MeeGo adds developers, needs 'investment' to succeed

New environment must appeal to developers first

Less than a week after the MeeGo 1.0 netbook operating system was released by Intel and Nokia, six companies have announced support for the platform while a market analyst firm has called for a “major investment” if it is to compete with Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Since the 1.0 release, MeeGo has added Novell, Telefónica, UI design company Movial, netbook software provider DeviceVM and Chinese companies CS2C and Red Flag Software to its list of support partners.

They join existing big names like Cisco, Acer and BMW.

MeeGo is the result of the combination of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo operating systems and is aimed at handheld devices, including netbooks, tablets and mobile phones.

The MeeGo user interface is developed with Nokia’s Qt development environment.

According to analyst firm Ovum, MeeGo needs “major investment” to claim “the big prize in the battle of the platforms”.

In a new report titled Smartphone and smart device platform profile: MeeGo, Ovum principal analyst, Tony Cripps, said the volume and variety of devices on which MeeGo is deployed may prove meaningless unless the consistency in the underlying OS is matched by its ability to provide a true multi-screen application platform for developers.

“The reality is that Nokia and Intel need to sell more MeeGo devices if they want access to the potentially lucrative seam of tools, consulting, and systems integration surrounding cross-platform, multi-screen application development that Qt offers,” Cripps said.

That said, Ovum is generally positive about the MeeGo concept and thinks it represents the first concerted effort to create a complete, robust, and scalable device and application platform that spans an array of device types “while offering OEMs and service providers complete freedom to modify the platform and user experience as desired”.

“Its flexibility means MeeGo devices will likely become commonplace in a short space of time,” the analyst said.

However, Ovum doubts MeeGo’s ability to upset the “increasingly vertically integrated, vendor-driven offerings” from Apple, Google, and Microsoft in the immediate term.

Cripps said for the wholesale leveraging of Qt to become a reality, developers must be persuaded that it is a better cross-platform and cross-device application than existing alternatives.

“This is a big ask. From the perspective of most third-party developers, MeeGo remains an unknown and unproven quantity that is entering an already highly competitive and crowded landscape,” he said.

In the short term, Ovum believes Nokia and Intel should ignore smartphones and push the case for cross-platform Qt development in other devices. They can then capitalise on any successes to “cross-sell” the benefits of Qt development onto Nokia’s Qt-enabled smartphones.

“Doing so may not prove easy, and will require considerable investment,” Cripps said.

“We have yet to see whether MeeGo and its backers have the stomach for the fight, but it would be wrong to write off its chances until we see the merchandise.”

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