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Nokia shifting high-end smartphones to MeeGo?

Jun 24, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Nokia will shift its high-end N series smartphones from Symbian to the Linux-based MeeGo operating system, according to Reuters. The recently announced Nokia N8 smartphone is said to be the last N-series phone to run the newly open source Symbian operating system, version 3 of which is now “functionally complete,” according to Nokia.

Reuters had few details on the alleged shift in OS plans, but quoted Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson as saying, that after the N8, "Going forward, N-series devices will be based on MeeGo."

The story also quotes Ben Wood, research director at British consultancy CCS Insight, as saying, "The confirmation that MeeGo will be used for the next flagship N series device shows Nokia is betting the ranch on this platform to beat high-end rivals such as Apple's iPhone."

The development was not exactly unexpected, although it has come sooner than we anticipated. Over the last few years, various Nokia executives have been quoted suggesting that the company's higher end "converged devices" products would eventually be based on Maemo, and later, the Moblin- and Maemo-based MeeGo operating system. MeeGo was released for netbooks last month, and will appear in a version for phones in the fall.

Nokia N900: Maemo now, MeeGo soon

Until now, the Finnish phone giant has been careful to differentiate between "phones" and "devices." The latter is the name given to the Maemo Linux-based (and soon to be Meego-based) N900 phone, despite the fact that there is little functional difference between the N900 and high-end N-series Symbian phones such as the current flagship Nokia smartphone, the N97.

Assuming the Reuters story is true, putting MeeGo on the N series would give a major boost to MeeGo. Backed by Intel and Nokia and overseen by the Linux Foundation, the MeeGo project hopes to seed the OS on everything from netbooks to phones to automotive infotainment computers.

While MeeGo has gained considerable support among Linux netbook distribution vendors planning to base their upcoming distros on the OS (Canonical/Ubuntu aside), and it's already appearing on consumer tablet designs, the Linux OS faces an uphill battle in the phone market. Here, the operating system must contend with Apple's iPhone 4, which goes on sale today, as well as a host of high-end Android phones.

Aava Mobile's Aava phone design

Intel and Nokia announced MeeGo in February, combining two open source Linux projects: the Intel-backed Moblin and the Nokia-backed Maemo. In early April, the project released some early MeeGo code and announced reference platforms, including Intel Atom-based netbooks, the ARM Cortex-A8- N900, and Aava Mobile's Aava phone design (pictured above). The latter runs on Intel's Moorestown version of the Intel Atom, the more power efficient Atom Z6xx.

The netbook version of MeeGo, which integrates Google's Chrome browser and Nokia's Qt 4.6 software framework, was released in late May. The MeeGo Handset "environment" will be released this month, but without touch support. Meanwhile, a MeeGo 1.1 release is due in October, supporting touch-enabled handsets, tablets, and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) devices, says the project.

Symbian 3 completed as N8 debuts

As Reuters notes, Symbian remains the market leader for smartphones worldwide. However, Symbian has steadily lost market share in recent years with the rise of the iPhone, and especially in the U.S., Android.

Symbian 3 was released in February with an open source license. According to a story in our sister publication eWEEK, on Tuesday, a Nokia blog announced that Symbian 3 was "functionally complete," and "ready for community 'use'." The software will appear on the N8 and other devices later this year, says the story.

Symbian 3 extends Symbian 2 in many ways, including graphics support for advanced layering and effects, full HDMI support, and improved data performance, says eWEEK. Despite these enhancements, as well as the newly open source nature of the operating system, Nokia appears to have determined that the aging operating system does not have the legs to compete with the iPhone 4 and high-end Android phones like Motorola's new Droid X.

Now that both Symbian and MeeGo are both based on Nokia's Qt 4.6 application framework, the company feels it can go forward with a coherent dual-OS strategy.

Nokia N8: Nokia's last Symbian-based N-series phone?

Announced in late April, the Nokia N8 (pictured above), which is said by Reuters to be the last Symbian N series phone, will be available with the multitouch-enabled Symbian 3 in the third quarter, says Nokia. Among other highlights, the N8 offers a 12-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash. The phone is capable of making HD-quality videos, which can be edited on the device, says the company.

Further information

The Reuters story on Nokia's MeeGo plans may be found here. The eWEEK story on Symbian 3 should be here.

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