It’s raining Nokia (NYSE: NOK) at the moment. The N9, one of the company’s newest devices — and the first to run on the new MeeGo operating system — is reportedly getting dropped before it even launched: not a good sign if the company was pinning any hope on MeeGo stepping up where Symbian has failed it. But don’t rule out MeeGo altogether, says one vendor: several other MeeGo-based devices are theoretically still in the works.
According to a report from Reuters, Nokia has decided to end development of the N9, a touch-screen device with a hidden keyboard that some thought would be unveiled next week during Mobile World Congress. Reuters (NYSE: TRI) says that two industry sources close to the company confirmed this information.
Endgadget meanwhile reports that the company will be shifting attention to the next device in that line, the N9-01, which will be a tablet.
The news comes one day after an embarrassing memo — allegedly by new CEO Stephen Elop and describing the company as standing on a “burning platform” — was leaked to the blogosphrere; reports of a major executive overhaul; and in advance of a strategy day on Friday, where Nokia is expected to unveil its plan to turnaround its increasingly challenged handset and mobile services business.
It’s not exactly clear why Nokia would be killing off the N9: whether this is because it no longer fits into the company’s strategy as it will be unveiled on Friday; or because the device had insurmountable problems with its hardware or software.
MeeGo, a Linux-based, open-source operating system, was developed from Nokia’s work on Maemo and Intel’s Moblin platform. MeeGo was unveiled last year, and Nokia had intimated that it could become a cornerstone in its tablet strategy, but so far we have not seen any devices running on the platform.
Nokia has had other setbacks in its MeeGo strategy — one of the biggest was that its previous head of MeeGo platform Ari Jaaksi, resigned in October and joined HP (NYSE: HPQ) as SVP of webOS. MeeGo computers is now being headed up by Alberto Torres, one EVP that was not named in the leak earlier this week of executives whose heads are on the chopping block.
Are reports of MeeGo problems being exaggerated? One thing that’s important to point out, though, is that Nokia is not the only one developing products using MeeGo: last September Intel (NSDQ: INTC) unveiled a tablet and smart TV running the OS.
Andrew Till, the CTO of Teleca, which has a product that it sells to device makers looking to commercialise MeeGo-based products, notes that it’s still seeing a lot of companies looking to roll out MeeGo devices:
“We see a lot of companies working on MeeGo projects right now, and we expect that to continue,” he told mocoNews. “That includes handset vendors. We see a lot of traction and an ecosystem building around MeeGo, not the same as Android, but we do expect that to develop more.”
Where will MeeGo make an appearance? Till says automotive systems, as well as tablets and mobile handsets, are all products where companies are currently looking to use a MeeGo OS.
“The difference between MeeGo and Android, which are both open source, is that MeeGo has been designed with the intention of going everywhere,” he said “From day one it can work in a TV, an automotive system, a mobile phone and a tablet. Android started as a mobile handset platform, and now they are rearchitecting to try to give it a broader set of capabilities. But there have been a lot of changes to the UI framework to just accomodate tablets [with Honeycomb], let alone other kinds of devices.
“Android almost becomes a victim of its own success,” he said.
One interesting detail is that he notes that MeeGo provides “a security model somewhat different to Android, and from a telephony point of view MeeGo is a more robust platform.”
This could go some way to explaining why mobile operators have been reportedly advocating Nokia doing more with MeeGo.