The more astute among you may notice that the “MeeGo” mentioned in the title is placed in quotes. That’s something I’ll get to a little later but first let’s address a few important points from my last editorial. Many of you mentioned that Nokia had a great ecosystem before the deal with Microsoft and that joining a dying ecosystem with no marketshare made no sense. Fair, Microsoft’s marketshare is on the decline but so is Nokia’s, along with decreasing profits and outlook, “strong” ecosystem or not. Others commented that Nokia had already embarked on a relationship with Intel in order to create the open-source OS called MeeGo which would be used across a myriad of consumer electronics devices. That’s nice and all, but we’ve yet to see any deliverable product from that there venture. Further to the point, the “MeeGo” we see now is not even MeeGo in the literal sense!!! The MeeGo running on the N9 is from all indications Harmattan at the core with a MeeGo-ish UI and API compatibility slapped on. Might be a big part of the reason why media and assets from Nokia CONSTANTLY mention Harmattan when describing the OS. Given that Harmattan is, more or less proprietary with the use of upstream components, the open-source nuts should probably quit criticising other “closed” ecosystems so much.
Further to this,Intel specifically promised mobile-ready chips by the end of 2010, amongst other things that I’m sure Nokia were promised or assured of prior to signing this agreement. We’re now halfway through 2011 and we’ve yet to see anything of the sort. If anything, ARM is starting to creep into the lower spectrum of Intel’s space and with greater support for ARM architecture by the largest OS on the market, they may begin to cede parts of their market they’d rather not lose.
So let’s set this straight, the N9 ain’t running the Open Source, Intel co-developed MeeGo for handsets and the only reason the MeeGo branding can be used in the first place is because of the “similarities” between the Harmattan API and the MeeGo API. Furthermore, Harmattan uses a very substantial UI framwork layer called MeeGo Touch whereas the MeeGo being developed with Intel does NOT and instead relies on Qt Quick for the UI framework.
PS. The UI that’s running on top of the N9 isn’t open source either by the way.
So now that that’s out of the way, we get to the meat of the matter. If MeeGo Harmattan isn’t really MeeGo as some of ‘us’ would like to think and the two use more or less incompatible UI frameworks then further development on this “MeeGo”-Harmattan, especially when future versions of the Open Source, Intel co-developed MeeGo don’t use this framework don’t make any sense. Cue Stephen Elop’s comments mirroring this exact point. In essence Harmattan won’t be developed much further than the current state.
The craziest thing though is that MeeGo itself isn’t important! The things that supposedly make MeeGo the best thing since sliced bread (it’s certainly the best thing out of Finland since Linux — I kid!!) are the same things that make the UI, UX, Applications and designs and performance platform-INDEPENDENT. The best things, the most important things about the MeeGo experience are all possible due to Qt! The same cross-platform development and UI framework is the reason all of this is impressive in the first place.
In essence the MeeGo experience isn’t all really due to MeeGo (though the Linux kernel probably plays a sizeable role) but due to the capabilities of Qt and good design. Which is all more or less portable to platforms of Nokia’s choice! What’s even more awesome is that not only will Qt continue to support Symbian (for the short time it will exist post 2012) but it will move on to support Nokia’s largest platform. And there have been rumblings that there are big things on the Horizon on that front.
I guess the key takeaway (this is definitely aimed at the TL;DR folks) is that whether or not MeeGo succeeds, while relevant is not the be all and end all. Whether Qt succeeds on the other hand, is the crux of Nokia’s strategies moving forward. I’ll leave you with Attila Csipa’s tweet
“Repeat after me: the N9′s ecosystem is #Qt. It’s not one of the kind. It’s the kind that can share software with 100M+ devices”