Maemo 5: Do We Need Another Mobile Platform?



I don’t expect this to win me any friends in the Maemo world, but I think it’s a valid question. Believe me, I wish Nokia (s NOK) and the open-source community nothing but success with their mobile platform. This isn’t about me liking other operating systems or not liking Maemo. It’s about the mobile space in general and the fragmented platforms we have for handhelds like smartphones, mobile Internet devices and Nokia’s Internet Tablets. Do we need another platform?

I’m wondering if Nokia would be better served by porting Google’s (s GOOG) Android operating system over to Maemo. Maybe, maybe not. I’m all for innovation, so it’s not like I want to see them stop work on Maemo; I’m just trying to peer into the future and see if Maemo still has a place. Since it’s geared specifically for Nokia’s Internet Tablets, maybe I should be looking ahead to see if they have a place in the future. I think they could, but possibly more so if they ran on a widespread platform.

Anyway, just a random thought that was spurred on by the news from Brighthand on the release of the Maemo 5 Beta SDK today. The good news is what’s inside this release:

  • OMAP3 support
  • HSPA data connectivity
  • High definition camera support
  • Hardware-based graphics acceleration
  • Support for desktop widgets
  • Modest e-mail client (shown above)

Add all that up and I’d expect to see a very capable next-generation Nokia Internet Tablet. Curious as to your thoughts as I know we have some Internet Tablet fans here.



@thomas: There’s a rumor going around that the N900 will, in fact, be a phone.


Maemo is based on solid GPL software… Android is based on upcoming Apache licensed software that can be closed by the carriers, embrace&extend style. I’d rather go with some platform that guarantees my freedom in the future, hopefully developer will get this too.
Though i wonder what they’re thinking of apps. market like the iPhone has and i think Android?

As for split effort, Maemo and Moblin are both at their core linux distribution and they both share common tools, architectures designs and softwares. So except for the top of the pyramid part (the GUI) i’m guessing they can both share 99% of their work!

And… though i really wish good luck to projects like Pandora and OpenMoko and would like to see them succeed, i think the our best luck in the short term is going to be with Maemo for those who want a powerful and open tablet/phone.
(Yes i love tablets but it seems it has to get a phone until more people switch to VoIP and we get a solution for wireless internet access at a reasonable price!)

Nokia is learning a lot and fast with each release of Maemo (been there since the n800, now with an n810), hopefully they’ll continue to grow the market for it without alienating the developers. They’re opening more and more of the closed source parts from what i can gather. (the wifi driver for one?)

Up till now I’ve been mostly happy but i really need it to become a cell phone as i can’t carry 2 devices in my pocket!


i’m excited about maemo, but i need the next internet tablet / the n900 to be a cell phone as well, since i am not going to carry two devices in my pocket! (keys, wallet, internet device. that’s it, what fits in my pockets).


You need to get one thing straight: Maemo is the base for everything you see today called ubuntu mobile, moblin, whatever. All are more or less based on gnome mobile which is what goes from maemo to upstream (a lot).

Nokia opened most of their maemo stuff, sponsores a lot of projects and is active in the community. Even trying to stay as close as possible to gnome by getting their enhancements upstream. Of course not only because they are nice but because it makes sense to not have a branch of something which then drifts further and further away from the main development – making development harder and more expensive.

Android is a completely new development and it is very good for what is does, but it lacks the ability of porting existing apps to it. This is what makes maemo different from android and nice for the community. With maemo5, the next evolution of maemo, not only gnome applications, but also QT applications can be ported.

maemo even runs evolution-data-server since the 770 which could give a full address book, calendar, etc. but nobody did seriously go for it, yet.

All in all maemo has it’s right to be and leads the way in many aspects.

We’ll just have to see what happens with ubuntu mobile and the other mobile platforms after maemo5 and maybe at some point in the future they can find a common ground so mobile applications can, like on the desktop, be just packaged for the distribution. As soon as this is the case we’ll have reached a stable phase. currently it is all in development more or less.


Amen :-)

I just wish Maemo/Mer had a Dalvik runtime (the java-ish appliation runtime engine for Android). Then no one would have to choose between Maemo and Android. Those who want full Linux, run Maemo+Dalvik. Those who don’t, just run the basic Android that comes with their device.


nokia abandoning maemo for android would be a huge blow to the internet tablets as the stable of open source tools and applications would be lost. A project to bring android apps to maemo would be an excellent idea.

maemo shares a lot of features and goals with moblin but they are distinct projects. Moblin is looking to be a customizable netbook/mid distro for vendors to package with their devices. maemo is nokia’s research playground and tightly coupled to their device. The 2 projects already share code as the hildon libs nokia developed are in moblin and the clutter library intel bought for moblin is in fremantle. Both nokia and intel have also invested heavily in the linix kernel power subsystem and each is benefiting in the other’s work.


