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Spillikins No 139. Meltemi from Nokia
Last week was literally packed with events as if taking revenge for the lull of the previous fortnight. My attention was split between a multitude of news, but I tried to concentrate on the top ones for this issue of Spillikins. Let’s agree not to speculate about iPhone 5 and wait until its announcement on October 4 and then discuss the long-awaited incarnation of the hit device.
We are not going to dwell on rumors that Eastman Kodak is close to bankruptcy. The news started appearing after the company hired a famous law firm specializing in bankruptcy procedures. Kodak denies everything, but its shares lost 50% of their value. It is an awful scenario for Kodak and the situation is going to deteriorate with every coming day.
This story is a funny one. Someone decided to buy a phone in an online auction. In the box the owner found a smartphone with the new Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android, which is slated to appear in Google Nexus Prime this month and only afterwards it will become available for other handsets. The lucky person managed to make a video of the phone and firmware before his phone was blocked and contents were remotely deleted. There is no doubt who did that, but we can still watch the video. It is clear that the task manager was changed and it now resembles the one featuring in tablets, which is not convenient to my mind. Interface changes are not critical, but the video does not show all differences clearly due to low quality.
This week was far from happy for MeeGo developers, because some were still hopeful (in vain) that Intel will try to save the project despite the fact that Nokia was out. At the same time the Finnish company started shipping Nokia N9, which gave false hopes to developers and rejuvenated fans of the OS. Sales of Nokia N9 were delayed from August to October. In Nokia points of sales we could see huge posters and models of the new phone, but you still cannot see the model in flesh. The rare few who will purchase 92,000 items manufactured by Nokia will be happy to know that the technical support will continue until 2015. Support here means servicing, but not the new versions of the OS or serious updates. The same fate was destined for N800 and N900, so we should not expect that the company suffering losses in all segments will waste precious resources on the dead OS.
The official death of MeeGo was proclaimed by the company, which was depressed by this development more than others. Intel mentioned that the cooperation with Nokia was a costly mistake. The idea of mobile Linux appeared inside Intel in the summer of 2007. The project was named Moblin (mobile linux) and served as an answer to Microsoft and its Windows for Intel Atom. Intel needed its own OS, but their answer was weak. No one needed Moblin, when everybody wanted Windows?
Acknowledging its weakness Intel decided to boost the development of Moblin and its interests coincided with those of Nokia. Maemo (Linux for phones) required a support in the shape of new products like tablets and laptops offered by Intel. At the beginning of 2010 companies joined forces and launched MeeGo. In May 2010 the first version for netbooks appeared followed by further versions. Crucially the phone became available only in October of 2011. It will be the first and last MeeGo smartphone. Nokia left the project, which was a setback for Intel. People in Intel have good sense of humor and they managed to pay back.
Welcome Tizen – a new open source project of Intel and Samsung. Thus Intel shows they can easily replace Nokia in their developments. Promises are similar to those when Intel cooperated with Nokia. We have an open source, OS for a variety of devices, independent unit to determine the strategy of the project, etc. The strategy may be right, but the team is the all important issue here. So far Samsung failed to achieve success in the area. They tried to come up with LiMo phones for Vodafone, but despite the interesting interface models did not enjoy popularity and the company stopped the project. Only a couple of phones were launched and you can watch one of the models in this video.
The desire to start Tizen was emotional and hasty. You cannot find appropriate information on websites of Samsung or Intel. The only insight is that it is based on html5. There is no Qt here, which is logical. If Samsung or Intel had successful record in the area we could have hoped for a serious OS to rival current players. Both companies lack the expertise and I do not believe they can come up with something decent. Motorola tried to develop Linux for mobile phones, but flopped. The same applied to other companies, so do not pay attention to Tizen until we get first results. At the moment it is a PR product to rub salt into Nokia wounds and nothing more.
Do you remember a video when the CEO of Nokia proudly boasted the first WP7 model in front of company employees? In one of his utterances he mentioned the importance of Meltemi project, which was under way. Taking into account the audience this sounded as mockery. Within the framework of MeeGo favored by the Vice-President Ansi Vanjoki, who left immediately after the arrival of Elop, several versions of MeeGo (known before as Maemo) were planned for different price segments. Earlier purchased Qt offered the transfer of apps between devices and made development tools easy and available to the majority of developers. Nokia ecosystem had to be based on Linux.
