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The MeeGo Progress Report: A+ or D-?

[Eight months after the announcement of the MeeGo  project by Intel and Nokia, guest author Dave Neary analyses the progress made to date in MeeGo Handset, and the project’s prospects for the future]

VisionMobile - The MeeGo progress report

The end of October saw the release of MeeGo 1.1, the second major milestone release of the platform since it burst onto the scenes in February 2010. The MeeGo project was born under the auspices of the Linux Foundation from a merging of Nokia’s Maemo platform, targeting smart phones, and Intel’s moblin platforms, aimed at netbooks.

How do you think MeeGo will stack up against Android and iPhone at the end of 2011?

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The merger grew from a core idea: pick the best of breed components from both stacks, collaborate on the integration and testing of shared components, and standardise a number of open source UX (User eXperience) profiles, on which vendors could build and deploy complete commercial grade stacks. The initial UX profiles announced were netbook, smartphone, IVI (In-Vehicle Interface) and media center/TV.

Nokia and Intel have both made a major commitment to the platform, but critics say that the relationship is little more than a marriage of convenience. After all, Intel is a silicon vendor, betting heavily on the Atom-based Moorestown platform, and Nokia is a handset designer, largely shipping ARM-based devices.

Growing pains

The project has had some teething problems. Troubled Nokia has changed CEO, and the founding father of the Maemo project, Ari Jaaksi, has been among a number of high level software executives to leave the company, leading some to ask whether Nokia might have a change of heart about the platform. The first MeeGo device for Nokia, originally expected at the end of 2010, will now appear in 2011, according to recent comments from new CEO Stephen Elop, as Nokia strive to ensure a good first impression for its first MeeGo device.

There are some early public signs of friction in the working relationship of the stakeholders in the project, also.

The adoption of Qt as the primary toolkit for both platform and applications has met with resistance from Intel engineers, who acquired Clutter in 2008 and integrated it heavily into the netbook user interface, plus partners like Novell who developed versions of GTK+ applications like the Evolution email client and Banshee music player specifically for the netbook form factor.

Long-awaited MeeGo compliance specifications have resulted in drawn out and sometimes acrimonious debate.  Trademark guidelines have been a sticking point for community ports of the MeeGo netbook UX to Linux when these ports do not include required core components.

Related to the technical governance of the project, there is some uncertainty around the release process, and the means and criteria which will be used when considering the inclusion of new components. And there are some signs that the “all open, all the time” message at the project launch has been tempered by the reality of building a commercial device.

The Promise of Openness

Many of these issues are to be expected when merging two projects into one and pairing two very different animals. Every open source project has its own culture, and Moblin and Maemo are no different. Relationship capital which participants built up in the contributing projects must now be rebuilt within a broader group.

MeeGo has had some early successes. MeeGo 1.0, which included the Netbook UX and an early prerelease of the smartphone UX, was delivered in July, complete with the source code of a number of components which had previously been proprietary. Novell MeeGo has been shipping on a number of netbooks since then. The MeeGo wiki lists dozens of MeeGo-compatible devices. The inaugural MeeGo Conference is set to take place in Dublin, from the 15th to the 17th of November, and has sold out with over 600 registered attendees to date.

And there is no denying that the companies involved in the project are committed to it. With the recent rumours that the Symbian Foundation may be shutting up shop, Nokia has few choices of platform left for upcoming high-end devices. Announcing their updated software strategy during their quarterly results call this month, the company confirmed that they are fully committed to MeeGo as the only platform for high end devices from now on.

Clearly, there is a future for the project. The question is, how will MeeGo Handset hold up against the competition from the platforms with the most momentum in the market – iOS and Android, or the recently released Windows Mobile 7. Will a newly reinvigorated WebOS (with Ari Jaaksi at the helm) challenge it for the mantle of the exciting new upstart? In short, is it any good? And will operators, handset manufacturers, application developers and users adopt it?

User experience

Since we do not yet have a MeeGo handset device available, it is very difficult to accurately judge the user experience at this time. It is possible to install MeeGo on the Nokia N900 and use it as a phone, using Nokia’s proprietary drivers to enable the hardware, but a lot of basic functionality is missing at present. In my tests, the camera, GPS, battery indicator, network signal strength indicator and WiFi did not work correctly. Features which do work can be slow, or have stability issues. Basic functionality like reading contact details off a SIM card, or unlocking the SIM card on boot, are still missing.

