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Can 3-D Save MeeGo?

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Intel (s intc) and Nokia (s nok) announced today the opening of the Intel and Nokia Joint Innovation Center at the University of Oulu, Finland. The new lab will employ two dozen researchers and is aligned with MeeGo, the open source mobile platform formed by the merger earlier this year of Intel’s Moblin Project and Nokia’s Maemo platform. A primary focus of the new labs will be on 3-D and virtual reality mobile interfaces like the YouTube (s goog) example shown below.

Although results of the joint effort aren’t specific to Intel-powered MeeGo handsets from Nokia, it appears as though the two tech giants are trying to position MeeGo as the mobile interface of the future. News of a lab looking at 3-D interfaces doesn’t appear all that ground-breaking, however, as the incumbents in mobile are doing the same: Back in May, for example, Google purchased Bumptop, which could eventually end up on tablets and handhelds. 3-D interfaces haven’t yet taken off on more powerful mobile devices, so it may be too soon to bank hopes on a virtual world in your hand.

In a sense, both Intel and Nokia are doing just that, however, as they flail around trying to position MeeGo as a competitive platform. On a conference call I attended yesterday to announce the lab, both companies touted the 3-D Internet in use on a handheld with sensors and even mentioned possible holograms in the release. It sure sounds like a wonderful future: Intel Atom chips powering Nokia devices for virtual worlds where we can meet, chat and play. It also sounds like a future that mainstream consumers won’t see — or want to see — for several years yet, which isn’t going to help MeeGo find its way against the established platforms of today. Indeed, when I argued that Nokia should abandon MeeGo for Android, part of my thought process was that Nokia hasn’t yet provided a compelling reason why it should continue with MeeGo. As hip as a 3-D, virtual interface sounds, I still don’t see a reason for it.

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19 Responses to “Can 3-D Save MeeGo?”

  1. In spite of the android tsunami, I still believe that MeeGo has a fair chance of success. In fact, contrary to fanboism, I think android will go through “interesting” times – and not merely of the fragmentation kind. Android based device makers are likely to reassess their brand value – and with Apple being the benchmark, device makers are gonna hunt for differentiators. When this happens, Android will not be the best bet. Ask big Sammy why they made the Bada.

    MeeGo, on the other hand, needs to be smarter to survive. It wouldn’t be enough if it bettered everything that Android does. It needs to provide room to device makers to differentiate – and at fundamental levels. Also coupled with the might of Intel, this could bring in a whiff of fresh air in the otherwise predictably boring combination of Arm and Android.

    Coming back to whether 3D and this seemingly run-of-the-mill university relation is the antidote to all problems that MeeGo faces …well, I see that it has served as a trigger for a discussion on MeeGo. But, will it change the world? Nothing is impossible, but a discussion on MeeGo can stand free of the clutches that news items such as this (univ story) provide.

  2. Kevin,

    I strongly recommend that you read this article:

    It’s damn long but there are some really strong arguments why Nokia should not start to use Android. Author of the article (Tomi T Ahonen) knows what he’s talking about. You really should update your opinions. Because your arguments and opinions are really so 2009 ;)

    • Alexey Yakubovich


      Thanks for the link on Tomi T.Ahonen blog, it’s interesting and enlightening opinion. But the part about MeeGo versys Android is I think the only non-convincing part.
      I am looking more from developer / software architect perspective, considering runtime, developer tools, APIs and software esthetics if you want. So Symbion was awful, crashes permanently on devices, interpreters unworkable, API poor. Developing app. on such a platform is a pain. Same still true about MeeGo with Qt – the Nokia native Qt IDE is far behind the best industry standards and arguably will never catch-up.
      Now, Android runtime architecture I think is brilliant, reliable. API is rich and powerful, IDE just calls to start developing. That’s what matters to me most.

  3. I actually agree with Kevin and disagree with the previous two comments. At this point, Meego looks dead on arrival. So far there’s nothing in it that shows why carriers, device manufacturers or consumers would prefer it over the existing platforms, and specifically Android that has so much momentum.

    In my opinion, the only way it can gain some momentum is if it is positioned as a true open source alternative. Currently with Android, unless you sign an agreement with Google, you get a crippled version of Android. If any device manufacturer can use Meego and get the full experience, they might stand a chance.

    • “So far there’s nothing in it that shows why carriers, device manufacturers or consumers would prefer it over the existing platforms”

      +1 as that’s precisely the point I’ve been trying to make. Again, if I’m wrong, I’ll humbly take my lumps, but I’m still waiting to see or hear what will make MeeGo a compelling choice.

    • But there’s the catch. Meego is supported by Intel and Nokia. Both giants in their respective neighbourhoods. When they build devices, they’ll have a not-insignificant market penetration. Add to that the lates news about car vendors etc. jumping on the Meego platform and the very fact:

      It is a true open source agreement! Any vendor can get the full experience. That’s the whole point! For Android vendors will have to pay, for Meego they won’t.

