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Nokia to Stake Its Future on Maemo

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Nokia (s nok) is inching closer to declaring its allegiance to Maemo, according to unidentified (but loose-lipped) executives, and will ditch Symbian in favor of the Linux-based OS on its flagship N-series handsets by 2012. But given the massive head start Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone, RIM’s (s rimm) BlackBerry and the Android OS are enjoying, Nokia will have a lot of catching up to do.

Members of the Maemo marketing team let the plans slip at a London event last night, forcing Nokia to respond with an official statement that any speculation about its road map for 2012 is “completely premature.” But we’ve heard that kind of talk before from Nokia, and it appears the manufacturer is simply paying lip service to its established OS as it steps up its Maemo agenda.

Nokia spent $410 million last year to buy out the remaining shares of Symbian, and the company earlier this year took a $630 million loan from the European Investment Bank to help develop the operating system. Also, it clearly must continue to support Symbian given the massive footprint it has built around the world.

But Nokia continues to lose ground in the U.S. market and is watching its dominance erode in its home market of Western Europe as sexier, more user-friendly phones gain traction. The company has received solid reviews for its N900, a Maemo-based phone that started shipping last week. If the Finnish company is to become a real player in the era of the superphone, it will do it on the back of Maemo.

16 Responses to “Nokia to Stake Its Future on Maemo”

  1. >>>but my question from a development perspective is, what am I going to develop for this? I am limited to the top-end device in a long line of incompatible product.<<<

    Nokia is deploying Qt accross it's product. QT is a cross-platform application and UI framework. Using Qt, you can write applications once and deploy them across desktop, mobile and embedded operating systems without rewriting the source code. Initially it will support Maemo, Symbian and Winmo but it will eventually support more paltforms in the future.

  2. I commented on this a bit here:

    The Maemo stuff, while promising, does not yet seem fully baked in the N900 that I have played with a couple times over a couple different firmware builds. Sorta like early Android, it seems like it could be something, but no where near iPhone and not quite even Android 1.6 yet.

    Nokia does a bunch of frustrating things. So they make all this noise about Ovi and their appstore, but oops they seem to have forgotten to include support for this vital new platform. Makes it look like either they don’t know what they are doing with platforms, Ovi is dysfunctional or Maemo is a rush job or all of the above.

    I like the build of the N97 more than the N900, seems more like a phone.

    Of course if I had my fantasies I could buy an N97 with Android on it, but would settle for WebOS.

    Regardless, they need to figure out their story and once they have done that, communicate clearly to the world, inside and outside, so that all the Nokians as well as developers etc can at least make an informed decision…

  3. Anonymous

    A small observation about Nokia.

    I see that it is over paying for companies/technologies (Navteq for $8.1 billion, now huge sums on Symbian) and the pattern seems to be similar to Nortel. We know what happened to Nortel!!!

  4. I just stopped in at the Nokia store in Chicago to play with the N900. Not bad, but my question from a development perspective is, what am I going to develop for this? I am limited to the top-end device in a long line of incompatible product.

    Afterwards, I stopped in at the Apple store down Michigan Avenue. I can buy a device which is better than my day one 2g model (I know I’m nuts, but this is the baseline) for $99. I can develop for every one of them coherently. The only thing that does not run on mine is Layar. Time to upgrade!

    I really think they need something like Palm’s WebOS more than they need Maemo. If they did this 2 years ago, cool. Nokia would now be competitive. They are not getting Maemo up to speed for less than half of the rumored $2B Palm price tag when one considers losses. The future is mobile web. Unless a company has an excellent app dev process in place right now, screw it and move to services.

    If Nokia could build a small screen mobile web device, think an iPod Nano with a keypad with any of the available OSes, make it now and sell it cheap. If they cannot find something that works be it WebOS or otherwise. The WebOS needs some cleaning itself though!

    • Anonymouse

      A very good comment (because I totally agree!). Nokia must buy Palm, but let Palm run as it is now with the financial support of the bigger corp. Stick to one or two current devices, gradually perfect them and continually improve the OS. The present belongs to Apple (RIM just don’t know it yet), but Mobile web is the future. If Nokia invests now, *maybe* they can again be competitive in the smartphone/small device market in 1-2 years.

      Symbian, Trolltech, Maemo – what on earth is Nokia thinking? At the least adopt Android instead of Maemo.