Meego Not Gone

Uncategorized Dec 13, 2010 No Comments

With the explosion of the next generation of smartphones coming out of the U.S., it’s been easy to discount Nokia as a giant that is dying. Like RIM, it holds a dominant installed base and still sells a lot of phones, but most of the tech journalists have discounted it from future projections of the mobile industry simply because it doesn’t appear to be doing anything to stay relevant. Just today, Robert Scoble wrote an editorial along these lines detailing why he believes Nokia is “doomed.”  Another reason U.S.-based journalists discount Nokia is because so much of their business comes from selling ordinary cell phones, a huge portion of the market that is only going to decrease as time goes on. Their Symbian smartphone platform appears headed for an earlier-than-planned death, threatened at the top and bottom by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Nokia has long expressed their intention to continue to develop and support Symbian as it loses its position as a market-leading OS because they view it as a perfect entry into emerging markets. That strategy is losing ground quickly, however, as Android phones are getting cheaper and cheaper and don’t cost anything for manufacturers to use. With Symbian headed for an early retirement, Nokia has no option but to return to and aggressively push  its next-gen Meego platform.

Meego is an interesting animal and one that appears to have been borne out of desperation on the part of both Nokia and Intel. For years, Nokia had been laying the groundwork for their next-generation, Linux-based mobile OS in Maemo. Through the various iterations of Maemo, however, Nokia has failed to completely finish the platform in a form that would be appealing to consumers. At the same time, Intel has been developing its own Linux-based mobile operating system, Moblin, at a glacial pace. The two companies decided to join forces last year and announced that Maemo and Moblin would become Meego. Intel has been desperate to break into the mobile space for years now, and Meego appears to be the foothold that they think will allow them to compete. While it’s obvious why Intel wants to join forces with Nokia moving forward, the question is what’s in this for Nokia? Intel hasn’t proven that they can make chipsets with low enough power consumption to be suitable for mobile phones. In a world dominated by ARM processors, where will Meego leave Nokia if it is relegated only to Intel processors? Furthermore, what exactly is Intel contributing to the software?

Whatever issues may be facing Nokia, however, it would be unwise to write them off simply because they still have years to regain their footing and come out with a compelling product. While Symbian is losing appeal internationally, it will take a long time for Nokia’s brand to truly depreciate, particularly in Europe.  This research graphic from Gartner in October shows where Nokia’s Symbian stands, despite having lost a large portion of their market share to iOS and particularly Android:

If Nokia can come out with an even credible OS, their brand value and market presence will likely carry them and stem the tide of Android and iOS.  Like Palm, they probably do need to begin making a compelling case this year.  Nokia will probably never have the massive market share in smartphones that they’ve enjoyed for years, but they can still be a top-three players in years to come, hardly a bad position for a company in such an exploding market. Nokia has the same advantage that Microsoft had with Windows Phone 7  in being able to develop the base of their software in the post-iPhone world, learning from the mistakes and successes of both iOS and Android. Hopefully for them, this is resulting in a careful approach that is leading to taking their time with Meego instead of rushing it out the door.  If they can handle Meego correctly, nothing the critics say will matter and Nokia will be able to move forward.

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