MeeGo and the N900 meet blogger irresponsibility

This morning got off to a roaring start, as a fast-filling thread plopped onto maemo.org seemed to have it from an authoritative source that there will not be a version of MeeGo to run on Nokia’s N900.  The fear, uncertainty and doubt spread like wildfire, naturally igniting the ideal 140-character vehicle for misunderstandings, Twitter.

It became obvious to me that the root problem was a misunderstanding by a CNET Asia blogger that was picked up by speed-readers and blown up into a noisy tornado of nonsense.

I’ll break this down for those interested.

Headlines as weapons

The title of the article was Nokia N900 not upgradeable to MeeGo, which sure seems definitive.  One could assume the writer had done his homework.

The offending quote

But then we start reading and realize the writer was tripped up by semantics of the quote, which by the way was unattributed.  The wording was “Maemo on Nokia N900 is not upgradeable to MeeGo. The first MeeGo device is targeted to be released during the second half of 2010. However, applications written for Moblin or Maemo Qt APIs will run on MeeGo.”

The first sentence is key.  To the speed-reader it appears to say the N900 will not be upgradeable to MeeGo.  But what it actually indicates is that the Maemo operating system itself will not be directly upgradeable to MeeGo on the device.  Take “on Nokia N900″ out of the sentence and it becomes very clear.

The safe assumption here is that any version of MeeGo designed for the N900 would need to be installed fresh, overwriting the original Maemo OS and very likely every user setting as well.  Odds are that means backups won’t work and applications will have to be reinstalled (Qt apps should work on either OS).

What Nokia has said

The true definitive word here comes from Valtteri Halla, director of Nokia MeeGo and a member of MeeGo’s Technical Steering Group.  His quote in this regard:

N900 is a natural tool for Nokia to drive MeeGo support for our designs and for the ARM CPU architecture in general. We want to have baseline HW that is powerful, easily available for anyone and form-factor stuff so that one HW works for most platform and application development needs.

That said, please do not take this yet as a commitment to fully productise MeeGo on N900. I am quite confident that we will end up having a really good developer distro for N900 already but committing to stabilise a consumer-grade MeeGo 1.0 (first half this year) for N900 is another story. That is a product business decision beyond my scope. Also, we do not yet know about MeeGo 1 release content. I am not yet sure if I would be personally ready to let my Maemo5 go for the first MeeGo release in my daily N900 use. Let’s see

Conclusion

So the plan is to create a developer distribution of MeeGo for the N900.  At a minimum this makes sense given that the N900 is the reference platform.  Note that as of this writing there is no released official statement on a commercial build for the N900, one way or another.

To try and prevent or at least minimize future FUD, I have updated the maemo.org wiki with a summary of the contents here.

Ultimately I blame blogger Damian Koh for not doing his homework before posting so irresponsibly.  It looks like he was so eager to get this juicy quote onto the internet he didn’t actually consider what it meant.  And I have to confess to getting testy on Twitter when attempts to clarify were met with resistance.  No excuse for that, and no excuse for the original sin.

There’s already enough uncertainty swarming around the N900, Maemo and MeeGo… let’s all avoid feeding it, okay?

Addendum:

Okay, after posting the article after this one and digesting some comments here, I realized something.

I was irresponsible with this article.  I didn’t finish it.

Because some commenters are correct: Nokia is not being as clear as they can on the subject of MeeGo on the N900.  A developer version demonstrates there’s no technical hurdle keeping MeeGo off the device.  Forget “nonvolatile upgrades”– will any sort of commercial variant be produced?  If not, then that’s a business decision… and in my personal opinion, the wrong one.

I won’t join the crowd and claim Nokia is directly guilty of FUD– but indirectly, the lack of commitment one way or another to answering the $600 question is certainly laying a foundation for it.

Maemo/MeeGo guys in Nokia, you know I respect you all and am behind this venture 100% even after losing the best gig I ever had supporting you.  So level with me, and those who have stuck with this platform through the best and worst of the ride:

Will there be a commercial rendition of MeeGo for the N900?

Yes or no.

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41 responses to “MeeGo and the N900 meet blogger irresponsibility

  1. Pingback: Maemo is Dead… Long Live Maemo | Tabula Crypticum

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