Nokia fails to launch first device for either new OS
The Nokia/Intel operating system MeeGo is now available for download to netbooks, but is not available as an update for Nokia's N900 device, which runs MeeGo's predecessor Maemo.
Instead, the first MeeGo gadgets look set to be netbooks - and Nokia may not even get in first on its other main operating system, Symbian^3, with Samsung expected to pip it to the post.
MeeGo merges Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo into a single open source, Linux-based platform, geared mainly to hybrid mobile internet devices that sit between phones and PCs.
It will be one of the new breed of highly web-oriented OSs, promising optimized support for browser/cloud services and a simplified internet experience - taking on Google Chrome OS and HP webOS, among others.
Release 1.0 is now available for developers, in two flavors, one for netbooks and one for smartphones, but the former has a clear headstart. The software developers' kit is tailored for netbooks, while programmers will have to wait for release 1.1, probably in late June, to support
The API that has been released includes Nokia's cross-platform developer tool Qt 4.6, but N900 users will have to make do with Maemo for now. MeeGo is expected to debut on a new Nokia product, a successor for N900, later in the year, which may anger users of the current device, left effectively in an OS dead end. The Finnish giant has released new firmware for the N900, in the shape of Maemo 5/PR1.2.
Enhancements include support for video chat with Skype, SIP or Google Talk, and a Facebook chat in the IM client. Nokia has also put QT4.6, the standard graphics library for MeeGo into Maemo too. There is an improved user interface for Ovi Maps, a modified virtual keyboard and email client, and the browser can now display web pages in portrait mode.
Nokia is standing firm on the lack of an official OS update for the N900, though, even though the device is the official development platform for MeeGo. The company said it knew some users would be disappointed, but insisted: "It's really about ensuring that you have the best possible experience designed for the features on your Nokia N900 device."
The next high profile device launch from Nokia will be the N8, which will not run MeeGo but the first open source release of the revamped Symbian platform Symbian^3. While Nokia has put a significant amount of effort and resource into the Symbian Foundation's development of release 3, the N8 may not get to claim the prize as the first handset to run the OS.
That glory will go to an Asian vendor, Symbian Foundation's executive director Lee Williams told the Reuters news agency, who nevertheless acknowledged: "We are heavily dependent on Nokia's development efforts."
Williams did not name the vendor, but previous leaks had suggested Samsung would pip N8 to the post and release a Symbian^3 superphone this summer. Other Asian manufacturers working on Symbian^3 models are reported to be LG, Huawei and Sharp; several ODMs including Foxconn and Compal; and most of the suppliers to Japan's DoCoMo, which is a major contributor to the Symbian standard - Sharp and Fujitsu expect to announce release 3 devices this year.
Nokia had already warned it could delay the launch of the N8 by a month or more. There will be some advantage to seeing another vendor get to Symbian^3 first, as it will dilute the perception in some quarters that the OS, despite its open source foundation, is in reality controlled by Nokia and mainly for its benefit.
Williams told Reuters that the new OS is virtually ready to release. "Symbian^3 is almost completely mature. There is a small share of code which is pending checking by its contributors," he said. Symbian^4 will be unveiled in the first quarter of 2011.