Tablets with MeeGo OS coming by June

Intel hopes it will revive interest in Atom-powered mobile devices

Tablets and netbooks based on Nokia's and Intel's joint MeeGo mobile OS are expected to start shipping in the second quarter this year, a source familiar with Intel's plans said on Friday.

Intel has been investing heavily in the development of MeeGo, which is a lightweight Linux OS for tablets, smartphones, and embedded devices. Thus far, MeeGo has not been offered by any tablet or netbook vendor.

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MeeGo is currently in version 1.1, with version 1.2 due for release between April 21 and April 27, according to the MeeGo roadmap.

An Intel official declined to say when MeeGo-based tablets and netbooks would come out, saying the company doesn't comment on unannounced products. However in the past Asustek Computer and Acer have voiced support for MeeGo.

Intel has already shown MeeGo on tablets. The demonstration highlighted the multitasking capabilities of the OS, with the ability to run multiple applications at the same time, and allowing up to five users to play a game simultaneously.

With MeeGo, Intel hopes to provide an OS optimized for a range of low-power devices based on its Atom processor. Atom competes with the ARM processor, which is used in most tablets including Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab. Intel is also porting Android 3.0, code-named Honeycomb, to work on Atom chips.

MeeGo was originally announced in February last year by Intel and Nokia. The OS merged Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo OSes, and development is now being managed by the Linux Foundation.

Devices based on Intel's latest Oak Trail tablet chip, which is based on an Atom processor, are expected to reach the market by either late this quarter or early next quarter. Intel is also expected to talk about its latest smartphone chip, code-named Medfield, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from Feb. 14 to Feb. 17.

The MeeGo OS will vie for market share with tablet OSes including Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Canonical in the past has said it would come out with a version of the Ubuntu OS for tablets.

While the company doesn't have commercial tablet customers, automobile alliance Genivi Alliance said it would standardize on the adoption of MeeGo for use in in-vehicle entertainment and Internet systems. Genivi Alliance members include BMW and General Motors.

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