New Intel and Nokia partnership a huge win for mobile Linux

Nokia logoIntel and Nokia have announced plans to build a new class of mobile devices that will deliver a richer Internet experience. They have formed a strategic relationship that will involve developing new Intel chips and working together to advance mobile Linux technology.

Intel and Nokia are joining forces in an effort to reshape the boundaries of mobile computing. The two companies announced plans on Tuesday to collaborate on software and hardware through a new long-term strategic relationship. Advancing the open source Linux operating system and encouraging industry-wide participation in mobile Linux development is one of the pillars of the deal.

The news was revealed during a press conference Tuesday that was conducted jointly by Intel ultra mobility group senior vice president Anand Chandrasekher and Nokia executive vice president of devices Kai Oistamo. They discussed the growing trend towards convergence of conventional computing and mobile communications.

The aim of their relationship, they say, is to explore the opportunities presented by this trend and build new kinds of mobile devices that will give users a richer Internet experience. Noting that Intel and Nokia are the leaders in computing and communications, Oistamo contends that it's natural for the two companies to play a prominent role together in setting the direction of future innovation for their industries.

Although they talked a lot about innovation and creating new classes of mobile computing products, they were extremely light on specifics. It's totally unclear what form these new devices will take. It's not even possible to guess whether the device will look like a netbook, a MID, or a smartphone.

As a result of the ambiguity, the question-and-answer session that followed the announcement was almost comical. When pushed to provide more details, both executives simply repeated, over and over again, that the current announcement is about technical collaboration and that there are no product plans that they can announce at this time. They contend that they are laying the foundation for building a groundbreaking mobile Internet experience, but they couldn't really say what that experience will be like.

The strategic relationship consists of plans to develop new Intel chips that will power the devices and collaboration to boost Linux-based mobile software solutions. Intel has also licensed Nokia's 3G modem patents so that chip maker can expand its connectivity offerings.

"This Intel and Nokia collaboration unites and focuses many of the brightest computing and communications minds in the world, and will ultimately deliver open and standards-based technologies, which history shows drive rapid innovation, adoption and consumer choice," said Chandrasekher in a statement. "With the convergence of the Internet and mobility as the team's only barrier, I can only imagine the innovation that will come out of our unique relationship with Nokia. The possibilities are endless."

The actual product possibilities are vague, but the impact of their collaboration on mobile Linux will be widely felt. Intel's Linux-based Moblin platform is positioned to become one of the most prominent on Atom-based netbook devices and it has attracted strong support from a large number of popular Linux distributors. Nokia's Linux-based Maemo platform, which powers the company's Internet Tablet devices, is a mature and highly-polished solution for handheld ARM devices. These platforms have much in common and share many underlying components, such as Xorg, D-Bus, and GStreamer.

Nokia and Intel plan to more closely align their platforms and boost interoperability with the hope of fostering the emergence of a larger ecosystem of compatible third-party applications. The Linux Foundation, which was recently invited by Intel to help coordinate broader community and industry involvement in Moblin, could possibly play a role in helping to standardize the technology stack that is jointly selected by Intel and Nokia.

Intel and Nokia revealed in May that they are working together to develop a new open source telephony framework for Linux called oFono that will be used on Moblin and Maemo. This project will be one of the centerpieces of their new strategic relationship. It will provide shared software components for facilitating telecommunication and will also give developers a uniform high-level API for building phone software that is compatible with both platforms.

The new strategic relationship reflects Nokia's growing emphasis on Linux-based technology and the declining relevance of the company's Symbian-based S60 platform. Symbian's x86 support is still highly experimental, which makes Linux a more compelling choice for Nokia to use in products that contain Intel chips. Oistamo's only response to questions about the implications for S60 was to say that Linux is a stronger candidate for building the new kinds of devices envisioned by Nokia and Intel—products that will meet the demand for a more desktop-like Internet experience in mobile form factors.

Leaked details about Nokia's Maemo roadmap indicate that the company has been planning to use the platform as the basis for building a next-generation smartphone. Maemo 5, which was announced last year and is under active development, will have 3G data connectivity. Harmattan, the next major version after the upcoming Maemo 5, is said to be destined for release at the end of 2010 and will have voice calling capabilities. Maemo 5 will run on devices with TI's ARM-based OMAP3 chips, but it's possible that we will see Harmattan on the first of Nokia's Intel-powered mobile products.

The strong commitment to Linux by Intel and Nokia is a sign of growing consensus in the mobile industry that the open source operating system will play a central role in delivering the underlying foundation of the software experience on portable computing products.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Intel, Linux, mobile phones, Nokia

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