The MeeGo project began to take shape last month when Intel and Nokia announced plans to merge their respective Linux-based mobile computing platforms into a single open source software project. The unified software platform, which consists of technology from Maemo and Moblin, will be designed for use on a wide range of device form factors and will support both ARM and x86 architectures.
Nokia and Intel have turned to the Linux Foundation to help coordinate the project with the hope that vendor-neutral oversight will help attract the participation of other mobile Linux vendors. According to Halla, who is Nokia's representative on the nascent MeeGo technical steering committee, the new MeeGo platform will be more open and inclusive than Moblin or Maemo were individually. The platform will be developed in the open with a broadly transparent research and development process.
"Once we just get going the objective is to have all of the MeeGo platform work fully in public. During the last few years both Nokia and Intel have learned that the success of Moblin and Maemo R&D mode fundamentally comes from the Open Source way of openness and MeeGo is a huge further commitment on this path," he wrote. "MeeGo is supposed to go beyond its parents in openness."
Although he sets high expectations for MeeGo's commitment to openness, he also acknowledges that there will be challenges in making the transition. Maemo and Moblin have much in common, but the technical and philosophical differences between the two communities could pose a barrier to harmonious convergence. Both sides will have to put in a lot of effort and exhibit a willingness to adapt in order to make MeeGo successful. In the blog entry, Halla calls for members of the existing Maemo and Moblin communities to help build the new development process together by engaging in constructive dialog and collaborating with each other.
The convergence process seems to have gotten a promising start. When the source code is made available at the end of the month, it will include basic support for running on Atom test boards and Nokia's N900 smartphone. This is a promising sign for N900 owners, who were initially concerned that they might get left behind by the new mobile software platform.
"Nokia and Intel have set the target to open the MeeGo repository by the end of this month. I guess this is something that finally will signify the real 'Day One' of MeeGo project, a genuine merger of moblin and maemo," wrote Halla. "What is scheduled to be available then is the first and very raw baseline to a source and binary repository to build MeeGo trunk on Intel ATOM boards and Nokia N900."
Supporting the N900 at this stage is a pretty savvy move by Nokia, because it means that the product's audience of mobile Linux enthusiasts will be able to participate in MeeGo development on real-world hardware right from the start. It's unclear, however, if MeeGo will continue to be optimally N900-compatible going forward. Nokia has made it pretty clear that multitouch interfaces are going to be a big part of their next-generation mobile platform, but multitouch is not supported by the N900.
If the MeeGo project continues moving forward at a good pace and lives up to the promises of openness, it could have major adoption potential. It has several advantages over Google's Linux-based Android platform.
One of those advantages is that MeeGo is more closely aligned with the upstream kernel community and the conventional Linux software stack. This makes it possible for MeeGo adopters to leverage the broad ecosystem of existing third-party Linux software and technologies. It's a very different approach from Android, which has its own insular userspace environment that runs on top of a modified Linux kernel that is gradually diverging from the mainline kernel tree.
If the MeeGo project delivers on fully public development, that could also potentially give it a substantial advantage over Android. Although Android is open source software, the actual development process largely takes place behind closed doors. Significant changes to the Android source are made public in massive code drops that take place after each major release. Android's approach, which could be characterized as the "cathedral" model, is problematic because it largely excludes individual third-party developers from having a voice in the process and prevents them from preemptively updating their applications to support upcoming devices. MeeGo has an opportunity to win the loyalty of third-party developers if it can do better than that.
Of course, there is a big difference between making promises and delivering on them. Every new mobile Linux initiative that has promised unprecedented openness has largely fallen short of that goal. Execution is what really counts in the end. The close involvement of the Linux Foundation is a positive sign that Nokia and Intel are serious about making MeeGo into a truly open project, but there are still a lot of challenges to be overcome.
Source: ars technica