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Nokia’s secret Linux team is looking for refuge

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When Nokia announced massive job cuts a couple of weeks ago, one of the targets was the company’s research facility in Ulm, Germany. Now, showing impressive entrepreneurialism, the axed team members have set up a campaign advertising their talents:

“In response to our recent Ulm site closure announcement from Nokia HQ, we (the employees) openly invite you to discover our world of talent on offer,” a flyer on their new website reads. “Welcome to Project KYVYT’.”

Nokia’s Ulm research facility employed 730 people, so that’s a lot of talent (or, in Finnish, kyvyt) on offer. But what were they working on?

According to Finnish business news service Taloussanomat, the Ulm team was developing Meltemi. If you don’t know what that is, there’s a reason for that.

Meltemi was an operating system for low-end smartphones. Nokia never actually acknowledged its existence, but it was axed in the June cuts. The Linux-based OS was most likely an insurance policy in case Nokia’s big Windows Phone tie-in didn’t work out, but now Nokia’s going to start making cheaper Windows Phones too. Given that Symbian’s not quite dead yet at the low end, you can see how three platforms in roughly the same segment might be a bit much.

Of course, if anyone does want to take the idea of a lightweight, open-source OS further, Project KYVYT has just the right people for you. After all, those behind the site say they will be posting “team profiles for investors” as well as personal CVs, so it’s quite likely that they could come as a package.

19 Responses to “Nokia’s secret Linux team is looking for refuge”

  1. Frägel

    If they developed a Linux-based “lightweight” mobile phone OS, that’s great news. I hope they remember that they are legally required to publish what they have done, or they are in breach of the license for Linux (and Nokia is very keen on enforcement, so it’s all fair if they follow their own rules)

    • The Linux kernel is GPL, but that has no bearing on userland. Likely most of userland is also open source in some way, but newly and specifically developed userland code does not have to be open.

    • The big problem with Samsung is that they believe that the best engineers are working in Korea. This is not unlike many other Asian companies. Of course, they want talented people to join their teams and they can also hire them in any part of the world… as long as they want to move to Korea. As it happened for example with Carsten Haitzler (creator of EFL), whose name is now 하이츨러…

    • Shaun Murray

      Not all of it. A lot of the work was developing open source code that is freely licenced. In the N9, pretty much everything other than the apps and the drivers for closed hardware is open source.

      eg. the telepathy messaging and comms framework or the Maliit virtual keyboard or the MeeGo touch and Qt frameworks.

      It’d be a pity to start over with a new replacement for Swipe UI or new apps but not totally out of the question for a committed team. I’d imagine the ex-Nokians from Ulm would be pretty committed to proving that what they were developing was the right choice and not WP7/8.

  2. Would anyone be interested in hiring engineers with poor track record in getting things done? Projects like meltemi, maemo have been always delayed and its quality wasnt outstanding either.

    • Shaun Murray

      Hope not. Samsung have their own Tizen project running on top of their own SLP platform and personally I find their hardware design to be disposable, bland and uninspired compared to Nokia or Apple.

      In any case, why would Samsung need ANOTHER software platform?

      • To compete with the three biggest will-be-soon mobile OSes, iOS, Android and Windows. Maybe Samsung’s designs (not only for hardware) are little creative, but don’t forget that Samsung Galaxy running Android has already outranked all others. I know Samsung well enough and because of that I have ambivalence about that – but on the other hand this is the only company that has money and may be interested with introducing its own operating system, especially if this means paying less for patent fees (to Microsoft, of course) and decrease the price.

      • Sam P: Samsung didn’t make it with Linux-based OS; the only visible result of their work is Tizen, which is Meego-based (and there’s no phone on the market that is using it). I was working for a Linux-based system in Samsung a year ago, and it wasn’t even anything related to Meego (it was their own LiMo project, based on Debian, but it was already EFL the most important GUI library). Probably Tizen is a system partially completed from Meego and LiMo. Anyway, they didn’t succeed in making a Linux-based OS and selling any phone with this system.

        Bada is a different story, it’s completely unrelated to Linux. It’s a derivative of their own system solution, previously known as SHP. And Android, yes, is a Linux-kernel-based system, but Samsung is doing nothing more than just a customization; it’s not their product. And actually this system makes the biggest money for them.

  3. Atlant Schmidt

    Nokia was *FULL* of excellent talent that was being hugely misused by Nokia’s “leadership”; the Meltemi team (and their Maemo/MeeGo progenitors before them) is an example of that.

    This would probably be an ideal way for a mobile phone start-up to get rapidly bootstrapped. And if they acted quickly, such a startup could probably also snap up some excellent mobile phone manufacturing capacity in Oulu and other places.

    The only places Nokia lacked talent were in the ranks of management (at all levels).