Two branches were started - Harmattan (Maemo 6) and Meltemi (Maemo 6.5). Built on one core they differed with their UI and several features. For example, the junior version had to work with slower processors and required less resources. For Nokia in 2009 it was one of the few ways to go back in front and offer a new generation of models unrivalled in the market. The plan was to start with flagship models and move to mid-priced solutions and replace S40 and Symbian devices. Nokia was ready to risk and give the market a chance to choose between Symbian and Maemo.
Stephen Elop decided that MeeGo (Maemo) project must be halted and all development had to be used for new WP7 models. Nokia reduced their team of developers, which were represented predominantly by MeeGo. April words of Elop about the importance of Meltemi were targeted at programmers, who had work at the time. It was a temporary solution and Nokia has no chances for success here. Without an eye-catching flagship junior models will not impress the market. Moreover, the publicized decision not to support MeeGo scared off even the last remaining developers. By ditching Qt as the main development tools and selecting equivalent tools from Microsoft for WP7 Nokia heralded its own powerlessness. Even the polished Meltemi will suffer from the lack of additional apps. The strategy has been chosen and this OS has no future. Only fans of Linux or Nokia will cheer about it. The same happened with Linux models from Motorola, which received a tiny number of apps. These were ordinary phones, but with Linux inside and could not compete with smartphones. Nothing shows that Nokia by selecting Meltemi as a measure to keep some developers afloat will make this OS popular. It cannot happen, which is a pity, because the initial strategy was right. Elop changed everything and these ideas are now things of the past.
Earlier this year I expressed my opinion about Nokia not being able to sustain their production facilities. The company does not need to produce that many handsets anymore because it is losing its market share all around the world – smaller demand means less production is required. The first victim of the market loss is the company’s factory in Romania. The reason here is not the cheaper Asian production but the fact that Nokia has lost a big share of the European market. Factories scattered around the world help the company save on transportation and for a company as big as Nokia every cent saved on transportation helps save millions. But since recently this factory was not operating at its full capacity and it’s now cheaper to close it down and ship phones from overseas. Next Nokia factories in line for closing down are the ones in Mexico, Hungary and Finland – the company is already considering it. However sad, this was to be expected.
Moreover, Nokia announced new lay-offs – 3500 employees this time mostly engaged in Nokia Maps and commercial departments in Bonn, Germany and Malvern, US. Those offices will be closed down by the end of the next year. Unfortunately, what we see here is the company’s desperate attempts to make ends meet by cutting big parts off itself as it did before by almost annihilating its own R&D department. The path Nokia is on right now did not end well for any telecom company (like Motorola or Sony Ericsson) – they are now struggling to survive.
Nokia is financing wars in the third world and you have got blood in your cell phone – this is the theme of a documentary called “Blood in the Mobile” shot by a Danish film maker. This film as well as the fact as Nokia won’t comment on it got to shock Europeans who care about the origin of the products they use. In an interview on this movie the director tells a lot about his communication with the company reps.
This video illustrates very well the way Nokia’s PR department works – two weeks and no reply.
A very strange thing has happened and I believe Microsoft is just trying to get attention. Microsoft all of a sudden announced that Samsung agreed to pay for MS technologies they use in their Android smartphones. The company did not give any specifics on the amount of payments or technologies concerned. Microsoft is certainly trying to make it look like a big victory in the Patent War and make other companies yield to their demands. Earlier this year Samsung and MS had an agreement that concerned the use of MS Exchange in most of Samsung phones (regular touchscreens, non-touchscreens, Bada, Android etc.). That agreement covered Samsung phones in general not Android smartphones specifically but it seems like MS decided to suddenly remember that agreement to create a victorious aura. One of the reasons for that is the litigation with Motorola which seems to going nowhere. I am not sure that this PR trick will do the company any good but it is an interesting move nonetheless.
This piece of news is just in and we learned that there is a serious security vulnerability in HTC Android smartphones that can allow malefactors to access your personal information stored in the phone. You can find a detailed description of this issue here.
The issue of mobile phone security is very acute but it should never be exaggerated like this story here will probably be. You should understand that hackers need to be exploiting vulnerabilities faster than HTC programmers fix them and in this case I bet HTC will fix the problem very quickly. Look at the bright side, this story is a good example of how regular users can help improve an OS by publicly discussing a problem without harming anyone. I think this practice should be encouraged and I think this problem will be soon fixed.
P.S. I took some material out of this issue of the Spillikins not to overencumber it like an article on Amazon Kindle Fire you will be able to read very soon. I hope you will enjoy reading it just as much as I enjoyed working on it. I wish you a good week. Best regards.
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Published 10 October 2011
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