In June of this year I was pleasantly surprised when Intel’s Dawn Foster asked me to join a community panel for AppUp Elements 2011. I’ve been admittedly making only rare appearances in the AppUp community so far but the focus here was on Intel-sponsored communities in general, so if nothing else my MeeGo journey was relevant.
Closer to the event itself, Kira Boyko let me know that a separate talk I had proposed was accepted. More on that… later.
In the weeks running up to the event, MeeGo’s future was a hot topic. There were various theories on that subject but none of them resolved with MeeGo in a good light… despite Intel’s assurance that they were fully committed to the platform. The emphasis at IDF’11 just recently was on Android, which certainly didn’t help quell the more anxious MeeGo rumors.
Various happenings and nonevents had clearly pointed to some sort of change regarding MeeGo: my process/policy bugs being stalled by a mysterious “rebranding” effort, reduced public activity from Intel contributors, etc. So I was naturally expecting something.
Still, I was shocked to land at SEA-TAC airport late Tuesday evening to see the strange word Tizen strewn across Twitter like the remnants of houses after a hurricane.
But I had reacted maybe prematurely in early 2010 when the Maemo-to-MeeGo announcement was made, so this time I decided to try something new and listen before venting.
Based on the Wednesday morning keynote, Intel definitely seems pumped. They’ve got to be pleased at having a rising partner like Samsung replace their troubled former cohort Nokia. Samsung, however, spreads itself thinly across numerous platforms at present, so it remains to be seen how this new partnership affects their broad approach. Where bada goes, for instance.
As the AppUp project iself had been indicating, Intel sees HTML5 as the technology to target for the most part. But even with that emphasis, my thoughts as I sat in the audience were that we would see mostly hybrid apps that introduced HTML5 as a high, common layer across hot platforms while diving into the murky native depths of device uniqueness as needed. That is still a benefit for developers, as it potentially reduces the necessary distinctive code for cross-platform development. Of course, fulfilling that potential depends a great deal on developer toolsets.
One thing I really admired was Peter Biddle‘s refreshing candor concerning AppUp’s slow adoption. It’s precisely this sort of no-BS corporate-to-community engagement that can soothe the cynics… but of course that’s just the necessary first step. Telmap joining the AppUp family (announced on Day 2) adds more meat to Intel’s goal of 6 million AppUp users by next year but even Biddle acknowledges that acquisition as “cheating” via a personal tweet so I’m curious to see what other efforts will be made to achieve it. I definitely see a need for greater outreach and hope to participate there in some capacity.
On that more personal note, this talk inspired me to think of just where I could fit in to help AppUp’s success. That leads to the community panel. The ever-popular Bob Duffy hosted, supported by myself, Dawn, and Rovio’s charismatic Julien Fourgeaud. We spoke broadly about community needs and addressed MeeGo’s successes and shortcomings. I had a lot to talk about, including the importance of benchmarking against successful communities like KDE, but ended up focusing largely on the MeeGo Greeters program that enabled shy members to easily contribute to community prosperity and start down the path toward higher involvement. Hopefully there will be room in Tizen for such easily-implemented efforts.
I spent the remainder of the first day meeting new people, attending informative talks and finally enjoying a rather unusual steampunk-themed party that evening immediately after Intel’s informal chat. Good stuff.
Thursday morning I devoted more time to discussion than presentations, trying to absorb as many thoughts on Tizen as I could. Other than grumbling about the odd name and a creepy genie mascot, the biggest concern expressed had to do with native code needs. I think a lot of this should have been dispelled by Bob Duffy’s AltMegaRace game demo that afternoon. Here’s Bob, a self-professed non-developer, demonstrating an Omega Race clone coded using the HTML5 Canvas object. Granted, such a solution won’t solve every need, especially for power-hungry games and productivity apps, but it should allay many fears over HTML5′s capabilities.
Now the embarrassing part. The organizers decided to include an ad hoc track that wasn’t advertised much in the mainstream materials. There was a slide-in card covering this in back of the event booklet, but I’m thinking many attendees never made it that far because only three people showed up for my collaborative talk on Open Tech Ecosystems… and one of those left. Very disappointing in many ways for me, particularly because I had planned a reversal of the traditional presentation, whereby I would moderate but really expected the audience to be inspired by my presentation’s questions to actually take charge of the discussion. I don’t know if it was the topic, my anonymity to most attendees, the ad hoc nature of the track or what… but the experience has given me reason to really consider what subjects to cover in the future if the opportunity arises again. The right one should draw people in regardless of obstacles. Anyway, I canceled after a short wait so that Dawn and Cosimo could check out other things.
I already noted the Telmap news, which was the major announcement of the closing keynote. The rest was just affirmation of what we had already heard about Intel’s commitment to AppUp and now Tizen. There are many, many skeptics and one could be persuaded to dismiss them based on positive industry buzz– except that these are hardcore Maemo and MeeGo adherents currently feeling burned. But I’ll go over that more in another article.
The bloggers in attendance seemed largely motivated by Intel’s news, mostly just bemoaning the rebranding necessary for migrating from MeeGo to Tizen. I would expect Intel’s AppUp team to ramp up outreach efforts to smooth the transition for those willing to suspend doubt. I think a large effort will in fact be critical to AppUp’s success. Intel says they’ll do it, but if we don’t see Tizen on devices by mid next year at the latest, then what?