Meego Will Struggle, Despite Novell Support

MeeGo Linux will need considerable investment to succeed, according to a report from market research company Ovum

Despite new support from Novell, the fledgling MeeGo Linux project needs “major investment” to catch up to other competing solutions, according to a report by market research company Ovum.

On June 1, Novell announced that it would “release SUSE MeeGo as a fully supported operating system for netbooks. Novell expects SUSE MeeGo to be preinstalled on a variety of devices from [OEMs] in the next twelve months.

“SUSE MeeGo is built on the codestream from the MeeGo Project, the new Linux-based operating system established by Intel and Nokia and designed for next-generation netbooks and other mobile devices,” Novell continued.

“MeeGo will effectively combine Intel’s netbook-focused Moblin platform with Nokia’s cross-platform application framework, Qt, and the cellular integration work Nokia has done in its own Maemo Linux flavour,” wrote Ovum Principal Analyst Tony Cripps.

Alternative to desktop computing

“The planned shipment of SUSE MeeGo with multiple hardware OEMs further extends Novell’s leadership in this rapidly growing market, and gives users a powerful and affordable alternative to existing desktop computing environments,” Novell said in its news release.

“Our commitment to ship SUSE MeeGo further extends our position as the leading OS vendor in the desktop Linux market,” said Guy Lunardi, director of Client Preloads at Novell. “Novell is passionate about providing users with a better computing experience and MeeGo will deliver on that promise. Our experience as the leading commercial provider of desktop Linux environments—from thin clients, to workstations, through netbooks, notebooks and desktop devices—puts us in a great position to deliver SUSE MeeGo to a broad base of original equipment and device manufacturers.”

SUSE MeeGo builds on the longstanding collaboration between Novell and Intel to encourage OEMs and original design manufacturers (ODMs) to adopt Moblin. This effort has met with strong success, as large ODMs, including Samsung and MSI, have shipped netbook and mobile devices powered by SUSE Moblin. A leading contributor to the Moblin project, Novell is now also a key participant in the development of MeeGo. To support the development of new Linux-based operating systems, Novell has established Novell OpenLabs in Taiwan, in conjunction with the local government there.

“Novell’s support of MeeGo only further establishes their commitment to enhancing the mobile Linux experience,” said Doug Fisher, vice president of the Software and Services Group and general manager of the Systems Software Division at Intel Corporation. “SUSE MeeGo together with Intel Atom processor-based platforms will provide consumers choice for Linux operating systems on netbooks and emerging mobile devices.”

Mobile tech and desktops

According to the MeeGo project website, “MeeGo currently targets platforms such as netbooks [and] entry-level desktops, handheld computing and communications devices, in-vehicle infotainment devices, connected TVs and media phones. All of these platforms have common user requirements in communications, application and Internet services in a portable or small form factor. The MeeGo project will continue to expand platform support as new features are incorporated and new form factors emerge in the market.”

However, “MeeGo needs major investment in order to claim the big prize in the battle of the platforms,” Cripps said in the Ovum report.

Cripps acknowledged that “MeeGo devices will likely become commonplace” in short order.

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

MeeGo remains unknown quantity

Computerworld also attributed to Cripps the remark that “the volume and variety of devices on which MeeGo is deployed may prove meaningless unless the consistency in the underlying OS is not matched by its ability to provide a true multiscreen 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, multiscreen application development that Qt offers,’ Cripps said.”

In the report, Cripps continued, “For the wholesale leveraging of Qt to become a reality, developers must ultimately be persuaded that it is a better cross-platform, cross-device application and UX [user experience] platform than the 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.”

Computerworld concluded by saying, “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 feature and 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.'”