There was a time when cell phone operating system Symbian was on a roll. Utilized by numerous device providers and championed by global giant Nokia, it provided the basis for a smartphone revolution. And appeared unstoppable.
But Symbian had its roots in traditional user experience, and its proponents seemed surprisingly blindsided by the explosive growth of touch devices in the late 2000s. With its laser focus on the trend-setting demographic, Apple managed to quickly lay waste to the cell phone status quo with its now-iconic touchscreen iPhone. A victim of its own success, Symbian has since struggled to find its way and shows signs of having peaked in global share.
The More Things Change…
Even Apple’s iOS is watching Google’s Android demonstrate again that no market darling is completely secure. Global numbers don’t quite jibe with those for the US, but Android’s rapid growth is undeniable in either context.
For a while it looked like Nokia’s Linux-based Maemo might be the intended successor to Symbian, although its treatment as a small-scale science experiment ensured that could never actually happen. Which brings us to MeeGo, and the big question it evokes.
For this exercise let’s set aside the doomsaying of naive Nokia antagonists. The likelihood of the powerhouse dying outright because it faltered for a few years sits just between Slim and None. The company has reinvented itself enough over its existence to render fatal verdicts as ignorant at best.
MeeGo itself is all about reinvention. It brought together Intel, juggernaut purveyor of x86 CPUs, and Nokia, global king of ARM-powered devices. With the recent inclusion of AMD, the MeeGo consortium now represents an interesting mix of diverse hardware players with one common goal: drive their operating system development costs down as close to nothing as is reasonably possible.
But pundits wonder why not Android.
Nokia’s Tero Ojanpero dismisses the query with a rather flippant response:
…the new Symbian and MeeGo operating systems represent the best platforms for the smartest devices, and we have no plans to change course.
Well, that’s no help. Tero goes on in the linked article to say that this is a great time for developers to create Nokia apps… but a blithe statement won’t be enough to convince them. The questions persist: why MeeGo? why not Android?
Jeff Hoogland does a decent job of presenting some reasons to go with MeeGo over Android, and he’s not alone. But I can probably produce many more written opinions to the contrary.
Developers are going to need something more official than the thoughts of bloggers and analysts, whatever their credentials. They will need to see something directly from the Linux Foundation. Something inarguable.
Wanted: a Clear Answer
Corporate mission statements have been de rigueur since at least the 1980s. Summing your strengths, your goals and your strategies into a clear and compelling mantra lets everyone immediately know where you stand.
MeeGo is definitely explained well on its site’s About page, and in greater detail in an introductory article by the Linux Foundation’s Ibrahim Haddad (PDF download). But what’s missing is the simple context developers need, and that’s “Why MeeGo instead of any alternative?”.
So that’s my challenge to the MeeGo steering committee: brew up a few solid bullet points for those grown comfortable in competitive development environments. Display them prominently on the meego.com website. Then let your volunteer army of community and technology leaders spread the word. This blog will be one of the first.