No MeeGo Devices Until 2011, Intel Confirms

Despite Nokia’s optimism, Intel has confirmed that buyers still have to wait until next year for smartphones and most tablets running the MeeGo operating system.

The two companies announced the partnership to develop the operating system in February. Throughout the year, Nokia officials have expressed hopes that smartphones running the open source OS would be on the market this year. An Intel official has now said that those devices will not make their debut until the first half of 2011.

Progressing Well

In an interview with Forbes, Doug Fisher, vice president of Intel’s Software and Solutions Group and general manager of its Systems Software Division, said officials with both Intel and Nokia are pleased with the progress of MeeGo’s development.

Version 1.1 is due to be finalised later this year and will offer features – including support for touch-based commands – that are aimed at smartphones and tablets. But devices running MeeGo will not hit the market until next year.

The one exception will be the WeTab, an 11.6-inch tablet that will run MeeGo, powered by one of Intel’s Atom processors. WeTab, produced by the German company Neofonie, will go on sale later this year. Other MeeGo-based devices have been planned to help grow the market, such as netbooks and Web-connected televisions.

Nokia and Intel are looking to MeeGo to help them in the highly competitive mobile device world. Nokia, while still the world’s top cell phone maker, has seen its dominance begin slip in the face of competition from the likes of Apple’s iPhone and Google Android-based phones. The company hired a new CEO in Stephen Elop, former president of Microsoft’s Business Division.

In the second quarter of this year, Nokia’s share of the smartphone market was 37.5 percent, a drop from the 45 percent it had during the same period last year, Gartner reported.

For Intel, the combination of MeeGo and its Atom platform offers a shot to expand its business into the mobile and embedded markets. The mobile space offers Intel a way to grow its business beyond its PC and server chip roots. It is a business CEO Paul Otellini said Intel should have entered earlier.

“I wish we had started earlier,” Otellini said in New York during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I wish I had been smart enough to start [working on smartphone processors] seven years ago because we’d be in a good position today, but I wasn’t.”

In 2006, at a time when Intel’s competition with Advanced Micro Devices in the area of PC and server chips was heightened, Intel sold its Xscale mobile chip business to Marvell Technology Group. In August this year, Intel bought Infineon Technologies’ mobile chip business.

Last month, Intel took the AppUp mobile application store for MeeGo apps out of beta. The store has about 800 programs, according to Intel.

In an effort to expand the number of packages that can run on the platform, the company is working on a tool that will enable developers to move iPhone applications to devices powered by Intel chips.

Having the MeeGo-based mobile devices come out next year will make a tough situation that much more difficult for Intel and Nokia. Already there is tremendous momentum behind Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS, and Microsoft is expected to launch its Windows Phone 7 operating system on October 11.

In addition, Hewlett-Packard is expected to release devices running its newly acquired WebOS in early 2011.

MeeGo’s efforts also took a hit when Ari Jaaksi, Nokia’s vice president of devices and head of MeeGo development, left the company last week.

Jeffrey Burt

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

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