see a “NokiaGo” fork of MeeGo will likely hinge on Nokia’s success, or lack thereof with Windows Phone. In reality, a failure of Nokia with Windows Phone could actually hinder such potential. If Windows Phone is a totally dismal failure for Nokia, it could devastate the share price of Nokia into being a fire sale to Microsoft. The MeeGo team pink slips will soon follow that outcome.
In a twisted reality of today, MeeGo fans should probably be rooting for Windows Phone to succeed at Nokia. And that’s a tough pill to swallow for even me.