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Fritz Nelson
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Intel Goes MeeGo, With or Without Nokia

Intel planned to further entice developers with a MeeGo user experience reference platform and a handful of shipping MeeGo applications. Without Nokia's full support, the message fell a bit flat.

Intel Showcases MeeGo Tablet UI And Other Apps
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Slideshow: Intel Showcases MeeGo Tablet UI And Other Apps
Despite Nokia's insistence that it is still very much behind MeeGo, Intel is going to the mobile platform dance stag. It would be easy to feel sorry for them if it hadn't felt like a mistake from the beginning. "Disappointed" is how one Intel MeeGo product manager expressed the company's view on Nokia's fickleness. Still, the company presses on, announcing and demonstrating a tablet reference platform, among other advancements, at Mobile World Congress. Intel also showcased MeeGo running a variety of applications.

The MeeGo tablet user experience will run on two standard hardware devices -- the Exo PC (a Windows slate that MeeGo will run on top of) and Wetab (from 4iitoo in Germany). This is a reference platform, where developers can experiment with MeeGo applications. The user interface is primarily an unlimited scrolling experience, with content represented in panes, infinitely displayed as you scroll either vertically or horizontally. In other words, instead of building a hierarchy of content that you drill down into, everything is spread out. It seems different, but not noticeably better or worse than anything else.

Intel said that user interface elements can be written primarily in Javascript and QML (part of the QT family of MeeGo development tools); underlying application code is written in C++. All of the developer support and SDK's are availabe as part of Intel's AppUp developer program. There will also be an open submission process for tablet applications.

This is all still early days for mobile development using MeeGo. Most of the shipping applications come from some rare places, like a set-top box called Cubovision, available through Telecom Italia. Intel said it took Cubovision only six months to create the media experience capability. In China, Geely Auto is including a factory-installed in-vehicle entertainment system, running on MeeGo on Intel's Atom processor. There are Netbooks from Fujitsu (shipping in Asia) and Lenovo (shipping in Russia).

Intel sees MeeGo as far more than the typical handset-and-tablet platform, perhaps more like RIM's QNX. But without a flood of wins, and without a compelling handset or tablet story sometime this year -- a remote possibility at best, it seems -- the company will be hard pressed to attract application developers. If RIM, HP and Microsoft struggle, certainly Intel will, too.

The whole idea behind MeeGo was to unite two of the stronger mobile Linux players (Nokia and Intel), and to help avoid the fragmentation that often plagues Linux in the first place. That hasn't necessarily changed, but if Linux is to succeed as a mobile ecosystem, Intel can't go it alone.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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