A MeeGo device getting to the market will undoubtedly have pristine hardware integration using 3rd party drivers, and a considerable amount of fit-and-finish which the basic MeeGo stack does not yet have.

The MeeGo handset user experience is still in transition. Maemo 5, the platform’s predecessor, was created using GTK+ and Clutter, while the MeeGo user interface has been built from the ground up using Qt. By all accounts, there are still a number of stability and quality issues with the stack, which we can expect to be addressed in a release shipping on a device.

At this time, the MeeGo Handset UX is not intended for anyone but developers. It is too early to be able to tell how the final product will compare to iOS or Android.

The Developer story

At the time of its announcement, one of the key advantages held up to developers was the potential to use a single toolkit, Qt, to build native applications which will be portable across Windows, Linux and Symbian. Nokia has been investing heavily in RAD tools like Qt Quick to allow developers to get up and running quickly. In addition, their as-yet unavailable Web Run Time promises to allow developers to easily integrate web applications.

The developer tools are in development, and do not yet compare favourably with the equivalent Android offering, which includes easy tools for building, testing and deploying applications using Eclipse. In addition, since the project is still in relatively early stages, there is a marked lack of entry-level documentation to help developers get started.

It is still unclear what software distribution channels or app stores will be available for application developers on a MeeGo device. Ovi Store will be available on Nokia devices for commercial applications, and there may be a community distribution channel made available for community-built applications, but what form this channel might take, and to what extent it will integrate with the MeeGo user experience is still unclear. Presumably other handset manufacturers, should MeeGo gain wider adoption, will provide their own application stores, further fragmenting the application developer story.

MeeGo certification ensures that it will be possible to build applications which work across all vendors, but at this point the jury is still out on how useful “MeeGo Compliant” will be to application developers. There is a possibility of considerable fragmentation among non-core APIs when MeeGo devices from several vendors are available.

From the point of view of tools, documentation and software distribution channels, MeeGo is undoubtedly behind its primary competitors – but for such a young project, this is to be expected. The success of the project among application developers and the free software community will depend to a large extent on the project’s ability to fill these gaps and provide developers with an excellent development experience.

For platform developers, the story is much more encouraging. The source code to the entire MeeGo stack is available, and anyone can download images built daily. Images built for ARM and Intel Atom can be installed and tested on a range of developer devices, including the Nokia N900, TI’s BeagleBoard or PandaBoard, or the Aava Mobile developer kit.

On the other hand, there has been a tendency of the platform architects to reduce the range of hardware and software supported by the basic MeeGo stack. There is limited support for non-Intel x86 chipsets, and support for only a subset of ARM chips. Kernel modules have been aggressively trimmed, sometimes arbitrarily, to disable functionality such as NFS.

Community and governance

MeeGo development is all happening in a public git repository, most discussions are on public mailing lists, and there are a large number of experienced free software developers among the community development team, which is ensuring that any communication or transparency problems are identified and addressed swiftly. In the mobile platform development world, it is fair to say that MeeGo is second to none in terms of its open development model.

This contrasts sharply with Android which is primarily developed behind closed doors by Google, and iOS which is a completely proprietary platform. If there is a key differentiator for MeeGo in the hand-held market, this is it. It remains to be seen whether the open development model will be a selling point which will tip the balance when manufacturers are choosing a platform for a device.

The MeeGo community is made up of members of the Maemo and Moblin communities, and in the case of Maemo, there have been a number of contributors who have decided not to contribute to the MeeGo project. The move to MeeGo represents the third major change in the project in two years (after the move to GTK+/Clutter in Maemo 5 and the announcement that Qt would be the only supported application toolkit) and has left some shell-shocked.

The Moblin community, on the other hand, did not develop a large platform developer community, partly since the project did not offer a distribution channel for application developers. It seems like all those who were productively contributing to moblin have followed the project move to MeeGo.

