February 16, 2010

Is MeeGo Linux’ Answer to iPad?


Three weeks ago, the technology world was aflutter with buzz of the iPad. But with yesterday's MeeGo announcement from Intel, the Linux Foundation and Nokia, it appears that Apple could have a Linux-based competitor for tablets, netbooks and other categories of devices. 

As Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said at the time of the iPad launch: Linux can compete on price, but where’s the magic? Could MeeGo provide the magic Linux-based devices have been missing?

MeeGo’s magic is in its cross-device portability and ability to take advantage of a broad range of devices segments. Unlike the iPad's OS, MeeGo is specifically built for an entirely new generation of devices from the ground up. Its design is the result of an acknowledgement of two critical trends that are shaping the future of computing: the requirement for constant connection and the ability to access that connection from any device, any time and anywhere. 

Dell, Sony, HP and other traditional PC makers are building a much larger variety of computing devices - moving into tablets, TVs, infotainment systems and more - in order to compete in today’s rapidly changing environment and address the trends just mentioned. They can’t do this successfully by using a different OS for every device they build.

They also can’t do it with a "workaround." Google knows this, which is why they’re looking to use Chrome and not Android for netbook development. Apple, while innovative in design, took a short cut at the operating system level by sticking the iPhone OS in its new iPad. Despite all the hype - this is unlikely to succeed long term. 

MeeGo could very well be the answer to the iPad and to the massive industry shift taking place in the PC business. It uses Linux for building next-generation mobile computing devices the way in which it was intended - - by providing developers with tools they already use and a framework that minimizes development across platforms and across devices. Application portability is critical and is being made possible with the combination of sophisticated technologies and the Qt application and UI framework.

Intel, Nokia and the MeeGo community are thinking much bigger than tablets, phones or netbooks. While MeeGo greets competition with the iPad head on, it will also compete in a variety of device categories not yet fully defined thanks to its approach to open source development and cross-device portability provided by Qt. The "killer app" is not a single device locked down with crippling DRM. The "killer app" is your content and the ability to access the Internet from anywhere: a phone, a car, a kitchen or television regardless of the device or who makes it.

It seems clear that Jobs miss-stepped by not thinking big enough because - despite his brilliance - Apple products are being confined to the limits of his team's imaginations, while the future is about accessing content from anywhere.

Apple certainly has no shortage of its own kind of “magic,” largely in the form of the user experience. But it comes at a price and not just one in dollars, yen or euros. Apple is closed; it is completely locked down, even at the chip level of the iPad where they use the A4 chip acquired from PA Semi. This has a very direct impact on consumers who overpay for components. MeeGo supports various architectures, including Intel competitor ARM. Choice is paramount, giving consumers what they want and developers, OS vendors, equipment manufacturers and operators real market opportunities. It's important to note that operators should not be over-looked in this equation, even though they largely are today.

Apple has a strong following of brand loyalists (for good reason) and will sustain its market share with this group; however, MeeGo is primed to dominate a market looking for more devices at lower costs with more capabilities. With MeeGo, multiple manufacturers can spin out a new device every other month, while Apple ducks its head to bring to market another - no doubt - innovative device that will only appeal to one particular group of consumers around the globe.

Look for the first MeeGo device later this year and share your reactions with us here at Linux.com.

* Disclosure: Linux.com is a Linux Foundation web property.

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