MeeGo device incoming- but what does it mean?

| June 21, 2011 | 29 Replies


We’ve already seen some pretty impressive looking renders/press photos of a device that Nokia may be set to announced or at least tease at Nokia Con tomorrow but the question hanging over this device is why? Now quite a few of our readers are, or at least were in my case, hoping that this would be THE device to bring everything we had loved about Nokia in terms of bleeding-edge hardware, engineering, services and the spiritual successor of Maemo 5 all in one delightfully elegant package.

Alas, the Nokia Executive Board’s decision to forego MeeGo as their platform of choice at least for the near-term is  one that leaves this particular device in peril. Right now there are give or take 10-15 Million Symbian^3 devices out there, all of which run the newest versions of Qt pretty well all existing Maemo devices and this new device. All in all, an active base of 10-15 million users is definitely a healthy one. (For quality reasons, I’ve excluded Symbian^1 devices from the equation altogether, they simply don’t come into the Qt equation with the same degree of focus). This device brings a “halo device” to what is admittedly a somewhat floundering platform and while it may serve to abate the flow of developers away from Nokia, what sense does it make to release the device now? There are a few reasons I’ll speculate about below.


Reason 1 - Contractual obligations:

Contractual obligations with Intel. The mobile industry is a much more complicated, twisted and dark than we all give it credit for and it is highly possible that when agreeing to pool developer resources and split development costs, Nokia agreed to a certain minimum number of devices that would run this operating system which was billed as their high-end solution which would eventually migrate downwards into the mid-range space. Time and cost issues supposedly played a big role in the cancellation of such plans, especially those of moving MeeGo down the price range. Something Windows Phone seems to be able to do just fine, the highest end of which are around 350 euro unsubsidized with others falling into the sub-200 range.


Reason 2 – Carrier support:

I’ll be blunt here, I hate the way carriers today operate their business, especially in the US where price gouging, massive margins, lack of competition and a generally unaware public go right along with it all. Carriers behave like they’re providing a SERVICE and while in some respects they are, most of us would prefer that they behave like UTILITY carriers. The level of interference with devices in both software and hardware, their decisions in preventing the sale of others that significant numbers of the population want and generally providing increasingly worse service while charging more irks me to no end.

In light of the general view of open and powerful operating systems like Maemo by mobile operators and the way that carriers and manufacturers alike have sought to lock Android devices down (locked bootloaders, restrictions on source code, other locked aspects of device hardware, no super-user access without hacking etc) it’s highly likely that the prospect of running a more or less full blown Linux distro did not appeal to carriers much. Worse still is the fact that they were unlikely to get much access to the development plans or much say in what does and doesn’t get put into the OS in part due to its open nature.

While security, bandwidth and spectrum scarcity might certainly be some of the major reasons why operators wish to control which devices run on their networks, they’ve been moving to gain more and more control over which devices even make it to consumers hands, regardless of demand. Further, they seek to control/prevent the use of features that come standard with the device, features like video calling and tethering chief among them.

Without carrier support especially in terms of marketing and end-channel sales incentives, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that your device and ecosystem will flop spectacularly, regardless of whether your product is good or not (see Palm for more information.)

Reason 3 – No interested OEM’s:

Apart from LG, no OEM’s seemed interested in putting effort into developing MeeGo and worse still, none even considered adopting it as an additional option when it was finalized putting more or less the final nail in the coffin for Nokia’s expansive plans. Apple got to critical mass with consumers and developers by being the best combination of hardware, software, services and user experience (at the time), Android got to critical mass by being freely available (to a point) and the next best thing in terms of user experience and services while simultaneously being picked up by every floundering carrier not named Apple, Nokia or Palm. With an inability to generate critical mass without the requisite backing by carriers, OEM’s and devs, Nokia were looking at a situation where they’d have to hope that being better (UX wise) and their brand (which was waning) would carry them through.

As we’ve seen with Palm, that’s far from a guarantee.


So why bother releasing this device?

Apart from the aforementioned contractual obligations, why would Nokia even consider releasing a device like this which is far from guaranteed to be a commercial success? In this writer’s humble opinion, it is a matter of perception. To prove beyond a doubt that Nokia can put excellent hardware together, provide a delightful user experience even if it may miss some of the bells and whistles provided on other platforms; Office, Zune (which is excellent IMO)and Xbox Live on Windows Phone, iOS apps up the wazoo, iTunes and iCloud with iOS or the Google Maps, Mail, Documents and other cloud services.

They want to prove to the world that they know how to and can produce truly epic devices and that given time, they can build ecosystems that will rival and exceed those of their competitors.


Hopefully that’s what we see demonstrated not just at Nokia Connection this evening but also in the very near future.


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Category: Nokia

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So you've read something I've written. yay!! As you already know, my name is Andre and I'm currently a student based in Atlanta. Much like Jay, I pretty much blog here in my free time. Follow me on twitter @andre1989 or contact me directly at Andre(at)mynokiablog(dot)com. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.