OEMs and operator support

One of the key differentiators between traditional handset manufacturers and the young guns (iOS and Android) which have taken the market by storm, is that both Android and iOS have concentrated on the user and application developer experience to the detriment of their relationship with OEMs and operators. It is widely argued that Apple’s iPhone has reduced the role of the operator to that of a bandwidth and infrastructure provider. In turn Google takes a take-it-or-leave-it approach with handset manufacturers; unless manufacturers comply with Android’s compatibility definitions (CTS and CDD), they can’t have access to the Android trademark, Android Market’s 100,000+ application, Google Maps and several other closed source applications.

Nokia has a more traditional approach of putting handset manufacturers and network operators ahead of developers. This shows through in many of the architecture decisions in MeeGo. The platform has been built with operator and OEM customisation and integration in mind from the start.

A primary concern for OEMs with MeeGo is the time required to integrate the platform into a specific device and ship to market. With the time to market for Android handsets dropping to 4-5 months from project to production, it will be very hard for MeeGo to compete, even with the MeeGo 1.2 release, due in the first half of 2011.

Still a long way to go

It does not feel fair at this point to compare MeeGo, a project which came into being 8 months ago, with iOS or Android, but this is the yardstick which will be used when the first MeeGo smartphone comes on the market. The project has come a long way since its inception, in particular in working towards an open and transparent development model. There is still some way to go but improvements have been happening daily.

However, to succeed as a platform, the application developer story and the user experience are vital. There is a lot of work to be done in these areas for MeeGo to gain serious traction outside of the small community of Finnish handset designers. Nokia still has a long way to go.

– Dave

[Dave Neary is the docmaster at maemo.org and a long-standing member of the GNOME Foundation. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 10 years, leading software projects and organising open source communities,  He’s passionate about technology, and free software in particular.]

  • Andrej

    As a developer interested in MeeGo much I must say that currently the situation is neithr bad niether excellent, somwhere around C or B. What I'm looking forward to is the complete transition to Qt (I like it a lot, much more than "Java" on Android or GTK). It is such a great framework to work with that it is a bit sad to see Netbook hasn't been ported to it yet. Another big problem I see is that the netbook/laptop hardware supported is only limited to some Intel hardware with SSSE3 and thus you can't run it on AMD and even some Intel based computers which excludes a lot of developers for no good reason. Other then that MeeGo does look very promising. Especially the openness part, I've also been tracking the development of Android and have beeen dissapointed with its way of management, it is far away from being truly open and MeeGo is much better here. Anyways I hope for the best to all these phone platforms that are based on free and open source stacks. the more of the like the better.

  • Pico

    Being 'open' is the only way to go.

    This was Microsoft's mistake, and why its closed Windows Phone 7 will fail in the market. It's Microsoft's dream project, which does not allow freedom to either OEMs, carriers or consumers. Microsoft wanted to keep all the profits for itself.

    Another lesson from Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 failure is that a platform must hit the ground running. It must be feature complete and competitive on day one. The line that "iPhone 1.0 had no Copy/Paste, stereo Bluetooth or multitasking is irrelevant. The platform must compete with what is available today.

    At least MeeGo already has Copy/Paste fully operating.

  • @andrej you should not need to care about SSE3 or hardware if you are developing an application. You can develop on anything and then compile it for your target later.

  • So I'm not the only one betting hard on Meego for Nokia future. 🙂

    Interesting piece, Meego will be one of many big news coming in 2011 along with Android 3.0, iPhone 5.

    Potentially is highly disruptive for many reasons, not least Nokia huge brand value and customer base. Let's see.

    My tow cents here: http://wp.me/plmpp-ai

    PS: interesting how my post overlap often with visionmobile's maybe it's time to guestpost again Andreas 😉

  • bzhb

    interesting review. An important milestone for MeeGo is when the community build system will be open. It should happen soon. from there it will be easier to port software to MeeGo and to add more hardware compability.

  • Forget Meego!!


  • Markus

    MeeGo's development isn't as open as its backers want to make us think. A few days ago I had a look at MeeGo's Handset UX git repo: All the code in there is by Intel. Some of it has copyright notices from 2008. Not a single Nokia employee is registered as part of its developers group.

