Saturday, February 12, 2011

Confusions of a Maemo Enthusiast (Post 2/11)

I have been with Maemo since 2007, when I purchased the fabulous N800 Internet Tablet. It stayed with me through Chinook, Diablo and even through the 'Elephanta year'. The N810 started shipping in late 2007 with Chinook. If you recall, a rumoured OS named Elephanta and an associated device were dropped after the N810 came out, eating up about a year in the process. Rationale for this was not officially conveyed, but could be assumed to be due to a shift in strategy for Maemo, focussing on mobile phones rather than Internet Tablets. Fine with me at the time - let us regroup and Maemo will come back stronger and more resiliant at the start of the 'new' smartphone era.

Nearly 2 years later, Maemo 5 and the N900 entered my gadget bag, I finally had the mobile computer I always wanted. An evolution of the tablet I loved, now with 3G data, cellular phone, hardware keyboard and an OS that rocked. Things were looking good as Maemo was entering Prime Time.

That was late 2009, and the promise of Maemo 6 / MeeGo Harmattan has not yet materialized, in spite of official roadmaps presented at Maemo Summit in Amsterdam. In addition, no other devices running Maemo 5 ever surfaced from Nokia, not even the RX-71 mentioned in the source code. Maemo had momentum at that time, and a second product offering would have done the platform wonders. It would have established Maemo as a real OS, attracted more users and developers. And most of all, prevented the product from going stale.

February seems like a gear shifting time for Maemo/MeeGo. Last year, we were dropped with the news of the Intel partnership which created MeeGo. Understandably, this caused some shifting around of plans, and delays. But MeeGo Harmattan was supposed to be an instance of MeeGo, and not true MeeGo, an evolution of Maemo 5. From my point of view, an evolutionary jump like that was well within Nokia's capability to execute and deliver by Nokia World. Seems like that OS and device have also been dropped, ala Elephanta.

This February 11, a day that will live in infamy, we learned that MeeGo would be relegated to a research project, and not the OS of choice for Nokia's high end devices. A sad day, for sure. Yes, one MeeGo device will be released this year by Nokia, and will hopefully blow us away as the previous Maemo devices did. And again, we are waiting.

But, what happened? Where did the corporate vision for Open Source disappear? Why has Maemo/MeeGo floundered within Nokia's walls? Why has the one-two punch of successive product launches not happened in this segment, like competitors have been able to pull off? Why the sudden alienation of users and developers with one fell swoop? Is this a game winning decision or suicide?

Where do Maemo enthusiasts go from here? I still like the N900, so one obvious spot to contribute is the Community SSU. That should realistically give longer life to this platform. What about the MeeGo project? Will Nokia be contributing as much 'post 2/11' as they have? Will the Handset UX development slow down now that Nokia's focus has shifted? And lastly, is it time to shift gears ourselves, and move to competing platforms such as the Big 2, or Mr. Jaaksi's Handheld Project?

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