Why MeeGo?

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.


21 responses to “Why MeeGo?

  1. It’s the same question I was asking to me in these days… and when other people ask this to me I really don’t know what to say except “we still have no hardware, no real handled meego versions (USABLE) running on any device, ecc….”.
    And just to finish, a very hot question: if Nokia will ship a “MeeGo” device somewhere in 2011 with a proprietary UI and other proprietary applications added to the MeeGo base, what’s the difference with any other Android device? Even Android has an open base + proprietary applications. I’d like an answer too to this question…

    • I’m going to pick at your first paragraph a bit. I wrote this blog article on my MeeGo-powered Lenovo ideapad, and in fact this has been my main computer of choice since returning from the MeeGo conference. Version 1.2 still has bugs and odd bits of course, but I don’t see how anyone can say it’s not usable. For me it’s no worse than any finished version of Windows. 😉

      So think beyond Nokia, and handsets. Getting MeeGo onto more netbooks and other hardware platforms will naturally increase its mindshare and viability.

      Finally, if there’s no difference in the user experience between a Nokia MeeGo device and any Android device, then differentiation will come from hardware capabilities and low barrier to entry for developers. It’s up to Nokia to solve both, with superior handset specs and Qt.

  2. You are right and it’s time to have clear, explicit answers. Task tracked at http://bugs.meego.com/show_bug.cgi?id=11499

  3. Will Nokia acquire MeeGo followed ny Symbian in future :p

  4. That should be pretty clear for me why Nokia chooses it’s own products:
    * support for Qt by Nokia on both systems
    * integration of Ovi store driven by Nokia

    Besides everyone knows that competitiveness raises the quality of the product. Symbian and Maemo were very healthy competitors from my point of view. Being driven by a group of enthusiasts they could provide cool features quicker than the group releasing Symbian (i.e. support for divx already on Nokia N810). Hopefully that will also drive both systems to a success in the near future.

    • Right, the only question here is why should anyone else, especially developers, pick MeeGo over alternatives.

      • Qt is a pretty big name innit?
        Plus there still is and will be a lot of volume of these devices. Now taken into account that there are so many fanboys elsewhere, for me the forum.nokia.com doesn’t seem too crowded. It means it’s easy to find what you want to do and not figure out that 5 other people have just released the same thing, yet for free… 😉

      • I don’t disagree with any of your points, Krzysztof, and surely they can be incorporated into the simple message that MeeGo needs. 😉

  5. This was a thought provoking read, Tex. Thank you for that.

    I think in the long run once we get devices that actually run MeeGo, it’s going to be easier to say why consumers should go with MeeGo. But before then, developers should be enticed.

    Of course Qt is meant to be the carrot for devs, but I think even for that clause to work, people need proof-of-concept apps running on all Qt enabled platforms.

    In MeeGo the future of convergence is perhaps the most prominent, and that could be one point to present to developers. “Get involved in something that’s never been done before”, and perhaps describe how one could do apps for a tablet and your phone meant to sync media files between your devices and those of others’. Or maybe describe to them how it might be possible to program a remote controller app for your phone (remote) and a receiving program on your TV.

    Maybe the MeeGo council should start a “brainstorming competition” where ideas mattered more than showing actual applications. Maybe then some of those ideas would catch on, once we actually get devices that could benefit from the ideas.

  6. Good point, I think the idea of an ecosystem is highly compelling and should be one bullet point.

    And so far no MeeGo council… yet? But surely the MeeGo organization could sponsor such a competition. Although IMO it would need to be designed better than the one at maemo.org before implementation. So we need a brainstorm for a brainstorming tool. 😀

  7. Sometimes I find myself in the situation that the obvious is too obvious. Why MeeGo? Well… Because! Because it’s what I’ve been waiting for. 🙂

    Good to see somebody asking the right questions, though, and make people go beyond those “Because!”-answers. For me, personally, it’s a few things that made me actually expect and look forward to something like MeeGo before it was even announced.

    Above all, it’s free software. Some developers or consumers may not find this relevant and are perfectly comfortable with closed ecosystems that MS/Apple provide. But if you want things to be open, it narrows your choice.

    The promise is that it’s independent of one single company. We haven’t seen much of this as MeeGo was/is still very much influenced by Nokia and (even more?) Intel, but at least you could argue that if one of those two giants pulls the plug, the platform should still survive. I’m not sure how things would be if Google stopped Android development. Could/would others easily step in and keep the OS alive?

    Also, as far as I understand, the technical base of MeeGo is much closer to what you’d call “a GNU/Linux desktop system” than Android is. This may not always be relevant for application developers, but it’s interesting if you want to bring existing expertise over to the new platform… both for vendors and for application developers. Plus, if you want to develop for the platform itself, some of the code you write for MeeGo may end up in distributions like Ubuntu as well and close the gap further (and make your work more relevant).

    For vendors, what may be interesting is that we see devices based on MeeGo that add something like an Android compatibility layer (see WeTab) on top of the native OS. I don’t know if the other way would be just as easy: Staring with Android and trying to get MeeGo running on top.

    Another thing for vendors is that MeeGo “supports fragmentation”… A vendor that wants to have a different look&feel for his Meego based devices can easily have it without breaking things. MeeGo was designed from the ground up to support both various types of devices (netbooks to phones to connected TVs) and vendor-specific UIs for the same type of device (Nokia phone UI vs., say, LG phone UI). What is a threat in other worlds (“fragmentation”) may become a strength of the MeeGo universe (at least if this concept works – which is yet to be seen).

  8. So to pull together some of the high-level points so far:

    * MeeGo is backed by multiple major vendors
    * MeeGo will foster an open ecosystem from embedded devices to mobile computers to automotive and home infotainment
    * MeeGo will be an important part of the Qt cross-platform, low barrier development solution

    Although many readers here will see true Linux as a selling point, I’m thinking it should be left out of the high-level bullet points and left to the About page…

    I’ll propose these for the bug Quim opened.

  9. Another problem is: MeeGo does not exist yet on the market. We still have no devices (commercial devices, not talking about hacker’s device for example N900+MeeGo(vanilla) or a Netbook with MeeGo) running MeeGo.

  10. Pingback: Does Nokia matter to us? | SysNet

  11. Pingback: Seeding MeeGo « Tabula Crypticum

  12. Pingback: Seeding MeeGo | Maemo Nokia N900

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