    We know that Nokia is working on something but whatever Nokia is working on, it's behind closed doors and god knows if we ever see that open sourced. Currently all Nokia is doing for FOSS MeeGo is Qt and nothing else. In all parts of MeeGo pretty much everything is done by Intel. The Netbook part as some involvement of other parties (mostly Novell) but that's it.

    Hopefully Nokia will "get it" and start to do open development after the first MeeGo Handset was released. If not, KDE's Plasma Mobile efforts are the only chance left for MeeGo to become a broad community.

  • Jukka

    @Markus, nope.

    Nokia may not have a lot to do with the current vanilla handset ux, but Nokia is doing lots of other things. SDK (Madde), MeeGo Touch, MeeGo Core, Qt, etc. etc.

    And do not forget that there are multiple companies working directly and indirectly for Nokia. So the employee may not own @nokia.com email address but it's still Nokia behind the development.

  • Being one of the Tracker core developers, which is an open source community led project to which Nokia massively contributes, I testify against Markus's point of view that Nokia only contributes to Qt.

    I think what Markus is saying is uninformed nonsense. Nokia contributes to massive amounts of open source projects. You can find a small portion (relative to the actual list) of them here:


    I leave my full name so that you can do a background check on me to verify that I really am a software developer who's active in multiple open source communities. I believe that it's important that people only listen to actual open source developers when it comes to opinions on how much Nokia contributes to open source.


    Philip Van Hoof

  • For now let's give MeeGo and "I" for incomplete. There is much still to be done. "I" grades at university have a time limit for completing the required work or the grade becomes an "F". This is true in the mobile marketplace as well. If MeeGo is too long to come to market it will receive an "F". If the work is completed on time but it is substandard then an "F" is still possible.

    On time – that is a malleable concept. For me "on time" is within eight weeks of my N900 going away. For the market in general, they have guys and gals with marketing degrees to tell them what "on-time" looks like.

    I think we all know what substandard is. MeeGo had better spring full grown from Nokia/Intel's brow when it comes. The market won't tolerate an OS in training pants.

  • Michael Vakulenko

    With so much focus on technicalities, governance and future roadmap, why don't we ask ourselves one simple question:

    What real market problem will MeeGo solve that somebody else hasn't already solved?

    MeeGo looks like a fig leaf for failed software strategy of two hardware giants – Nokia and Intel. Moreover, it was conceived to solve yesterday problems. By the time it will reach consumers, the market will advance two phases and pose very different challenges.

    @2600Hertz: Great post…

  • As a fairly hardcore Penguinista, I really hope Nokia can come up with reasonably affordable Meego handsets sometime soon before it's too late. I like Android, but I'd much rather have a "real" Linux phone.

    Unfortunately, I'm not convinced at this point that Nokia can pull themselves away from Symbian long enough to get the commitment to Meego necessary to get it going before it's too late.

  • The apps included in the MeeGo Handset UX are the top of a complex iceberg. Nokia is contributing heavily to Core OS and Handset UX, from Kernel to MeeGo Touch Framework. The Handset application/services layer in MeeGo products from Nokia will be heavily tied to Ovi and Nokia proprietary apps. It would be quite schizophrenic to also develop the open alternatives. Still you can see Nokia's involvement in Mozilla, KOffice and essential application back-ends like Kcal or Buteo.

    Don't get me wrong: Intel is putting plenty of resources as well. And if you look well into http://meego.gitorious.org and the MeeGo developer lists you will see many other companies as well.

    Michael, it is a real market problem that many device manufacturers and operators don't feel comfortable about Apple or Google's success. The iOS game is clear but Android's not so much. For the reasons they took Android they can take MeeGo in the future if the platform is good and has a sane business and governance model. It's not that you need Android to offer good integration with the Google services, if that is relevant for your product.

    In fact, with a successful MeeGo platform, a question for Google could be: why to work alone on the development of an own mobile platform (forking Linux, forking Java…) if the goal is to develop an extension to their advertisement platform in mobile. They could do it with the MeeGo stack. You could even run Dalvik on top (if that would be relevant) have their own homescreen, apps, etc.

    At the end, MeeGo is just an evolution within Linux and the free desktop paths. I expect the MeeGo stack to become a highly commoditized platform used by the mobile industry to base their innovation and differentiation models.

