Jolla Keeps the MeeGo Dream Alive

MeeGo, the ill-fated Nokia mobile operating system project that had the plug pulled on it earlier this year, is being revived.

JollaMobile, a company consisting of former Nokia executives and techies, has announced that it will release a new MeeGo smartphone later this year.

That goal is reachable, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider. “Apple did this in about the same length of time, and they started behind where Jolla is,” he pointed out. “Apple had to overcome physical limitations with the first iPhone, and Jolla no longer has to do that. Off-the-shelf technology has improved massively since the iPhone was launched.”

MeeGo Takes a Lickin’

MeeGo was created by blending the mobile operating systems Maemo, from Nokia, and Moblin, from Intel. It was launched in 2010.

The Linux Foundation hosted the MeeGo project.

Last year, however, MeeGo lost a considerable amount of support. Nokia pushed it to the wayside in favor of Windows Phone. Also in 2011, Intel announced that it would replace MeeGo with Tizen in 2012, in collaboration with Samsung. The move got the backing of the Linux Foundation, which announced it would shift its focus to the new OS.

“Tizen is hosted by the Linux Foundation and builds upon MeeGo and LiMo to drive a new open source, standards-based software platform, including an operating system, an HTML 5-based application framework and a customizable user experience,” Intel spokesperson Suzy Greenberg told LinuxInsider.

However, the fact that Tizen’s software development kit is published by Samsung under a proprietary license has raised some concern in the open source community.

Developers from the Mer project pledged to keep working on MeeGo without support from either Intel or Nokia after Intel and the Linux Foundation pulled the plug on the OS.

Hola, Jolla

Jolla’s made of members of the group that developed Nokia’s N9 smartphone, which was released in 2011. The group ran the MeeGo project.

The company reportedly has up to 200 employees, including Marc Dillon, who spearheaded Nokia’s work on MeeGo.

Jolla has been working on a smartphone and on modifying MeeGo since the end of 2011. Its OS uses the Mer Core and Nokia’s Qt, a framework which lets devs reuse code across multiple platforms. Jolla’s OS has its own user interface.

The company is in discussion with various partners, including manufacturers and chipset suppliers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Catch a Falling Star

Many questions about MeeGo’s future remain unanswered. First off, does the world need yet another smartphone OS in addition to iOS, Android, BlackBerry and the upcoming Windows Phone 8?

“This will be the problem,” Enderle said. “Developers are spread too thin at the moment and would be unwilling to develop for a platform that doesn’t yet have users.” MeeGo won’t attract developers until it has attracted sufficient users, but users won’t begin flocking to the OS until there are compelling apps.

Next, the viability of the MeeGo platform is uncertain. “Nokia completely lost track of the market that sustained them, and these folks come to the same market with vastly less resources,” Enderle commented. “The odds are massively against them. But perhaps they could get Intel backing.”

Jolla has not approached Intel for funding for the proposed MeeGo smartphone, Intel’s Greenberg said.

Whether or not MeeGo can get support from the carriers is still another issue it has to wrestle with.

“If the carriers get excited about MeeGo and fund it, it could fall into the gap that Microsoft was targeting with their platform,” Enderle suggested. “But if they don’t, and I kind of doubt they will, this will be another historic footnote tied to a small company without the needed resources to penetrate an already saturated market.”

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