SAN JOSE, Calif. – About 1,200 developers signed up for this week's MeeGo conference on Intel's mobile Linux variant, but the future of the OS is unclear.
It's "a particularly awkward time" for the MeeGo community because the software is ready but no mainstream products using it have shipped yet, said Dawn Foster, a MeeGo community organizer at Intel. "A lot of companies are working on bringing devices to market, but they are not willing to talk about them yet," she said in a talk streamed live from the event.
"People aren’t willing to spend a lot of time learning a new SDK and APIs when there aren’t a lot of devices in the market," she added.
Intel started work on a mobile Linux variant called Moblin about two years ago. When it struck a partnership to develop smartphones with Nokia, the two companies merged their separate mobile Linux environments and renamed it MeeGo.
However, Nokia's new chief executive decided earlier this year to make Microsoft Windows Phone the company's primary smartphone platform, ending work with Intel. In the meantime, Intel turned over management of MeeGo to the Linux Foundation. Separately, an industry group defining in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) standards for cars adopted MeeGo.
"The handset market is saturated, so I don’t think MeeGo can make a significant impact on smartphones and tablets," said Michael Anderson, chief technology officer at consulting firm PTR Group, in a talk on MeeGo at the Embedded Systems Conference in April.
MeeGo could see significant penetration in IVI, however with companies such as Bosch and others expected to incorporate MeeGo into 2012-13 products, Anderson said.
Foster said about 23,000 people have signed up to participate in the online MeeGo community, however only about 800-1,000 are active on a monthly basis. The MeeGo community kicked off in October an IVI working group to hear requirements from automotive companies.
More recently it launched handset and smart TV working groups, and is considering working groups for netbooks and tablets. MeeGo backers see the work groups as one of their best tools for engaging vendors and helping drive the OS into shipping products, Foster said.
Separately, proponents are gearing up a program to get MeeGo hardware in the hands of developers. The group has about 150 XO notebooks from the One Laptop Per Child program and a commitment to one or two Panda boards per month from Texas Instruments. Developers must describe their project in an online form to apply for the hardware.
Developers have lacked hardware for testing MeeGo apps and code, especially for the IVI sector, said one MeeGo participant.
MeeGo has a handful of advantages over Google Android, by far the leading version of mobile Linux to date. The MeeGo environment is more similar to straight Linux than Android which uses the Dalvik virtual machine, Anderson said.
Developers can use popular languages such as Python with MeeGo, but not with Android. In addition, anyone willing to pay a $99 annual membership to the Linux Foundation has an equal vote on MeeGo futures. By contrast, Android is perceived as being run mainly by large handset makers, Anderson said.