  • Jeff Moe

    It seems we're always waiting for Nokia to get their servers running. I can't believe they still don't have a public build server going. That should have been running in May (or March!), if they wanted any traction. It was amazing to watch how fast Android just *blew* past Maemo. Nokia is still just getting things set up–in nearly the same place, a year later.

  • mrD

    I think it is too early to tell. I think as @Robert were saying, it is still time to develop and when it comes it has to be good from the beginning.

    But the concept of openness and working in and with open-source is something that IBM proved successful in the kernel environment. Without IBM's Billion dollar investment, I think Linux would not be where it is today.

    This is the opportunity for Intel and Nokia to bring the industry together in moving MeeGo forward to be the default embedded OS.

    Let's also not mix up the concept of UX/UI. There will be a need for differentiate user experiences on different devices categories and I think Android has proven that one size does not fit all (see tablets, STB and TV) and for a long term commitment and success companies like Nokia, Samsung and alikes may wanna keep their own user experiences but that app developers as well as OEM should be able to quick choke up new apps and devices – where everyone is not the saem.

    As @epicanis is saying.. maybe Nokia need to mentally ditch Symbian to make MeeGo a real success.

  • Neugrund

    Yes, time will cure anything. Given enough time it's possible to create decent solution out of different projects, mixed together by large slow companies with magic open source dust powdered all over it. Heck, it sound familiar … Symbian, anyone? Only sad thing is – there is no time. I would like to say that time is running out, but time already has run out – while meego is thinking how to grade itself for getting few things here and there merged together other mobile platforms running on full-speed with vibrant developer communities cranking out apps like there is no tomorrow.

    If Meego is really really good, there is option to fight for distant 4th place in market owning single-digit market share. Whether it's worth fighting is entirely different question.

    Sad victim for this non-existing software strategy is Nokia hardware. N900 is by all means excellent piece of engineering.

  • Re: Markus' comment, I 'm posting a Twitter conversation between @quimgil and me on that topic:


    "@quimgil "MeeGo’s Handset UX git repo:..In all parts of MeeGo pretty much everything is done by Intel" Care to comment? http://bit.ly/apZbOM"


    "@andreascon MeeGo generic apps are not everything! Nokia has plenty of developers working from Kernel to Qt & Touch Framework + Nokia apps"

  • Buchan Milne

    As far as I can see, the Web Run Time *is* available for Meego 1.1:



    So, http://meego.gitorious.org/meegotouch (meegotouch-home, meegotouch-systemui, meegotouch-controlpanel etc.) doesn't count?


    Your 5 reasons are all easily countered:

    Services – What Google services are not available on non-Android devices (besides market and maps, for which Nokia has equivalents)? What about non-Google services?

    F.C.F.S – Where is public authoritative source code repository for Android? IOW, they aren't (really) first to "open to the masses".

    Too many cooks – Wait, you said Android was open, and that was an advantage for it, but more than one company building a platform is bad? Look how badly that turned out for the Linux kernel (not) …

    Small is Big – Well, compare Google buying Dalvik to Nokia buying Qt, consider the more ubiquitous availability of Qt (even Android: http://code.google.com/p/android-lighthouse/), and features like Web Run Time. Familiarity of dev environment? Download Nokia Qt SDK, and have a hello world app running on an emulator 5 minutes after your download finishes …

    The best is yet to come – At present, the only market Android dominates is US CDMA, because there is almost no competition. Other current Nokia handsets (N8,C3,C6,E5) which have Qt and Ovi store integration are providing the "mass adoption" for the application platform (Qt) in regions where CDMA is almost non-existent. In terms of performance, look at some real benchmarks of Symbian3 vs Android or Maemo vs Android, and you might be surprised. Setting standards? No, even Android fanboys have to admit iPhone did that …

  • Patrick


    you contradict yourself: if the market poses new challenges in the future, initiating new business opportunities in the process, they can't all already have been addressed by the existing platforms. In fact, if Intel and Nokia do a good job at defining the impact of key techonology trends and standards (cloud/HTML5/LTE) they might hit the ground running without being burdened by 'legacy' implementations. For now, the mobile market is growing rapidly and harbors enough space for multiple platforms which we, as consumers and developers, can only applaud.


    opinionated piece, I coudl as easily argue the other side of the argument if I woudln't let objectivity and facts burden me.

