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Spillikins #94. MeeGo: Dreams of World Dominance out of Great Nothing
Last week turned out to be rich in behind-the-scenes events but not their public discussion. I hope to be able to tell you about many of them in the nearest future but at the moment have to say that a lot of time was spent on investigating the issue of defective Nokia N8 and Nokia C7 units. I am certain that knowledge is power, and as such, you are welcome to read the corresponding material on our website. In the meantime, let's discuss those few events that caught my attention last week.
The everlasting quantitative growth of technical characteristics (that is, when it is the screen resolution or the amount of RAM, etc. that increase) can sometimes become qualitative. For example, many of you may remember how bad integrated cameras in mobile phones were at first. It hardly made any sense to discuss their quality and one was free to use all his or her imagination to make out what had actually been photographed. Nowadays, phone cameras have become generally applicable, allowing for a decent picture quality both for immediate preview on the handset and computer screens and 10x15 prints. The technological progress breathes new life into old features. On the other hand, trying to lower the costs of a new device may sometimes have adverse effects on its quality. For example, if you install an 8-megapixel camera but cut down on autofocus, all the megapixels will effectively be wasted and the resulting images will be just horrible.
Earlier this month, I got my hands on the cheapest Android smartphone on the market. Manufactured by ZTE, the device is known as the MTC 916 in Russia and costs around EUR 150. It looks like a good deal for a handset with Android 2.1 onboard unless you know that its 2.8-inch screen has a QVGA resolution. In your opinion, is that enough for Android? My firm belief is that the fact that the OS supports such screens doesn't at all imply that they should ever be used. The same is true for the Samsung i550 and i580 with their 240x400 pixels displays. Even Samsung's proprietary shell can't help improve the situation as a lot of software has been created with higher resolutions in mind and simply won't work properly.
Every now and again, I am being asked to help choose a phone for someone and the question that has been bugging me for about a year now is "where the heck did all clamshells go?" You may come across a model or two in the low-end but will find virtually nothing if you are shopping for something a bit classier. Even Samsung, the most ardent supporter of the form factor, has left the segment, cutting down on its slider lineup along the way. So, how did it happen that clamshells became history?
The answer should probably be searched for in the latest production trends. Hardware manufacturers have limited resources and simply aren't able to create and promote hundreds of products at a time. Instead, they have to concentrate on the most promising projects. And that would be touch-sensitive phones, which can hardly have any other form factor than the slate. It is their very nature. The slate has become the most popular form factor, striking clamshells and sliders out of our lives. And that's a pity, as all former market diversity is gone now. One shouldn't expect the situation to improve anytime soon as the mobile market is akin to the fashion house and serves mass needs only. And it is sensor phones that are demanded these days. It's just as simple as that.
I came across Modu in 2008 in Barcelona. The company offered a tiny phone, which could be added different "jackets" to alter its functionality. Do you need a camera Ц here comes a "jacket" with camera. Looking for more memory and buttons Ц no problem! The idea was interesting, but its implementation was controversial and several issues could not be solved. To avoid repetition I will redirect you to the old article:
I recently heard that the Israeli company of 30 suffers from low sales, lack of investment and cannot attract new partners. Its founder Dov Moran plans to make some employees redundant, but continue the production of tiny modular handsets.
Representatives of the company even appeared in Russia. After the deal with Beeline failed Modu will try to take this market itself. They will use touchscreen Modu T with several "jackets". I had an opportunity to play with the first Modu and Modu T. I think I will take time before writing their reviews. We shouldn't hurry in this case. These devices do not have a practical interest (I am not sure you will buy them), but you may be curious. Hopefully, one day I will turn my interest in this project into an article.
I think you remember Panasonic handsets as 10 years ago they impressed us with their highly original design. They were not very popular and it was quite logical for them to disappear from shops. This time around Panasonic plans to return with Android smartphones. In 2011 they are going to offer solutions for Japan and introduce them in Europe one year later.
This example shows how the popularity of an OS allows different companies to reenter the lost markets. It is not clear if Panasonic will enjoy popularity in Europe, even if they are really planning to offer their devices in 2011, but it is good to hear about such ideas.
Samsung flagship got a "brother" in the shape of its Giorgio Armani version. As you know in the US several variants of Galaxy S are available. One of them is Samsung Captivate for AT&T. In Europe we will get an Armani device. There are not so many differences Ц two Armani shops shortcuts in the menu, several wallpapers and ringtones. If you compare the latest model with its predecessors, which had thoroughly redesigned menus and design, we can't find anything special here. Followers of fashion will have to pay around И700 for the handset. It is expensive, but some are ready to pay for two favorite words on the phone's body?
To clarify the plans of the manufacturer we have to tell that two flagships will be offered Ц one based on the current Galaxy S processor, while the second model will get an interesting update.
One of our readers asked a question, why we don't cover the conference on MeeGo, which is the best OS for mobile phones. Unfortunately, Mobile-Review.com cannot take part in PR events where people are explained that nonexistent products are the best in the world. How one can claim MeeGo to be better than Symbian, Android or even Windows Phone 7? This OS is currently in development and there is no basis for it to be interesting from day one. Sales of Nokia N900 showed that Maemo was perplexing for ordinary people, though some bought it. During the year its price decreased two times, which is good for a handset with minimal sales.
Remember that top managers of Nokia were planning to introduce a flagship on MeeGo in 2010. At the end of 2010 new CEO of the company postponed this event until 2011. Bear in mind that 6 months are enough for a new generation of products to go on sale. This period is huge for the market of mobile solutions. Even if you take 12 months instead of 6 Nokia MeeGo delays cannot be justified.
In Dublin were announced minimum requirements to MeeGo smartphones - 512 MB of RAM, 512 MB for the OS, and ARM v7 processor (or, x86) from 600 MHz. Sadly, we do not get the entire information, for example, Nokia hasn't decided on recommended screen resolution. The current specification is numbered as 1.2 and will be released in April of 2011. 1.3 will be available in October of 2011 if we don't have any delays.
Modest figures don't offer anything revolutionary. Careful examination shows that developers of MeeGo are not sure where are they going and what will happen tomorrow. People responsible for the desktop in MeeGo asked everybody at the conference to offer their suggestions, which is a good example of the fact that employees in Nokia don't know what to do. Earlier the company came up with solutions, which created standards for the industry and were copied by others. Their professionals were top class. Now they imitate transparence, while trying to save on employees, who could make a real breakthrough in the interface development.
I suggest reading the following commentary on Habrahabr. I guess you will learn more about the quality, speed of development and vague future plans around MeeGo. It's a pity, but excellent hardware of Nokia N9 is becoming increasingly outdated, because Nokia takes too much time to create an interface.
I have to say it again that people claiming MeeGo to be the best OS without seeing a single product are not smart enough. In terms of next mobile revolutions wait for CES in January when breakthrough solutions on Tegra from Nvidia will be unveiled.
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Published 23 November 2010
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