Goodbye MeeGo, hello Tizen: Mobile OS for tablets, netbooks, phones

Tizen logo

There’s a new open source, Linux-based mobile operating system in town. The Linux Foundation has announced the launch of Tizen, an operating system aimed at smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and other devices including in-vehicle entertainment systems and smart TVs. While the Linux Foundation will host the project, it will be led by Intel and Samsung. The Linux Mobile (LiMo) Foundation is also signing on.

But wait… wasn’t Intel backing MeeGo Linux? Yes… it was. But now it looks like the MeeGo project may be all-but-dead. A post on the MeeGo website encourages developers to transition to Tizen. And yes… that post is aimed at developers, not users, because let’s face it: There are almost no MeeGo users at this point.

The MeeGo project started about a year and a half ago when Intel and Nokia teamed up and merged the Moblin Linux netbook platform (Intel) and Maemo Linux smartphone platform (Nokia). Yet the first Nokia device featuring MeeGo wasn’t introduced until this summer — and the Nokia N9 will also be the last smartphone featuring MeeGo, since Nokia has shifted gears and will partner with Microsoft on Windows Phone 7 devices in the future. The N9 will never even see the light of day in the US.

Meanwhile Asus launched one of the first netbooks featuring MeeGo Linux just a few weeks ago. It too, will probably be the last. The good news is that the Eee PC X101 is a $200 laptop, so I’m not sure people are expecting much in the way of support or upgrades. The bad news is that today’s announcement essentially means Asus is selling a device with an operating system that’s already been rejected by its primary developers.

The app development platform for the new OS will be based on HTML5, JavaScript, CSS, and other web-technologies. That means that coding apps for Tizen devices may be similar to coding web apps or native apps for phones or other devices that support HTML5. This could seriously cut development time.

Intel has also announced that its AppUp Center app store will support the platform, giving users a central place to purchase and download third party apps — although as an open source operating system I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a way to use a different package manager.

But the sudden abandonment of MeeGo is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of developers that have been working on MeeGo apps for the last 18 months. Up until recently, MeeGo had been encouraging developers to write native apps using QT. Now it’s not at all clear if those apps will be supported by Tizen.

So while MeeGo may not have gained widespread acceptance among device makers or consumers, the project did manage to attract some open source Linux developers… many of whom are now being told that the hard work they’ve put into their apps may have been for nothing.

Tizen will apparently support some native apps that don’t use web-based technologies, and there will be a native development kit. But the new project leaders haven’t yet spelled out the details. The first version of Tizen is due out in the first quarter of 2012, and a software development kit should be available at the same time.

Intel insists that MeeGo isn’t actually dead yet — at least not as far as “devices in the market” are concerned. But it’s not clear how much support the operating system will have in the future, despite Intel’s encouragement to developers to continue coding for the platform. I’d be surprised if we see another MeeGo device released once Tizen is available.

Today’s announcement comes at a time when Apple iOS and Google Android dominate the smartphone and tablet space, with Microsoft making plays for both with its Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows 8 platforms. It should be interesting to see if an open source platform led by a coalition of companies rather than a single big name can come up with a product that will make a dent.

 

  • http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/ Jedibeeftrix

    As a day to day user of the KDE desktop one of the key things that
    made nokia/meego interesting was its use and promotion of QT, if Tizen
    doesn’t use that then it lessens my interest in exactly the same way as
    Nokia downplaying “linux” in its QT marketed handsets.

    I also doubt the capability of Tizen to be anything more than
    still-born if it doesn’t use a decent mobile focussed UI toolkit like
    Qt.

    I have seen too many of these mobile linux partnerships come and go
    to no real effect, at the end of the day nokia is on its fifth
    generation of mobile linux products, that is at least a real track
    record to place some trust in.

    I’m all for meego being folded into Tizen, and wishing it every
    success, but without nokia and Qt i remain sceptical, and quite happy to
    continue with an N9 for the next couple of years.
     

  • aftermath

    As a day to day user of the Enlightenment desktop, I can point out that Samsung is a strong supporter of the Enlightenment project.  Also, Samsung has been encouraging developers to work with EFL (Enlightenment Foundation Libraries) and GTK.  The Samsung Linux Project isn’t entirely a secret, it’s just that nobody cares because it’s a technology rather than a product with an appealing price or brand that we can argue about.  Presumably, something like this could already be running the Samsung TVs in stores across the world.Interestingly, this week’s latest release of GTK 3.2 includes the much anticipated“broadway” feature, which provides an HTMl5 backend through which GTK-based software can run in your browser.  Sounds like it fits right into the mission of Tizen.  Between the lightness of EFL for on-device chrome, which Ubuntu even tapped for one of its low-resource computing projects and the in-browser potential of GTK, it’s not clear where Qt stands.  As an embedded developer, I have never liked and always avoided Qt, so for me this is not a big deal, maybe even a positive.Maybe something like SHR Project for phones gives us some sense of what Tizen might feel like: the EFLE home module, the Illume profile with its outstanding on-screen keyboard, the EVE web browser.  For that matter, you should check out Bodhi Linux on ARM to see what a “tablet” experience might be like.  There are videos of Enlightenment running on Archos Gen8 devices.I have a feeling that if more legitimate developers understood the value proposition of Enlightenment for small screen and touch screen devices, then they’d stop wasting their time and efforts trying to perpetually re-shoe horn Android onto ARM devices.  I may be biased because I’ve already been doing this for years (see comment history).  With something like Bodhi, which is Debian based, updating and upgrading is simply a matter of “aptitude update” and “aptitude upgrade”, which is a lot nicer than re-hacking and re-flashing roms.  That’s the advantage of properly developed software that brings the wisdom of PC sotware to the reality of embedded hardware.  I believe that Samsung Linux Project alsolooked toward dpkg (thankfully) for package management unlike MeeGo which used rpm (ick), so that’s another thing to watch for.Anyways, hopefully Tizen can capture some of the enthusiast developers from the Android community.  It sure would be nice to see their efforts go in to improving the experience of all users on all devices (which is the beauty of contributing to a Linux distribution like Debian or MeeGo) instead of subsidizing the shareholders of Google and the vendors who release poorly supported hardware by locking a device to a specific subversion of Android and then abandoning users by withholding upgrade paths.  Great business model.  Bad ethics.  Google is probably not happy with this announcement, especially after handing patents over to Samsung so that Samsung could help Google fight Apple.

  • Anon

    Meego is a NAME only for a Linux distribution.  Meego was born ONLY as a name change for the combination of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo.

    So, new name, SAME CODE.  AND new governing organization that is a good thing too.  And that code most likely will be able to run Android Apps per the OpenMobile efforts.   So?

    Meego is not dead, just a name change… and maybe a better governing direction for the project (still supported by Intel and add Samsung too).

    Go Tizen…!

  • Sarah

    Scariest mascot ever…