  • lonely_cent

    i will give A to meego tablet ui,Netbook ui and ivi ui. but handset ui still seems in an early stage , and i will give it a d-. cant wait for next year april. meego handset ui update will be on that date.just seein meego tablet ui, i think handset ui will be A+. hello fans of android. Unlike android , meego is a full linux OS.means meego will be more powerful than Android. i love linux nd android too. if meego is goood , i will prefer meego above all other oS's.

  • Michael Vakulenko

    @patrik: There is no contradiction. We can argue on whether MeeGo is better on a specific feature or openness. This is not the point. The point is that MeeGo does not bring any significant breakthrough in any of the technical, user experience or ecosystem aspects. It cannot enjoy significant advantage over today's leaders. New opportunities will be first seized by those who are currently in the market, talking to partners, building ecosystems, picking up and setting trends. MeeGo misses all this action and will most chances hit the ground running in wrong direction, if at all.

    Besides, there is BIG "if" in your assertion. Judging by past experience, Nokia and Intel do not excel in "defining the impact of key techonology trends and standards".

  • I posted a long answer yesterday here. Is it in some moderation queue or simply lost?

  • > Judging by past experience, Nokia and Intel do not excel in

    > “defining the impact of key techonology trends and standards”.

    Excuse me? Don't you see the role of Intel and Nokia defining computers and mobile devices as we understand them today?

  • waldo

    @lonely_cent. What do you mean Meego will be more powerful than Android?

    You mean a Java layer is more inefficient than Linux? Perhaps true, but are there any signs its slower to any degree that matters? Android developers wanting max efficiency can use the NDK and write their engines in C/C++ if they want.

  • We all should consider that the evolution of technology goes towards a more competitive landscape where several alternatives are available at all levels.

    There is a rising momentum against Customer Data lock-in and Data liberation: this will end up in customer base commoditization that will make the VAS market innovation pace ramp up. Competition is becoming structural to innovation.

    I'm sure that Android needs more competition: can be improved in many ways and we cannot delegate Google the smartphone innovation process.

    if many consider Windows phone 7 an emerging competitor I don't see any reason to underestimate the impact that Meego could have.

    There's no time limit when you succeed to be disruptive (I've shared my view on HOW this can be achieved, here http://wp.me/plmpp-ai) Android itself stands to demonstrate.

    Nokia and Intel are capable of driving big investments and momentum to Meego now it's time for good management and an agile product development strategy.

    We all should avoid biased considerations and focus on assessing strategies and facts and not to give too much space to sympathies and idiosyncracies

  • done




    Q t 4.7 has QML. I am using it. It is really cool.

  • iTECH


    yes. Full linux means meego is powerful. It is just like comparing android to Maemo 5 . Many knows the power of maemo 5. It is good for both hackers and software developers. At the end, good for everyone.

  • androe


    Yup. It is famous for true multi tasking. Meego for live picture multi tasking. I heard maemo hackers even overclocked over 1ghz in N900, 15% faster than Android phones. They emulate desktop games on it. And runs real linux desktop apps. N900 can also emulates desktop OS like mac,win,ubuntu. And maybe more in the future. Hope meego has all those abilities too.

  • Chris

    @Simone Cicero

    There is a time limit – Nokia does not have unlimited time to do something radical. It is bleeding market share and mindshare at an alarming pace. Intel has more time, but if the x86 CPU is no longer the centre of the world … Intel may find itself in trouble too.


    You are forgetting that Android too can run Ubuntu and that Android too can be overclocked (I am running a Galaxy S variant at 1.6 Ghz on a custom kernel … yes you can do that with Android). Desktop Windows won't run on the ARM implementations of Meego … not unless Microsoft ports Windows (which it shows no signs of doing); just the x86 ones.

    And how is the N900 faster? It has an inferior processor TI 3430, which is now outperformed by most of the top Android devices (ex: the Hummingbird and the TI 3630).

    Meego does not have a significant amount of time to prove itself and there cannot be any missteps, like an "N97" of Meego or else it will lose the mindshare.

  • Fuse

    @Buchan Milne

    Too bad I can’t upvote more.


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