Just wait to when Maemo 5 and the next version are released and the devices (in plural) that Nokia is going to launch running Maemo. When they launch the next device running Maemo 5 it will be the most powerful device Nokia will have in that moment.

Nokia is continously hiring people to work in Maemo even with the actual crisis (they have hired hundreds in the last months), I think this is a really positive thing for the future of Maemo.


(just wanted to add a subscription, since I hadn’t before)


freedom of choice. i am more than happy that there are several and different platforms. there’s always something that suits you. you would not write this article about OSX or Windows 7 if you’re an apple fan or into microsoft. thanks to the x-hundred GNU/Linux distros out there I was able to find the one that suits me best. if there were only windows xp or vista, I would be gardening to have more colors

Gailoo Tune

Hello Kevin,

We are working on S60 platform and its backend is too strong. In fect today we have launched a caller tune application that is not possible on any platform so far and was restricted to service provider’s walled garden. For the first time we brought an add-on service from operator’s domain to mobile device as a software application.

Only thing S60 is lacking a nice front end GUI and if Meamo added on S60 backend it will be a deadly combination that can rule the mobile platform.

BTW, Caller Tune application for Nokia Phones can be downloaded from

Give it a try and see if this is possible on any other platform

Press Release:


Xournal, canola2, games, and a desktop class browser capable of running flash. That’s all I need.

One of the more customizable platforms and my favorite device until the day I finally see a Pandora.

You must also remember that maemo is the platform where Nokia does its R&D for future phone features. And that a maemo developer is familiar enough with linux to do cross platform development with android if he or she wishes to.

The answer is yes. But I wouldn’t call it ANOTHER platform just the continuation of maemo.


Nowadays I only use mine to make international calls over Skype/EVDO. It doesn’t do anything else very well. The mp3 player is even worse than PSP’s , if its possible.

Nokia took the wrong direction with the tablet, it’s not open enough I think that’s its problem.


Man. You need to download Canola 2. It turns a NIT into one of the best media players on the market.


I have a Nokia N810, the device is so unique, it connects to my n95, I can download updates install applications, all with no fee. The list of available applications is sometimes overwhelming. I don’t believe there is another device where developers are building to expand the functionality of just one device. The community builds and updates all the time. Given the 1 Billion download of apple’s app store, I wonder how many Nokia N8** users have downloaded and continue to use applications that are, needed and unavailable in the mainstream market and the best part is they are all for **FREE*****


with the benefit of all that QT/KDE technology I believe that maemo has a strong future as a useful and differentiated product.

Travis Butler

I stuck with the Nokia IT platform for two revisions – the original 770 and the 800. The hardware had a lot going for it – solidly built, gorgeous screen, handy and comfortable controls on the 770, all in a package still small enough to fit in most shirt pockets.

Unfortunately, Maemo was its Achilles’ heel. Early versions were often slow and unstable; Nokia’s abandonment of official Maemo updates for the 770 when it was not much more than a year old stirred up a lot of resentment in the nascent user base. The applications that came with the device ranged from decent (the web browser) to mediocre (the standard media player, which looked like a product from 10 years ago) to just plain awful (an ‘address book’ that only tracked email addresses – not physical addresses, phones, or any other contact information). Application support beyond that was left to the hobbyist community; which resulted in some interesting applications, a lot of poorly polished or unfinished applications, a fair number of clunky ports of Linux software from other platforms, and a lot of holes because no hobbyist was interested enough to write an application to fill them.

The last revision before I stopped using the N800 switched the browser core from Opera to Gecko, added a lot of visual polish, but didn’t address any of the other fundamental issues for me. I last used it as an ebook reader (one area where the glorious screen always shined), and I haven’t picked it up in months.


I hear you and feel your pain. Just curious, what do you use now?

Ricky Cadden

It’s definitely a valid question, though I think, in the long run, we’ll see Maemo integrated into Symbian Foundation just as S60 is being integrated.

Kevin C. Tofel

I suspect you’re right Ricky. I’m still wondering though: maybe it would make more sense for Nokia to join up with the Moblin project and pool resources. Both parties would benefit from that and perhaps make a more compelling platform.

@Kevin, technically they already do, as moblin makes use of the hildon interface framework (or at least did with moblin1) that nokia developed for its tablets. and hildon is a extension (or wathever you want to call it) of GTK, the very same UI framework that gnome (of ubuntu fame) uses.


No, it’s not a valid question… today.

It was a valid question 3 years ago, when Maemo came out. Now the question is “what is Maemo’s place the mobile picture”. It’s way too late to ask whether or not it should exist.

And I specifically don’t want to see Maemo integrated into Symbian. I’d MUCH rather see Symbian go the way of the dodo, and have Nokia replace it with Maemo.


Ricky, what if there is no Symbian and S60 in couple of years? one emulator for “playing ageing .sis files” and that’s it… ;)

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