Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nokia Spotlight - Interview with Peter Schneider - Part 2

July 2009 saw a glorious moment for Maemo unfold - one that was met with great enthusiasm by the community - the creation of the 'Maemo Devices' organization within Nokia.  Melding both software and hardware under one corporate umbrella was a very welcome sign for the future of the Maemo platform, and its importance within the Nokia corporation.  Maemo 5 and the Nokia N900 were the first fruits of the Maemo Devices organization, as the Linux OS was brought into mainstream spotlight.

Fast forward to February 2010, only a few months after the N900 sales start.  A pivotal moment occured in the Maemo world, with the announcement that Nokia's Maemo operating system would merge with Intel's Moblin to form MeeGo, a project supported by the Linux Foundation.   With Maemo 5 just out the door, and Maemo 6 around the corner,  the community has been active speculating what this means for the future of the devices and OS that they hold so dear to them.

Peter Schneider, head of Maemo marketing at Nokia, joins the discussion in this concluding part of the Mobile Tablets! interview with him.

1. MeeGo is a merging of Maemo and Moblin.  Can you give us an overview of of how the MeeGo project is administered, such as roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders?

PS: The MeeGo open source project will bring the best of Maemo and Moblin into one unified operating system that is developed entirely in the open. The project organization includes the Linux Foundation and all contributors to the project which may include anybody from individuals representing themselves to large corporations such as Intel and Nokia. The project is hosted by Linux Foundation which owns the website and the MeeGo brand. The decisions which open source components are part of the MeeGo software are made by the Technical Steering Group staffed by Intel and Nokia. You’ll find more info on the Technical Steering Group on

2. Maemo 6 (Harmattan) was announced at Summit 2009 as the successor to Maemo 5 (Fremantle).   Is the Harmattan concept still on track as announced at Summit 2009.  Specifically, the things that were known in Amsterdam related to the timeframe for the first SDK release (approximately 2010-Q1), the canvas-like 2-way pannable desktop, and support for DRM.

PS: Harmattan work is on track. However, you will not see us using the term “Maemo 6” anymore but we will continue the work on Harmattan under the MeeGo brand as evolution to MeeGo. We continue to build flagship experiences with the Harmattan release that include an iconic homescreen design, support for DRM, and multi-touch gestures on capacitive WVGA displays.

3. Harmattan has been called a first instance of MeeGo.  Is it a transitional release, or would you say that it is based upon a pure MeeGo core?

PS: Harmattan will be the base for Nokia’s MeeGo-based devices in 2010. From an app developer’s point of view, it will be fully compatible with other MeeGo-based devices. There might be differences under the hood concerning some middleware components and, therefore, it has been referred to as transitional release, but that’s only relevant for those few that participate in the low level platform development. Qt Creator with the necessary cross-compilation toolkits will make these differences invisible to the bulk of application developers.

4. How is MeeGo going to be handled internally within Nokia now?  Is Maemo Devices just renaming itself, or can we expect some changes on that front?

PS: Ari Jaaksi continues to head all development for Maemo 5-based and MeeGo-based devices in Nokia. No change. My salary is still paid by Maemo-based devices while the future lies in MeeGo-based devices.

5. Ari Jaaksi mentioned at Summit 2009 that it's possible in the future that Maemo would open up its internal bug tracker.  With the shift to MeeGo, and the fact that it is backed by the Linux Foundation, can we expect a unified and open bugtracker for Harmattan?

PS: Development for MeeGo will happen in the open, even more than Maemo. Therefore, I’m rather confident that there will be an open MeeGo bugtracker. Nokia’s apps development will continue to be partially in open source projects such as Mozilla Firefox and partially only in-house when we see room for differentiation in the market. Under which umbrella we will collect feedback to those in-house built apps is not decided. Nevertheless, we want the feedback and will find a way to channel it back to our developers

6. Can you give us an example of how a 3rd party hardware manufacturer would go about using MeeGo on their devices?  Is there some level of involvement that they have to demonstrate to the stakeholders?  Or, can they simply take the MeeGo framework and build on top of that for their particular application?

PS: Not sure what a “3rd-party hardware manufacturer” in context of MeeGo is because everybody is a “first class participant” in MeeGo, but imagine that any device manufacturer can take the MeeGo software from the upstream project, make the necessary hardware adaptation to let it run on their hardware, and channel the enhancements back to the MeeGo project to stay in synch with the upstream project. While we will see a variety of different mobile computing devices from mobile computers to netbooks, Nokia will continue to use MeeGo for pocketable mobile computers in our portfolio.

7. Obviously Nokia is cognizant of competitor products, even before any announcement of MeeGo.  Do you think you've opened the doors to more hardware competition by removing the advantage of the base operating system?  Or are there enough avenues for device manufacturers to set themselves apart in terms of UX, services and packaging so that this is not really a factor?

PS: We’ve been rather verbal already in the Open Source in Mobile event in October 2009 that we want to focus on user experiences not on the operating system development in-house where we expect significant synergy benefits by working together with the leader in computing i.e. Intel. With our first MeeGo-based device in the second half of 2010, we intend to create an iconic flagship experience. That’s the focus now.

'Post-Mortem' by EIPI:

The MeeGo concept fits Nokia's current products lines such as high-end cellular phones and the Booklet quite nicely.  The 'original' tablet market has been left untapped by Nokia since the N810 stopped production.  I know for a fact that many in the community would be excited over the prospect of a 5" MeeGo powered tablet coming from Nokia. 

The MeeGo concept is mind blowing if you allow yourself to think it through a bit.  One could have a MeeGo powered phone in their pocket, a MeeGo based navigation unit in their car dashboard, a MeeGo MID or tablet in the backpack for when more screen real estate is required.  In fact, this is what I recall the Mer project envisioning say about year ago.  Seems like we are getting much closer to a Linux environment surrounding us.  And it appears that Nokia will have a large influencing role in that.

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