Monday, June 6, 2011

So what the hell is taking MeeGo so long? Do we always have to wait this long?

Recently news have surfaced on Nokia's reasons to shift emphasis away from MeeGo as their primary smartphone strategy. Elop is quoted saying that Kai Öistämö and him were devastated to see MeeGo (or Maemo6 to be accurate) in too of a rough form at at the beginning of 2011, influencing adoption of Windows Phone 7 as the primary strategy.

Because of Nokia's hardships in shipping its MeeGo device (we've been expecting a device for almost 7 months now) and now these news of Elop saying that MeeGo is still too raw to be a primary platform, a lot of bad light is being shunned in MeeGo's direction as well.

Quick disclamer before I continue: for most people, what Nokia is about to release as the "N950", "N9" or "Jessie's girl" is a pure MeeGo product, built from the building blocks released at What Nokia in truth is about to release, is their sixth iteration of Maemo, with some MeeGo API's. Therefore Nokia's MeeGo product can't be compared to a "pure" release of MeeGo and therefore any progress or lack of it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with MeeGo.

Images you can download from seem very raw with incomplete UIs and  functions. And with Nokia's set backs widely reported on the media, is MeeGo totally late and too raw to be taken seriously? Is MeeGo in fact developing too slowly to ever mount to anything worth writing home about?

Examining how the competition have done it

I've been juggling questions like the ones in the previous paragraph ever since the beginning of 2010, the announcement of MeeGo. And so I deciced to compare how long other mobile OS's took to mature from rumours or announcements into commercially sold products. I decided to find out how well does MeeGo's development rate fare with what competitors' platforms have achieved before it.

So here's a brief listing of some of the important dates in competitors' OS's histories. The OS's arent't listed in any specific order. My intention is to figure out how long did each manufacturer's device spend in the works, ie since which date can it be said that it was probably being developed, and how long did it take to end up in consumers' hands.

Let's start with Samsung's Bada. Samsung's Bada was first announced 10th of November 2009. The first Bada device, the Samsung Wave S8500 was released June 1st, 2010. Time from announce to market: 8 months. [Source]

Android was speculated about early as 2003. In 2006, things really got rolling and in October in 2008 the first consumer Android device, the "T-Mobile G1" launched in US. Production time: about 5 years. [Source]

Maemo saw its first release in 2005, but I couldn't find any old rumours about when it might've been started. Nokia has said that the fifth iteration of Maemo was step 5 out of 6 in making it truly a commercial product. Maemo 6 is coming out in just a few weeks, so we shall regard that as the "final product", although many would argue Maemo 5 is that already. Production time: 6 years [Source]

2001 the first photo surfaced of what many believed to be the iPhone. Jobs and Wozaniak played it cool in not revealing too much about it, but constant rumours made it likely, that something was in the works. In 2007 the world finally saw the launch of the first iPhone. Production time: 6 years [Source]

Symbian first surfaced on the Psion PDA device in 1994, in 1998 it became Symbian and 2001 brought about the first commercially sold Symbian OS device, the Nokia 9210 Communicator. All versions were considered as final, but for our discussion's sake the Communicator shall mark Symbian's maturing. Production time: 6 years [Source]

In the beginning of 2010 Maemo would merge into Intel's Moblin to form MeeGo. MeeGo was announced in 2010 and the first commercially sold product the WeTab came out September 2010. Production on the WeTab had (probably) started before the MeeGo project was announced, but perhaps it can be held as an example of how easily MeeGo can be utilised. (Please feel free to comment on this if you have more details about the weTab!) Naturally the very first fully usable version of MeeGo was the Notebook release with MeeGo 1.1 in October of 2010, but at least to my knowledge it didn't necessarily immediately surface on manufacturer sold devices. [Source1, source2]


Here are the "from production to market" times in summary:
Bada took 8 months
Android took 5 years
Apple took 7 years
Symbian took 7 years
Maemo took 5 years to mature, although first versions served as complete, ready releases.
MeeGo took 7 months to appear in a commercially sold product, the WeTab.

So according to these results, MeeGo would in fact be the fastest OS to go from production to market. Of course we must remember that MeeGo was formed from two already mature platforms, giving it a slight edge perhaps. How much this is true, only coders can say and feel free to comment on this as well. However, Samsung's Bada platform's maturing process seems quite impressive, although Bada at least at the moment cators a more featurephone variety of functions.

Another note to keep in mind is, that biggest expectations of MeeGo are pointed at the handset release, and Intel is currently saying that the first MeeGo driven handsets are probably 2012's news. So in that regard it will be somewhat "late", but its still nothing compared to the 5-7 years competitors' OS's have needed to mature. And many would argue, that for example even Android 1.6 was far from mature on launch as it lacked some features as syncing and MMS, that both are included in the already released MeeGo handset image.

Yet I think the greatest difference between MeeGo and the competition is, that MeeGo is developed about 90% in the open (there was a slight fumbling with the Tablet UI's openness...), unlike any of its competitors. Imagine how people would've reacted seeing alpha images of Android back in 2003 or 2006. I don't think anyone who wasn't a software engineer could've seen promise in it, and that's what's happening now with MeeGo, I think. People that aren't used to judging anything but finalized products can't have a sense of how far along work-in-progress projects are.

So to really understand MeeGo, people should patiently wait for the commercial releases before shelling out judgement. MeeGo IS making good progress in my opinion. Below I've included a good read written by Henri Bergius on what MeeGo is, which should further help people understand just where (and how) MeeGo stands. Thanks for reading.

Further reading:
Henri Bergius on his blog about MeeGo:


  1. Wow, this was interesting! I would like to hear comments and views from Nokia engineers about the progress of Meego.

  2. Thanks for the comment!

    I think we might be hearing more about Nokia's engineers' thoughts on MeeGo once they release their Harmattan-MeeGo (Maemo 6) device.

    In the mean time, you might also want to check out @JukkaEklund on twitter and see his posts at He is working on a MeeGo version tailored for the N900 specifically. Interesting stuff!