Intel scraps MeeGo for Tizen--Nokia building Linux OS for feature phones?

Intel will halt development of the MeeGo open-source mobile platform to throw its support behind Tizen, the new Linux-based cross-architecture device software platform announced last week by the Linux Foundation and LiMo Foundation. At the same time, reports indicate Intel's onetime MeeGo ally Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is developing Meltemi, still another new Linux-based OS designed to power low-end feature phones complementing its forthcoming suite of smartphones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone.

Targeting multiple device categories including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks and in-vehicle infotainment systems, Tizen combines open-source technologies with a standards-based HTML5 and Wholesale Applications Community web development environment, enabling the creation of device-independent, cross-platform mobile applications. The Linux Foundation will host the Tizen platform--the initial release is slated for the first quarter of 2012, with the first Tizen-powered devices expected to arrive by mid-year.

Intel and Samsung Electronics will head the technical steering committee developing Tizen; Intel confirms it will effectively kill off the MeeGo effort to focus its energies on the new OS. The fate of MeeGo--the platform combining Intel's former Moblin efforts with Nokia's former Maemo platform--has been the subject of conjecture since early 2011, when Nokia inked a broad strategic partnership with Microsoft that positions Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform. Intel vice president Doug Fisher recently told The Wall Street Journal the company remained "fully committed" to MeeGo's development but suggested it was searching for a partner to replace Nokia.

"Why not just evolve MeeGo?" writes Imad Sousou, director of Intel's Open Source Technology Center, on the blog. "We believe the future belongs to HTML5-based applications, outside of a relatively small percentage of apps, and we are firmly convinced that our investment needs to shift toward HTML5. Shifting to HTML5 doesn't just mean slapping a web runtime on an existing Linux, even one aimed at mobile, as MeeGo has been. Emphasizing HTML5 means that APIs not visible to HTML5 programmers need not be as rigid, and can evolve with platform technology and can vary by market segment." Sousou adds Intel will work to transition MeeGo users and developers to Tizen.

Samsung's commitment to Tizen follows reports the company plans to open its Bada mobile operating system to other manufacturers and software developers in 2012, a measure to accelerate growth of the smartphone platform while also distancing the company from its reliance on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android OS. Citing a source familiar with Samsung's plans, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Samsung has no plans to acquire a software company or mobile operating system, instead betting it can expand Bada beyond smartphones to so-called smart TVs and other connected devices by opening the platform to partners.

Samsung's future plans and continued commitment to Android have been the subject of considerable speculation in recent weeks, especially in the wake of Google's agreement to acquire Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) for roughly $12.5 billion. Google has promised Android will remain open, but analysts speculate that manufacturers building Android devices may not enjoy the same technological support and access given to Motorola once the company is absorbed into the Google family.

As for the Meltemi operating system, details are scarce. The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the initiative last week, citing sources familiar with Nokia's plans. Mary McDowell, Nokia's executive vice president of mobile phones, is reportedly leading the development of Meltemi (so named for the Greek word for the summer winds that blow across the Aegean Sea). A Nokia spokesperson declined comment on the project.

Feature phones accounted for about 47 percent of Nokia device sales during the second quarter of 2011. Earlier this year, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop pledged to boost the company's feature phone ambitions, targeting consumers in emerging markets--however, low-cost, feature-rich smartphones running Android are becoming increasingly commonplace, calling into question the longevity of the feature phone concept.

For more:
- read this release
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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