Do Windows Phone 7 and MeeGo change the mobile game?

Just when it looked like an iPhone-Android-BlackBerry troika was shaping up, Microsoft and Nokia each tries one last shot

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At the same time, Intel has been stumbling about with Moblin, an open source Linux-derived operating system, for a couple years. The idea was to create a mobile Linux that could run on a variety of devices, such as netbooks, smartphones, and vehicle entertainment systems. It's enjoyed the same success as desktop Linux -- not much.

Although there's a common Linux core to Moblin, developers quickly have to specialize their Moblin efforts to a specific driver/UI combination chosen for each device. Thus, it's less of a platform than a common technology stack approach. Much of the focus at the Moblin community -- such as it is -- has been on netbook development, not smartphones. In fact, there are no real smartphones based on Moblin, and very few Moblin netbooks (MSI has one) or Moblin apps.

Someone forget to ask why Moblin was necessary in the first place, other than to give Intel a "me too" message about being in the mobile space. And Moblin devices are just as anti-user as desktop Linux implementations. You have to know how to use sudo, for example -- just what you want on a smartphone!

MeeGo takes two desktop Linux-like projects that have made almost no headway after several years and combined them. Nokia's prominence in the smartphone market might make you think that MeeGo has a chance of being adopted -- and I have no doubt that Nokia will include it on some devices. But no one else so far has stepped up to MeeGo, and almost no one has embraced Moblin or Maemo either.

There's a basic unanswered question: What's the point of MeeGo that customers would care about? The slo-mo progress of these two platforms, the lack of hardware vendor or carrier buy-in, and the lack of any useful or interesting differentiation from the iPhone, BlackBerry, WebOS, Android OS, or Windows Mobile family all point to the same result: nothing.

If Nokia and Intel were serious about building a mobile platform, they would do so. Instead, they're punting to the desktop Linux community. Repackaging desktop Linux and relying on a community of hobbyists has even less chance of success in the mobile context than in the desktop context. There's too much directed innovation and experimentation among the major mobile platforms for a programmer's-toy operating system to matter.

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This article, "Do Windows Phone 7 and MeeGo change the mobile game?," originally appeared at Read more of Galen Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments on mobile computing at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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