      When the margins start eroding due to competition, what will the vendors use. 1) A free open source alternative, which requires less horsepower (no VM) with features at least on par if not above Android or 2) A licensed (at cost) OS, which requires more horspower to run comparatively (thus double whammy on margins)=

      • Nasula, I hear you but not sure I agree: being an incumbent in either respective space doesn’t mean you’ll stay the leader. ARM devices are taking off as Intel tries to get into the mobile space with x86 chips. And Nokia’s lead in the handset market has eroded over the past few years, although now is holding steady.

        And I’m really stumped over this comment:
        “For Android vendors will have to pay, for Meego they won’t.”

        What exactly do Android vendors have to pay for? The OS license is provided free of charge and the handset makers actually earn a share of mobile search ad revenue when using Android — if anything, they make money, not pay it, when using Android. Help me understand…

      • About the on “Android you have to pay”. My bad. Wasn’t thinking straight after a jogging run. Now after a shower, it’s a bit more level headed. Don’t know where that came from.

        Main point was that there’s supposedly going to be a significant installed base of Meego (think in addition to Nokia phones) and the Meego environment being completely free open source should make it a desirable choice for other vendors IF the app ecosystem builds up (which it has all the chances of doing with Qt as it targets an even wider device base than just Meego) unless they screw it up with Ovi Store and Intel’s app store.

        So for other vendors it should be pretty much a similar choice as android (tablets etc. scheduled on both), both use linux as a base. The bigger differences being Android’s head start on the plus side and use of VM on the minus side (need more hardware).

      • I’ve commented many times too soon after a run myself, so no worries. ;)

        No argument with anything you’ve said, but we’ll have to see if the strategy actually pans out. In all honesty, I hope it does because consumer choice is good and several solid platforms push the entire market towards better products! :)

  4. Kevin,

    I realize as I writer for Gigaom it’s your job to create provocative pieces but really a title like “Can 3-D Save MeeGo?” just doesn’t make any sense.

    For starters you are assuming that Meego has already failed (and thus needs to be saved) before even the first smartphone or tablet to feature it has been launched. Why?

    And secondly why does the announcement that two companies who have some of the biggest R&D budgets in the tech industry have to mean anything other than they are cementing their relationship by working on a project together?

    They have always worked on hundreds of research projects and many of which will never see the light of day.

    3D may be the next big thing or it may not but I’m sure neither company is pinning there hopes for Meego’s success on the outcome of this project.

    I’m going to reserve final judgment on Meego’s success till Nokia and others have at least had chance to produce something that uses it. I suspect it will be a game changer but I could be wrong. Maybe we could both come back to this article and your “Nokia should abandon MeeGo for Android” article in a years time and see who’s right?

    • Totally fair criticism. Not my original headline choice, but I have to own it at it this point.

      I too will reserve final judgment on MeeGo’s success until after we see devices. But at this point, I’m still failing to see the reason for them to go down this path. Ultimately, Nokia is a hardware company that wants to also build software and provide services. That’s admirable, but I (and many others) have their doubts. I’m sure just as many, if not more, are anticipating success and that’s fine too.

      I don’t believe that MeeGo’s success is pinned on this 3D interface effort and don’t think I said so. My underlying point is that both companies involved keep attempting to justify the reason for MeeGo and those justifications aren’t yet compelling. If I’m wrong, I’ll happily admit it, however. We’ll see in a few years. :)

      • abcsand

        totally agree with sukhoi and APS.

        Gigaom’s articles appear to be more and more biased and motivated.. than any analysis of the meego..

        Meego is already gaining momentum.. already won support from many companies in industry.. eg..genivi.. it provides a compatible platform and more suitable for cloud and connected devices..

        (God.. i should stop wasting my time visiting this site.. )

      • Right, but Genivi is for connected in-vehicle systems, not the consumer handset / smartphone market, which is where my skepticism lies. And plenty of other platforms are trying to invade the car as well, so I’m not sold that MeeGo is gaining momentum due to to a Genivi deal.

  5. Losing respect for GigaOM – You have not seen any MeeGo devices yet!. Not one – neither a netbook nor any kind of phone – you have declared MeeGo doomed!!

    Really you analysis doesn’t make sense any more – not just this issue but lots of issues you have similar hypothesis for multiple items recently without any proper reasoning.

    • “Really you analysis doesn’t make sense any more – not just this issue but lots of issues you have similar hypothesis for multiple items recently without any proper reasoning.”

      That’s a fair comment, but ironically you didn’t provide any reasoning for your opinion. ;) Let’s talk about it as I’m more than willing to learn from the readers.