[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine.]
There has been a lot of discussion about MeeGo and its future, now reinforced with the launch of the Nokia N9 – a great product that seems to leave nobody indifferent. Here you have some thoughts cooked between #feb11 and tonight (even if Helsinki has little night to offer to mid-Summer visitors).
One problem in this discussion is that a lot of focus is being put in the word “MeeGo” when actually it’s a label that can mean different things to different audiences in different contexts. In fact though, the label doesn’t count as much as the actual software underneath and the projects involved in its development.
The Nokia N9 is powered by MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan, the OS equipped with this UX that has impressed to many. Now, let’s have a look under the hood to see what parts of it really matter to the MeeGo project, the OSS community, the developers and users interested in the N9:
We are talking about the mainline Kernel. Needless to say this project will continue to live and evolve. Nokia may keep contributing to this project and using it for R&D and future products – nothing announced at this point beyond this reference of ‘MeeGo’ in relation to the ‘future disruptions’ strategy.
This is another rich label meaning the toolkit, API, SDK, a variety of technologies involved… The project is in good shape with a promising future based on Qt Quick, the innovations and open governance model being implemented for Qt5 as we speak. The Nokia N9 is a Qt champion product, there are 100 million Qt-enabled Symbian devices (a lot more are expected) and Nokia just announced that Qt will have a central role in its ‘next billion’ strategy. Beyond Nokia, Qt also continues its growth.
Another key OSS project where Nokia is a veteran contributor. Plays a key role connected to the increasing relevance of HTML5 (yet another vague label) in the mobile industry. Both WebKit upstream and the team(s) working on it at Nokia have a bright and busy future.
It doesn’t even aim to become a label, but has captivated already the attention of many when seen in action in the Nokia N9. As a happy user and earliest tester I’m proud of what we have achieved. Stephen Elop has said that it will live forward and evolve in future Nokia products.
In my opinion that’s it. This is what really matters about MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan when it comes to discuss about future products, platforms and ecosystems. Note that these four pieces are very versatile and flexible, they can play with each other and they can also head towards other paths, offering many possibilities for future products.
The rest of technologies involved in MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan are also crucial in terms of functionality and success of a product, but they are more the sort of interchangeable glue, technology in motion that may change because of life cycles, hardware, providers, technology selections, etc. The projects and companies developing the myriad of pieces know this well and work hard & fast to either push new releases or jump wagon to whatever is the new future greatness.
Now, it turns that the rest is very important today for the MeeGo project when it comes to define what is a MeeGo compliant product. According to this definition, if you miss the rest then you don’t have a MeeGo product, unless you propose and obtain a trademark exception.
(((Another approach would be to simply define MeeGo = Kernel mainline + Qt + WebKit, syncing app developers around the OpenGL, Qt and Web APIs – but this is not the reality today)))
With all this background in mind, you can put a vague question in more precise terms:- If the Nokia N9 is successful will you ship more high-end smartphones powered either by MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan or a fully compliant MeeGo?
Since #feb11 Nokia has a clear software strategy where high-end smartphones are covered by the collaboration with Microsoft on Windows Phone, therefore the consequent answer is the one already given by Stephen Elop: No.
However, look back at the four essential pieces above and keep in mind that Nokia is investing in all of them. Even if working on them is really fun, you may guess that Nokia is not paying the teams for the fun of it. It is sensible to expect more to come in a form or another.
Considering that Linux Kernel and WebKit will continue evolving no matter what Nokia decides and assuming that the swipe UX will continue evolving in Nokia products, in reality the concern about “the future of MeeGo at Nokia” is tied to the future of Qt: Nokia’s investment and leadership, involvement of other parties in a wide community, usefulness addressing the mobile and cross-platform challenges, increase of the developer base, increase of the quantity and quality of Qt apps… There is a direct correlation between the success of the Qt project and the satisfaction of the future N9 users, even if most of them won’t know ever.
Qt was relevant before Nokia acquired Trolltech. Nowadays is more relevant than ever, and is evolving fast. It’s a great piece of open source technology that can compete side by side with the leading toolkits. I only expect a bright future for it, sitting between the Linux stack and WebKit, powered by its championing capacity to support multiple platforms and enable multiple UXs.
For all these reasons I’m really happy about the arrival of the Nokia N9 and its role in this interesting chess game. About the future, since I joined the mobile industry in 2007 only one true has prevailed: no matter what your prediction is, the reality in 12 months will be different and unexpected today. Enjoy!