MeeGo might come back to haunt Nokia

Recent first looks at the Nokia N9 have made reviewers clamoring for more….more MeeGo devices that is. Stephen Elop decided to ditch MeeGo for Windows Phone 7 in October 2010 over concerns that MeeGo could not be deployed fast enough to take on iOS. There were only three MeeGo powered devices scheduled through 2014 so it is understandable why any CEO would do a hard 180 to get his company back on track in the market. MeeGo was still a work in progress with a working product not arriving until mid to late 2011, and even that product’s success (the N9 that is) would be an uncertainty. There stakes were just too high to gamble with and so Redmondpoo was born. Now that the N9 is out and critics are quite impressed with MeeGo and its capabilities, some are beginning to question Elop’s decision to ditch MeeGo regardless of its potential. It isn’t surprising that MeeGo is a hit on the N9 because so many big players are involved in its development, but it is just for that reason that Nokia should be worried about MeeGo’s future.

Nokia developed MeeGo along with the Linux Foundation, Intel, Novell, Amino, and AMD to create a mobile operating system that was both competitive to iOS and feature cross-platform functionality so that no hardware maker would be left out in the cold. Intel was heavily invested in it due to its souring relationship with Microsoft. Microsoft refused to offer in-depth Windows support for Intel’s Atom processor and later in 2011 Microsoft announced that it was developing Windows to work on ARM based architecture, chipping away further at the Wintel market empire that has existed for more than two decades. Using Nokia’s Qt framework, which Nokia has also turned its back to under Elop’s leadership, MeeGo became the first truly streamlined operating system that worked flawlessly across smartphones, TVs, tablets, netbooks, and automobiles.

So when Elop stuck to his guns and said that MeeGo was getting the boot no matter what, the question of what will happen to MeeGo was the number one thing on the mind of the companies involved. Nokia already sold the commercial licensing and professional services components of Qt to Digia, even though it didn’t sell off the Qt software. Will MeeGo suffer a similar fate? The beauty of MeeGo’s functionality was shown off on the N9, but the real selling point behind it is the cross-platform functionality it offers. This is something that iOS and Android are trying to do but so far have yet to reach the potential and completion that MeeGo has. Microsoft has also been trying to do this but it currently has different systems for each platform and is scrambling to try and make them all work together in tandem.

MeeGo is the embodiment of everything that makes Nokia amazing and the N9 is proof of just that. Nokia’s long line of innovative design and progressive ideas are continued via MeeGo. Sure, Nokia hit a bump in the road the last couple of years but MeeGo is proof that Nokia still has its mojo. Unfortunately, the Nokia of old is on its way out as Stephen Elop takes it full speed onto the Wp7 highway, which is both sad and disconcerting. It is even more disconcerting to the people involved in MeeGo’s development, who no doubt are following consumer reactions to the N9 very closely. Some people are saying that Nokia will purposely sabotage the N9 so it is a flop, just so that Nokia will have a concrete reason to turn its back on it forever. Conspiracy theories aside, Nokia will eventually realize that it must do one of two things; sell off MeeGo or bring it back to co-exist with Windows Phone 7 on its handheld devices.

If it does sell off MeeGo then whoever will grab it will definitely re-enter the market with it and potentially give Nokia a bloody nose in the process. From what we’ve seen, MeeGo definitely has weight to it and its new owners won’t be afraid to swing that weight around. Nokia might continue to develop it for other devices like tablets, automobiles, and netbooks but having a truly cross-platform OS without expanding it to all relevant platforms is suicide. Eventually it will have to bring it to smartphones because it will give its other platforms a greater bargaining chip with consumers. When it does though, it might be too late for Nokia, considering how all of its chips are being bet on WP7. The time for MeeGo to shine is right now, as it is ahead of the game when it comes to all other mobile OS competitors on the market right now. Elop might go down in history as the man who brought Nokia back by forging a relationship with Microsoft, but he might also go down as the man who killed off his golden-egg laying goose.

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