What has been an open secret to those following Nokia’s struggles closely has now been all but confirmed by Reuters in its own report, as the newswire is citing its own sources in confirming that Nokia’s Meltemi Linux initiative that was to underpin the “next billion” phone sales to the developing world is dead, with additional confirmation that the initiative was killed due to cost cutting measures being undertaken by the manufacturer in order to focus on its Windows Phone push all the way down into the entry-level sector, which previously underpinned the majority of Nokia’s profits before being eroded by Chinese and Indian competition.
Nokia’s Meltemi Linux feature phone initiative was originally meant to serve two purposes: replace the internal Nokia OS and Series 40 platform with a new platform that would allow for extremely low-cost phones with key features found on current smartphones, such as robust third-party application support and a focus on common smartphone functionality such as messaging and email.
The platform would have also taken into account the resource constraints of such markets, such as the lack of consistent data networks and the subsequent reliance on SMS as its own closed loop data carrier, as well as being the lowest cost smartphone platform with the massive economies of scale Nokia was once known for, with phone pricing being set around $100-$300 total depending on device.
The Meltemi initiative was to have produced at least 3 initial devices that were in active development at the dedicated offices for the initiative in Germany as of last year, with the first phones to have been made available in the current month and were originally meant to replace the current Asha series of Series 40 feature phones currently sold in developing markets. Development on these devices was subsequently halted when Nokia undertook its current cost cutting measures starting in February to redirect all remaining resources to Windows Phone development.
While Nokia never publicly acknowledged the existence of Meltemi, Elop himself had pushed the platform to underpin “the next billion” in sales last year in a leaked presentation video from an employee conference before completely changing the internal direction of the company to Windows Phone for developing markets later that year.
This shift resulted in the Nokia Lumia 610, first announced during Mobile World Congress in February and launched last quarter, meant for the Latin American, African and Chinese market with deliberately lowered specifications in order to keep costs down. In practice however, the 610 is still as expensive as the 710 currently sold worldwide and in some cases more, depending on market.
While the shift to Windows Phone wasn’t totally unexpected, the development of Meltemi was expected to continue despite the push for Windows Phone, with the first February cost reduction claiming the Meltemi development house and coming as a complete surprise to the people involved in the project as well as the German town which housed the division and caused much ire towards Nokia as a result, with Elop only giving cryptic, doubletalk filled statements when directly asked about the initiative during last month’s earnings call.
Now with Meltemi confirmed dead and MeeGo becoming a completely separate entity built from former core Nokia MeeGo staff with Jolla, Nokia is sending a clear message that Windows Phone is its Plan A, B and C for all market levels and has left Linux completely behind, for better or worse.