MeeGo: Paradise lost for mobile hackers?

So the big news out of Mobile World Congress today is that Nokia is effectively killing its Maemo OS, moving forward instead with a Qt-based derivative of Intel’s Moblin project, to be known as MeeGo.

The good news is that it will likely make future Nokia Internet tablets much more user-friendly. It might also give Nokia an opportunity to manufacture other connected devices, like an in-vehicle infotainment system, for example.

But the bad news is two-fold as well.

First, it makes Nokia’s N900 instantly obsolete unsellable (see first comment below) — or a collector’s item, if you’re an optimist.

More importantly, Maemo’s multiple home screens and such will likely be replaced with something like this, Moblin’s current desktop:

Moblin Desktop

Oh, it’s user-friendly, to be sure… And to a fault.

You’ll notice that there’s no visible file browser, for starters — that’s actually buried in the applications menu, a couple of levels deep. And though this pic was grabbed from a 1024 x 600 pixel netbook screen, all that unused white space speaks to me of trouble ahead.

Moblin WiFi Fail

Sure enough, here’s Moblin’s ease of use in action. I couldn’t get my netbook to connect to either of my FON router‘s WiFi networks, and unless I hunt down the terminal there’s no available recourse for me other than the less-than-helpful suggestion that I “could try again”.

Moblin Browser

Moblin’s web browser is similarly infuriating — tabs and favourite pages take up an entire splash screen, and there’s no visible means to see the rest of your browsing history.

Of course, none of the above would matter to the average user (assuming, of course, that the WiFi works). But forsaking the granular control of Maemo for eye candy like this will surely be a slap in the face for all the l33t mobile haX0rs who have championed the N900 since its release.

Before today’s news I thought I had Nokia’s open-source strategy all figured out. The Symbian Foundation would be a bullet-proof mobile Linux for carrier customization and Maemo would be a gift from on high for power users.

Now I don’t know what to think…

9 comments:

  1. Why does it make the N900 obsolete? It’s still the best phone on the planet for power users. There will be new phones coming out this year that will probably better it but neither this news or those phones make the N900 obsolete right now.

    Neither is this a slap in the face for N900 champions. Maemo 6 is going to be a damned huge overhaul because it dumps GTK+ for Qt. A change to a Moblin-style stack (with Qt again) barely registers. It’s such a non-issue because it’s practically the same as Maemo 6.

    Maemo 6 is still coming out… And I believe the plan is to keep it alive into V7 and beyond. I think nokia recognises that one platform doesn’t suit everybody. They have a broad spectrum of choices for devices randing from simple Symbain through to a more complete OS with Maemo or Meego.

    They also plan to make all three cross-compitible. Arch is always an issue so I assume they mean at source level, not binary.

    You’ve come out with all these startling statements about everybody being shocked, dismayed, smacked in the face and you’ve really no idea what’s been happening in the Maemo community for the past few months.

  2. “Why does it make the N900 obsolete?”

    Good point — I’ve changed the text in my post to read unsellable. Thanks.

    “A change to a Moblin-style stack (with Qt again) barely registers. It’s such a non-issue because it’s practically the same as Maemo 6.”

    With respect, it seems you’ve entirely missed the point of this post. It’s not at all about the underlying technology, it’s about this new MeeGo partnership dumbing down the Maemo experience.

    Was that not clear?

    “Maemo 6 is still coming out… And I believe the plan is to keep it alive into V7 and beyond.”

    That’s not what I’ve read. IntoMobile reported the following from the official press conference earlier today:

    “12:00pm: We have not decided whether or not the next version of Maemo will be called Maemo 6 or MeeGo something.”

  3. In reverse order: Maemo 6 is coming out – your quote even says it. Doesn’t really matter what they call it.

    Secondly, I think you missed the point of Meego. In fairness you’re practically reviewing Moblin and saying that’s what Meegoo v1 will be. Neither of us know what elements of Maemo and Moblin will make it into Meegoo so you can throw all your “dumbing down” crap out the window.

    Lastly, please explain why you think the N900 is now unsellable. I’ll explain why I think they’ll continue to sell to power users just fine until there’s a new god phone:

    – It’s still the best handset around bar none.
    – Maemo is still supported by Nokia – There will be more updates.
    – You can already install other operating systems (debian, mer) on the N900. That is to say: Maemo 6 or Meegoo 1 will likely be targeted for the N900 and I’d be very shocked if you couldn’t install either.

    The only thing that makes the N900 obsolete or less saleable is a better handset coming out… And that still hasn’t happened.

  4. “Maemo 6 is coming out… Doesn’t really matter what they call it.”

    I agree, the name doesn’t matter — the important thing is that it will most certainly not be the same Maemo 6 that was expected prior to this announcement.

    “Neither of us know what elements of Maemo and Moblin will make it into Meegoo so you can throw all your ‘dumbing down’ crap out the window.”

    Did you click through and read the Mobile Industry Review story on the announcement? Surely you saw the following quote, copied and pasted from Nokia’s own press release:

    “MeeGo offers the Qt application development environment, and builds on the capabilities of the Moblin core operating system and reference user experiences.”

    This is why I’ve used Moblin as a harbinger of what’s to come from MeeGo. If you’re still not convinced, watch this:

    “Lastly, please explain why you think the N900 is now unsellable.”

    Sure thing… I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable investing $500-plus CAD for a device that could well be obsolete inside of six months. And apparently I’m not alone.

    Are there any other N900 owners out there who’d care to weigh in on MeeGo? I’d love to hear from you…

  5. “Sure thing… I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable investing $500-plus CAD for a device that could well be obsolete inside of six months. And apparently I’m not alone.”

    I replaced my two work phones at the same time (both cost around £220 gbp plus £35 p/m) on different carries for O2 i got iPhone 16gb 3gs and other on vodafone was the N900. After waiting for firmware updates to make the device actually usable (didnt have 2003 exchange sync and still doesnt have a working bluetooth that shows up my contacts on my BMW iDrive), despite the lack of any decent apps, i was still hoping to persevere with this device, this announcement makes nokia look like a headless chicken. I think i will put my sim back into my blackberry and the n900 will gather dust, to me it looks like an expensive lesson, and it will be a long time before i buy another Nokia.

  6. Yeah, unfortunately the iPhone is the very antithesis of an open, generative device — as I mentioned in the inaugural post of this humble blog. And the proprietary email service for BlackBerries makes that platform a bit of a non-starter as well.

    I don’t begrudge either if they work for you, though. And you’re not the first person to complain that Maemo feels like unfinished business. Like some other friends in high places, I think Nokia is doing its customers a bit of a disservice in marketing the N900 as a consumer device.

  7. Looks like — unless someone takes it upon themselves to maintain Maemo for the active users already out there (and if Nokia allows it, of course).

  8. it is very clear that maemo X moblin will become meego but there are a lot of issues in the backend. what happens to the maemo or moblin community? who will take charge, intel or nokia? how will the new community shape up? its too premature to say anything at present, but its on the same path as s60 was a year ago.

    from what i see, things look promising. 😀

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