MeeGo - torn between two partners

Developing operating systems is fraught with difficulties. Building them for mobile devices complicates the problem, and sharing the effort between large and sophisticated partners has the potential for blurred objectives and acrimony.

Somewhere within this is where Nokia and Intel would appear to be with their MeeGo operating system developments.

Nokia has the key objective of using MeeGo to recapture the high-end of what it is calling mobile computing, while Intel is determined that the Linux-based MeeGo will persuade handset manufacturers to turn back to Intel chips rather than follow the persistent trend towards chipsets based on ARM processor cores.

Timelines would also appear to be confused. Nokia, and its operator partners, were confidently talking about MeeGo-based handsets appearing late this year, while Intel has just announced that it was pleased with progress and had been 'hitting its dates' for a release sometime next year.

One talkative Intel VP suggested that the first MeeGo handsets would likely be seen at a large trade show--pointing towards MWC in February as the potential venue.

To be fair, a MeeGo tablet--the WeTab, has been seen in Germany, and other MeeGo devices like netbooks and internet connected TVs are still said to be on track to ship this year.

What has also damaged MeeGo's likely success was the news that Nokia's MeeGo device VP, Ari Jaaksi, was to leave 'to pursue outside opportunities'. The doom-laden speculation that followed this announcement was, however, viewed as positive in some quarters. The thought is that this shakeup will free up space for the recently hired Peter Skillman from Palm/HP to provide fresh impetus to Nokia's timescales and rejuvenate a battered R&D department.

Further rumours that Nokia was about to adopt Android would also appear to be wide of the mark, although insiders claim that Nokia's board has apparently already given the recently appointed CEO Stephen Elop the OK to look into other OSs if he sees fit. For conspiracy theorists this story was given a boost by reports that Elop was caught discussing Android with Google's CEO Eric Schmidt.

Key to Nokia's next OS is success in the US market--the company's former CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, was reportedly given his marching orders having consistently failed to improve Nokia's market share in the US.

But, according to IDC, the company faces a considerable challenge having managed to capture less than 3 per cent of the US smartphone market in Q1/2010, a fraction of the near 27 per cent that Android attracted.

The ongoing popularity of Android has been researched by Nielsen indicating that between January and August 2010 the OS climbed from 14 per cent to 34 per cent in North America.

But the current hype surrounding Android does plummet back to earth when the platform is measured globally against other smartphone OSs. The Google OS only holds 17 per cent of the worldwide market, which is closely in line with Apple's 14 per cent and BlackBerry's 18 per cent.

If you accept that Symbian is a smartphone OS, then Nokia handsets using this platform held 41 percent of global smartphone sales at the end of Q2 2010. - Paul