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MeeGo and Mango promise mobile web delights – did Nokia choose right?

Earlier this year, Nokia derailed the MeeGo operating system project it shared with Intel by making Windows Phone 7 the heart of its strategy

By PETER WHITE

Published: 26 May, 2011

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Earlier this year, Nokia derailed the MeeGo operating system project it shared with Intel by making Windows Phone 7 the heart of its strategy. This week, developer briefings have been held for both platforms, outlining their latest upgrades (MeeGo 1.2 and WP7 Mango) plus next generation plans. Both are laying claim to be the best OS to integrate the worlds of applications and the web/cloud, though Intel is looking well beyond the handset in its quest for new partners, while Microsoft still refuses to stretch WP7 even as far as the tablet. The question is, will Nokia have reason to regret its choice in future?

MeeGo is highly unlikely to make much impact on Android, iOS or even WP7 in the handset space, but it is one of a group of new-style platforms optimized for the web and cloud services – others including RIM INQ and HP webOS and, in a more extreme approach, Google Chrome OS. As such, it could appeal to companies developing new classes of devices for the world where wireless is embedded in everything. That shift may give vendors which have a bit-part role in handsets a chance to gain ground, and if MeeGo becomes a vehicle for that shake-up of the market, Nokia could re-evaluate its choices. Looking to new form factors may have been forced on Intel by the Finnish handset giant’s defection, but it is also likely to be the making of MeeGo.

A developer conference for the platform, held on Monday, attracted a larger number of developers than the previous year’s session, and the program was looking resolutely beyond Nokia and handsets. Intel was positioning the OS for all kinds of products from in-car systems to cloudbooks to set-top boxes – anything that would, in future, feature a browser and web connection. We would even see it in TV sets, but here and in set tops it is starting level with Android, though it is probably more suited to it and has already won a major tier 1 win in Telecom Italia’s TV strategy. This focus could play to the open, browser-focused strengths of MeeGo, which was created by merging Intel’s and Nokia’s respective Linux platforms, Moblin and Maemo, in 2010. It will allow Intel to build an ecosystem outside the handset world, rather than engaging in a David and Goliath battle with Android.

It has already started doing this directly in key markets like China, where it recently set up a joint venture with local internet giant TenCent. It is also harnessing the open source nature of MeeGo to foster a more organic ecosystem growth and is keen to stress the truly open, Linux-based nature of its OS – which is hosted by the Linux Foundation. Implicitly, this criticizes Android, which although built on a Linux kernel, is under Google’s tight control. Updates have not been issued simultaneously to all participants in the community, as in true open source, and the OS is now classified as a fork rather than a real Linux platform.

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