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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Karl said...

Hey Buddy,

Keep the faith! Strategies (and CEOs) often do not survive contact with reality. If Nokia Microsoft tie-in doesn't work (and Microsoft does not have a history of playing nicely with others) then MeeGo will be Nokia's only hope.

Alternately, if enough of the core Nokia MeeGo staff can group together and form a company ("Aikon") with some VC backing maybe they can be the new "Nokia". Also, Trolltech can be re-spun out of the Nokia saving Qt.

Or MeeGo will die. Qt will die. Nokia will die.

Long live Android.

Keith Z-G said...

I still love Qt and the rest of the it's-actually-a-nearly-normal-Linux-dev-environment (I'm a KDE user who also runs some of the best-of-breed GTK apps, so the overlap between my desktop and my N900 has been quite wonderful, and I've even written a few quick-and-dirty PyQt apps for my own use), so I'm waiting with bated breath for the upcoming promised MeeGo device. Indeed, with the Community SSU the N900 should last at least that long.

By that point it should be clear if MeeGo is still an option (albeit a niche one, but since as you mention Nokia never capitalized on Maemo's potential that's nothing new for us). Indeed, Jaaksi's Handheld Project (love that, by the way) looks like it might turn out quite interesting. We'll see . . . it's nice to know, though, that whatever the best option ends up being the community is likely to live on in one manner or another. We've had a taste of what something like Maemo can be; we aren't going to let that go . . .

EIPI said...

@ Karl:

Yes, corporate strategies may not survive, as you say. But the time lost, goodwill lost, etc cannot be regained. Intel may find another Handset manufacturer more willing to invest in MeeGo than Nokia.

I have faith that some manufacturer will bring to market a device I want as much as my N900. At this point, I am not sure I should wait around for Nokia. I might be wrong, but hey - this is my hobby, not a day job ;)

EIPI said...

@ Keith Z-G

I am pretty certain that the Community SSU will breath new life into the N900. The only sticking point will be components that require Nokia involvement to open up.

I agree with your last sentiments. The Community will live on somehow - We Are Maemo, after all.

raily said...

Please stick with your idea to support N900 SSU! Many, including me, will appreciate that.

Mike said...

A disappointing move for sure by Nokia. They were just getting into a groove with cooperating with the community, working to open everything up (at least for future software) and then this happens to totally derail them again.

It kind of reminds me when MS made an *investment* in Corel way back when they were putting a huge amount of polish and UI work into making Linux desktop friendly. Corel Linux was never to be seen again.

MS has a knack for finding partners in companies that are pushing Linux is a positive direction and taking the wind out of their sails.

Jedai said...

HTC + Maemo =