Nokia Confirms MeeGo Devices Won’t Appear Before 2011

Nokia Oyj won’t ship MeeGo devices before 2011, Alberto Torres, the company’s executive vice president for MeeGo Computers, confirmed at a developer conference in Dublin today.

Nokia, Intel Corp. and their collaborators will change the user experience with MeeGo, Torres said. The ability to manipulate many kinds of devices with direct gestures will produce a change in experience comparable to the transition from command-driven interaction to mouse pointing in the 1980s, Torres said.

More than 1,000 people attended the MeeGo Conference at a Dublin football stadium, hosted by Espoo, Finland-based Nokia and partner Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker. The pair merged their Linux-based device systems into MeeGo this year and are now touting their openness to outside contributions. They aim to attract applications on a variety of devices to compete with Google Inc.’s similarly broad-based Android.

“Nokia has recognized some things they have done wrong in the past, and they are working hard to fix them, but they’re nowhere near ready with MeeGo,” said Robert Caunt, a London- based analyst with CCS Insight. “Not having MeeGo devices yet is hugely damaging because Android is already out there with a robust developer community.”

Free Software

Smartphones took a back seat at the conference as T-shirted programmers flocked to sessions about netbooks, Internet TV and in-vehicle infotainment systems.

“I think it’s exciting because it’s a good way to see free software getting into consumer electronics,” Kevin Ottens, a developer with Hagfors, Sweden-based software consultants KDAB, said in an interview. “This is the first attempt to do that in an open way.”

MeeGo fans who want to develop for Nokia handsets are still working with the N900, which was introduced in September 2009 with Nokia’s Maemo 5 software and runs a version of MeeGo that hasn’t been released to the public. Before agreeing in February 2010 to merge its system with Intel’s Moblin, Nokia had aimed for its next Linux-based device to be out in the second half of this year.

Nokia doesn’t plan to use the standard reference user interface but will instead provide “openness and differentiation,” Valtteri Halla, director of Nokia MeeGo, said in a panel discussion.

Market Share

“We’re writing our own applications like we do with all Nokia devices like the N900,” Halla said, adding that the company doesn’t comment on future products. The core of the operating system is on schedule, he said.

Nokia’s main operating system, Symbian, dipped to a 36.6 percent in smartphone market share in the third quarter from 44.6 percent a year earlier, according to Gartner Inc. Nokia took most Symbian activities back in-house last week after an effort to run them through a vendor-independent foundation failed.

Android now has 25.5 percent of the market on devices from various manufacturers including Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp., while Apple Inc.’s iPhone, which is widely said to have reinvented the user experience on smartphones when it was introduced in 2007, is third with 16.7 percent.

MeeGo Concepts

“Nokia needs to ensure that MeeGo balances its open philosophy with sufficient rigor when it comes to fundamentals such as governance, development cycles, time to market, service integration, application development and revenue generation,” Geoff Blaber, a London-based analyst at CCS Insight, said in a report last week. “If MeeGo fumbles these basic concepts, it could give Google free rein as the primary contender to Apple.”

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced today that it has joined the MeeGo project. Future MeeGo devices will run on AMD chips as well as Intel’s, Intel Vice President Doug Fisher said.

“We expect that this operating system will help drive our embedded plans and create expanded marketing opportunities for our forthcoming Accelerated Processing Units,” Ben Bar-Haim, AMD corporate vice president, said in a statement.

Future devices will be “more natural” for users owing to gesture interfaces and integration with surrounding objects, Torres said. He characterized Nokia’s intended offering as “delicious hardware, delightful user experience, great core apps and services” and said there would be “room to create things that are unique.”

Tablet Device

Torres’s remarks indicate it’s likely that Nokia will introduce a MeeGo tablet as well as a smartphone when it makes announcements, Sami Sarkamies, an analyst at Nordea Bank, said in an e-mail. The company could use a release of MeeGo scheduled for April 2011 and introduce products next spring, he said.

A MeeGo conference will be held in San Francisco in May, followed a week later by a developer meeting in Oulu, Finland, organizers said.

MeeGo’s success will partly depend on Qt, a development environment owned by Nokia and now used by 400,000 programmers at companies including Google Inc, Skype SARL, and vehicle makers such as Scania AB and Daimler AG, Torres said.

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