Intel, Nokia tout MeeGo as inclusive alternative to Android

During the annual LinuxCon conference last week in Boston, Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin moderated a discussion panel about the Linux-based MeeGo platform with Nokia’s MeeGo Ecosystem Development head Thomas Miller and Intel open source technologist Derek Speed. During the panel, Miller and Speed discussed some of the technical and logistical characteristics that differentiate MeeGo from other mobile platforms.The MeeGo project was launched earlier this year when Intel and Nokia brought together their respective mobile Linux platforms in a combined effort to reduce fragmentation and offer device vendors a standardized platform. The MeeGo platform is endorsed by the Linux Foundation, which has taken on a stewardship role with the aim of facilitating collaboration around the software. Although the underlying software components on which MeeGo is based are relatively mature and functional, the convergence process is still ongoing.During the panel, Miller told the audience that Nokia is preparing to launch its first MeeGo device this year. He declined to provide specific details about the form factor, but he said that the product will be distinctive and will offer an interesting user experience.Miller also said that the device will be open, in the sense that users will theoretically be able to modify the software. That could potentially make it very useful for third-party MeeGo platform developers who want a reference hardware environment for prototyping MeeGo platform customizations.According to the panelists, one of the key advantages of MeeGo is that it will allow multiple vendors to participate in the development process from an early stage and have continuous access to the source code. Indeed, the MeeGo development process is much more inclusive than that of alternatives like Google’s Android platform.
Inclusive from the get-go
As we have pointed out on several occasions in the past, Google tends to develop major new versions of Android in secret and will only disclose the improvements after a product has been launched with the new version. Google’s practice of giving its launch partners privileged access puts other vendors—including some in Google’s Open Handset Alliance—at a disadvantage.MeeGo keeps everything out in the open so that other participants in the platform’s technology ecosystem don’t get excluded. Another advantage of MeeGo is that the platform is largely built with native code and is closely aligned with both the upstream Linux kernel and conventional desktop Linux stack. This significantly increases code portability, while lessening constraints on how application developers can write software for the platform.
Miller and Speed both emphasized the importance of allowing developers to choose from a diverse assortment of tools and programming languages. Nokia’s Qt development toolkit is going to be the default framework for ISVs that want to build software for the MeeGo platform, but there are a number of other options available, too.Qt bindings will make it possible to build MeeGo software with dynamic scripting languages, for example. Miller also talked about the Web runtime that Nokia is planning to make available, which will allow developers to build extremely portable applications with HTML5 and other Web technologies. He says that the Web runtime will make it possible to break out of the browser and build a truly integrated experience that can seamlessly be deployed across MeeGo devices without requiring compilation.
Another area where they view think that choice is important is the distribution channel. There won’t be one universal application store for MeeGo—there will be many, which means that developers will have some choice about how their applications are sold to users. The downside is that developers will have to work with multiple distributors if they want to get their software to the widest number of users.Miller said that Nokia intends to continue developing its own OVI store, but he acknowledged some of the problems that OVI has suffered in the past. Building an application store from scratch is “hell,” he told the audience. Speed explained that Intel’s AppUp service will make it easier for downstream distributors like OEMs to build their own branded storefronts for making applications and content available to end users.Although MeeGo still has yet to prove itself on actual hardware, the underlying technology seems promising and the project’s governance model could be attractive to vendors who are looking for a more open and inclusive environment than some of the existing alternatives. The panel at LinuxCon provided some insight into how Intel and Nokia view the strengths of the platform and what aspects of its openness they view as the most important.

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