MeeGo – some feedback and thoughts February 15, 2010Posted by Florian in Devices, Linux, Maemo, MeeGo, OpenEmbedded, Source.
I only had a very few free minutes today I was able to spend following the discussions and reading released information about MeeGo. For some reason the most intensively discussed fact among the community members seems to be decision to use the RPM package system. This one is followed by the Qt vs. GTK+ discussion I cannot remember when it started but I still remember it even started before I wrote the first line of open source code :-) I have seen a lot of questions about currently existing devices (N900 mostly) and software – if they are likely to become supported in future MeeGo releases – at least for the N900 and Maemo 6 there is a statement by Ari Jaaksi already. The other technical questions… well, in an ideal world these should not even be relevant for the developers because there would be the perfect tools that create the packages you want and assist you to create user interfaces without thinking much about the toolkits you use. Again – this is the theory – we all know that the real life for development is quite different. But in the end or customers / users will decide which platform and with this which applications they are going to use. Users will not care about the package format used in the platform or the toolkit that is used by some application. In fact many (mostly Linux/Unix based) platforms do not expose the software package file format to an average user any more while some quite popular ones still do (e.g. Symbian and Windows). For users the availability of a consistent and widely used software platform with a high amount of available applications is likely to be the most important criterion. Ok, I admit that the availability of sexy hardware is quite important too :-)
Way more interesting than technical details is to look at the landscape of mobile device software stacks and to place MeeGo in it. So how does this landscape look like now?
- There is Apple with the iPhone – pretty much closed but many developers and sexy hardware but quite limited amount of devices and only one manufacturer.
- Symbian – well established with a large community but it feels like it hits its limits with modern smartphones.
- Samsung just launched Bada which looks quite interesting but does not yet seem to have a large community of developers and users.
- Microsoft Windows Mobile is available for many years now but seems to have lost attraction over the years.
- Palm WebOS is interesting from both developer and user point of view but I think it will be hard for it to compete with all the major players in this area.
- Google developed Android which enjoys a fast growing user- and developer base. It’s easy to get started with Android and there is a wide range of interesting devices available already. It is quite portable since most of the lowlevel components are open source.
Among these the most likely candidate to play the dominating role in the mobile handset market might be Android. At least this is how things look like right now… we all know this market changes pretty fast and you never know what happens next. I think Nils asked the question quite a few of us asked themselves: Will MeeGo become a kind of “Android killer”?
No way I will comment on this but in order to become a more generic platform MeeGo needs to focus on different things Maemo did so far. So far Maemo was focused on supporting a very few devices and contained quite some specialized bits that only worked for the Maemo specific devices and its distribution. I still remember that getting basic support for building the Maemo software stack with OpenEmbedded caused some headaches and sleepless nights. (I was mentor of a GSoC project working on this – just take a look at Kirtika’s blog to find out some details.) It is good to see that it is quite obvious that MeeGo folks understand that these things will have to change. A good example is the process how to get some hardware supported. For someone like me supporting various device makers the really interesting part will follow: How will the device makers adopt MeeGo and how many of them will ‘jump onto the MeeGo boat’? Having more hardware vendors supporting MeeGo means more users and meant to make the platform more interesting for developers. And gaining interest from developers and users is absolutely vital for any software platform that is going to play a major role in future.
In my opinion there is a lot of potential in MeeGo – the most important one is the fact that the key components are going to be open and portable. The project joins two (comparably small) developer and user communities and combines this new community with the support by two very successful companies. I can imagine that this base is able to attract quite some more valuable contributors like smaller device makers, software companies and open source projects.
I’m pretty sure that ‘The Big Merge’ is going to cause quite some movement in the mobile device landscape…