Windows Phone 7 in trouble? MeeGo DOA?

Not good signs: Microsoft backtracks on its clean break from Windows Mobile, while Intel invests in Android OS

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Intel invests in Android, while MeeGo limps along
Intel is another company that seems to be hedging its bets -- or is quietly backing a new horse -- on the mobile operating system front. This winter, it dropped its Moblin mobile Linux effort and joined with Nokia to develop a new mobile OS (MeeGo) that merged Moblin with Nokia's in-development Maemo, the intended successor to Nokia's lackluster Symbian operating system.

You can tell from that description that neither the Moblin nor Maemo efforts were moving with any urgency. There've been plenty of conferences but little tangible result.

And now word is out that Intel is porting Google's new Android OS 2.2 (Froyo) to the x86 chip architecture this summer. That can only mean Intel sees Android mattering greatly in the tablet and perhaps netbook markets, so Intel wants to make sure its Atom chips can power those devices. (Android was developed for the competing ARM-architecture chips, such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon in the HTC Droid Incredible and the Texas Instruments OMAP3630 in the forthcoming Motorola Droid X.)

The speed at which Intel is moving on Android, compared to the snail's pace development of MeeGo, is telling. If Intel thought MeeGo were a significant OS, it would be pushing that effort along. Instead, MeeGo is following the molasses pace of most standards efforts: The first core platform release for MeeGo came out in May for netbooks, and the first core release for handhelds is supposedly due this month. Yesterday, Intel released a video of a "pre-alpha" MeeGo for tablet version that demonstrates touch capabilities. (MeeGo won't support touch interfaces in a core release until October.)

The MeeGo group plans to roll out incremental improvements to the OS every six months. That means it could be years before there's a broad and flexible enough foundation for users, hardware makers, and software developers to commit to. Nokia recently said its future N series handhelds will all be based on MeeGo, so we could see by 2011 if MeeGo has enough meat on its bones at initial release to matter, as well as if anyone other than Nokia will use it.

When will the borrowed time run out?
It's been four years since Apple reinvented and reenergized the mobile space with the iPhone. That's a long time in technology.

For Windows Phone 7 and MeeGo to just get started is already an iffy bet. Confusing the market with multiple "mobile Windows" options seems a sure way to lose that bet in Microsoft's case.

Developing MeeGo in incremental stages over several years also seems a sure way to lose, and Intel's speedy action in porting Android to x86 tells me that Intel already knows the MeeGo bet will fail.

It's taken Android two years to get close to par with the iPhone. When it started the market was still tentative and exploratory, so there was more tolerance for incompleteness. Microsoft and Symbian have been living on borrowed time, after wasting years with Windows Mobile 6 and Symbian/Maemo, respectively. All signs are that the borrowing is continuing with Windows Phone 7 and MeeGo -- not good. Not good at all.

This article, "Windows Phone 7 in trouble? MeeGo DOA?," was originally published at Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile computing at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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