Nokia needs a MeeGo phone. Right now.

If you’re a Nokia fan as I profess to be I’m sure by now you’ve read the bad news — check here or here if you haven’t. I’d like to think that this a savvy move by the Finnish company to play the markets a bit — adjust expectations downwards then over-deliver when the time comes. Sadly, their stock price doesn’t indicate any prior success with such things.

It’s an odd thing for yours truly to witness the Linux community, usually somewhat measured in their praise for any one thing, collectively wet themselves over Android. This isn’t at all a knock against Google’s mobile OS (or the Linux community, necessarily), but quite the opposite — for FLOSS phone users Android is their saviour from the iPhone.

And these are the people that Nokia needs to reach. Immediately.

The N900 showed great promise but with the announcement of MeeGo it has effectively become a living fossil. Again, I’m not knocking the N900 — it’s an amazingly capable device — but there’s no denying that at this point nobody’s going to be buying it in great numbers because it won’t support MeeGo, and has therefore become a legacy product.

I had worried that MeeGo would be too dumbed-down to appeal to power Linux users. But after trying out the 1.0 netbook version and confirming the following critical features:

  • a terminal
  • a proper package manager
  • SyncML (which, for the moment, Android does not fully support)

I’m hopeful that Nokia’s first MeeGo device will offer the same.

I know it’s on the way, but I wish Nokia would look a little further into the future and see the end-game to all of this. I think it’s inevitable that mobile handsets — at least the high-end ones — will become commodity items able to take on the open mobile OS of your choice, just like your desktop and laptop computer.

Standardizing internal components would make Nokia handsets more alluring to everyone, even if (gasp) some users wanted to run Android on a Nokia device. Likewise, making MeeGo for mobiles widely available as an installable ROM would mean that at least a few brave souls would try to install it on the Android device they already own.

At this point it’s not even a question of competing with Android, but rather to avoid having Google eat Nokia’s lunch altogether in the high-end mobile space. The clock is ticking…

12 comments:

  1. I agree, more or less, I think MeeGo looks lousy, it might work but it’s really Moblin, and it is targeted at Intel Atom processors, not ARM one’s. It’s another cowardly move by a cowardly Nokia Management team. Who should be fired by the stock holders. Nokia does not need to follow the iPhone to win back smartphone buyers.

    The Maemo powered N900 would have worked if Nokia had the guts to commit to the developement and marketing of it. Instead, they slipped it into the market, almost through the backdoor as if ashamed of it, and hence doomed it from the beginning. Nokia management is looking for another scapegoat to pin it’s failure on in the partnership with intel.

    The N8 is another example of this cowardice, using Symbian instead of Meego, conservative cowardice.

  2. I was certainly surprised to hear that booting into MeeGo wouldn’t be an available option for the N8 — and the only excuse for it that I can think of would be something to do with the licensing of video codecs for the HD stuff, maybe?

    I definitely agree that Nokia is doing a lot more following than leading these days. And I still don’t get Symbian — my N97 is supposedly running Symbian^1, but I can’t see any difference.

    Is there supposed to be a difference?

  3. “…for FLOSS phone users Android is their saviour from the iPhone.”

    Floss – something you do between your teeth to maintain good oral hygiene.

    FOSS – Free & Open Source Software.

  4. I agree with everything except promoting SyncML. How many people actually use Calendar servers that support SyncML? Until Android and other iCal (Caldav) capable phones, it’s been a pain in the ass to synchronize unless using some sort of middle-layer service.

    The standard itself also isn’t something you’d whip up in a weekend of Python. I’d prefer my phone to speak a calendaring protocol that my calendar actually supports.

  5. Really? I’ve been using SyncML since 2003 with no issues whatsoever.

    Not sure if you’re trying to make a case for Microsoft Exchange here; if you are let me save you the trouble — you can argue until you’re blue in the face, and still be wrong.

    SyncML is an open standard, Exchange is not. End of story.

    I’ve many years of research and experience to back this up and will not be swayed on this.

  6. I’ve been a lurker for quite some time, but this story really peaked my interest. From what I’ve heard of Nokia’s next MeeGo launch, it will be ARM based, as in the N9 itself will be running an ARM processor. Also this current build of MeeGo is basically Maemo 6 (code name Harmattan) under the guise of the new name. Also @Branedy, what you have currently seen is Intel’s MeeGo, I believe they are going to be totally different monsters when Nokia’s build finally launches. For a nice little peak check out this engadget post to read what Nokia’s MeeGo may be like. http://bit.ly/d7xUGg All in all I’m excited about Nokia’s MeeGo, I own an N900 and coming from an android phone, I absolutely 100% love it. Even with the threat of no more updates, I’m cool with it.

    One last thing, I apologize if I’m rambling, it’s late and I should be sleeping, but my thoughts could NOT BE SILENCED! … (^^;) …so sorry about that.

  7. Actually Meego is supposed to be exactly the same code base, hence the joint effort. And the reality of the situation is this, the Meego 1.0 release came out way to fast to be a combined effort, it’s Moblin, and the Wiki about Nokia interface standards, I think I’ve seen it, was posted before the partnership (more or less QT). I have an N900 also, and I like Maemo, just the way it is. as in ‘period’. With all Intel’s power, no one is using Moblin. Nokia are too timid to stand on their own without an Intel walker to prop them up. I don’t ever expect Nokia to buck up and grow a pair, the future of the N900 is purely community based.

  8. I have to say, I’m in a similar position to Landon. I came from Android, disappointed with it being so closed, even after being touted as so Open.

    Anyway, I love my N900 and feel confident that whatever Nokia decide to do, the community will surely get a MeeGo build running for the N900. (I may even stick with Maemo and Debian in chroot)

    Who knows what the future will hold 🙂

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