Still All Go For MeeGo At Intel Despite Nokia Doubts

Intel affirmed MeeGo support at Mobile World Congress, with Toshiba, Fujitsu, Asus and Acer backing the OS

Intel is standing behind MeeGo, the mobile operating system on which it had been collaborating with Nokia for a year, despite Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s February 11 announcement that the phone maker has shifted its primary focus from MeeGo to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.

“Intel is disappointed at Nokia but life goes on,” Renee James, senior vice president and general manger of Intel’s software and services group, said during a February 14 press conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, according to Computer World.

MeeGo Tablets Still On Schedule

Along with Intel, James said, a number of companies and operators are still excited about the MeeGo platform and are participating in its development – including Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices, Texas Instruments, ST-Ericsson and Novell, and carriers Wind River, Orange, Telefonica and Sprint.

Intel still expects to see MeeGo-running tablets begin shipping this year, followed by several smartphones.

At the show, Intel showed off MeeGo’s user interface on a tablet. The UI is unique, Intel explains in a video demo of the OS, in that “it puts the person using the device, and their content, at the centre of the user experience, making that experience truly personal.”

The interface is broken up into columns – titled “Friends,” “Music,” “Photos,” etc. – that a user can pan across or scroll down individually. The arrangement of the information within each column also varies, depending on the type of content – photos vs. videos, say – in a way that’s optimally efficient for the user to interact with.

At the press event, Computer World reported, James said that Intel has hopes of slipping into third place behind Apple and Android, which admittedly already has quite a lead.

Also speaking during the press event, an executive from Orange emphasised the carrier’s support for MeeGo, explaining, according to the report, that it first got behind MeeGo because “this industry needed a truly open ecosystem providing a level field for all players. That need is still there.”

The remark is perhaps a knock against Android, which despite being open source is still rather exclusively developed by Google.

Despite the industrywide enthusiasm, the launch of MeeGo has been a slow one. After introducing the platform at the 2010 Mobile World Congress event, it took Intel nine months to offer a non-beta version of its application store for the OS, called AppUp. It was introduced in September 2010, and Intel combined it with its Atom Developer Program, saying the two were complementary. AppUp can be accessed via the Websites of U.S. retailer Best Buy, U.K. retailer Dixons, and Croma, in India. Intel also announced at the time that the application store would start shipping on every Asus netbook as of October, and later on netbooks from Samsung.

A number of the applications – there were 800, as of the store’s September launch – are free, and the paid applications come with a 24-hour try-and-buy offer.

Nokia, while not focusing on MeeGo, still plans to ship a MeeGo phone in 2011, and in a February 14 press statement, Intel insisted that “attendees at this year’s Mobile World Congress will see MeeGo-based products and technologies that are now available and others that will soon make their way into the marketplace.”

Among these will be a MeeGo-based Fujitsu notebook, headed for the Asia-Pacific region, an Asus MeeGo-based netbook scheduled to ship during the second quarter, and several Acer devices set to launch during the third quarter.

“Acer’s Next Generation Store, Alive, will include Intel AppUp centre and will soon be available on MeeGo-based mobile devices to enable a mobile lifestyle,” Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci said in the statement. “MeeGo’s open software stack will present our consumers with another choice of a user-friendly, easy-to-use operating system.”

In the statement, Toshiba Chief Marketing Officer Hidehito Murato also added his support for MeeGo, saying that its “open, flexible” environment was creating rich, future opportunities. Fujitsu Vice President Lim Tech Sin similarly backed the platform, saying that Fujitsu’s MeeGo-running netbook “transcends boundaries” and “serves as a the new standard for tomorrow’s computing experience.”