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.
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.