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9/6/2011
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MeeGo Looks Dead In Water

Intel claims it's temporarily halting development, but we all know what that means for the MeeGo mobile platform.

With lackluster interest in its MeeGo mobile platform from carriers and manufacturers, and the need to focus its resources on more profitable areas, Intel announced that MeeGo development is being "temporarily" halted. But in the mobile device space, that is the death knell for a platform. If there was little interest when Intel was actively developing it, there will surely be even less now.

MeeGo was a joint venture launched in early 2010 between Nokia and Intel. Nokia knew Symbian was at the end of its useful life and was switching to a Maemo, a Linux based platform designed originally for tablets. Intel wanted to get in the mobile platform game as well and jumped in with Moblin, which is short for Mobile Linux.

The two companies joined forces and merged the two platforms, and thus MeeGo was born. Only one MeeGo device from Nokia saw the light of day, the N9, which was just released in June.

In February of this year, Nokia stunned the tech world when it said it was leaving both Symbian and MeeGo behind. It would transition all of its smartphone development to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform. The first of those devices should be out later this year, running the Mango update. This decision by Nokia left Intel on its own in trying to keep MeeGo alive.

The year 2011 has seen a radical consolidation of smartphone platforms. This time last year, potential candidates included Apple's iOS, Google's Android, the Intel/Nokia partnership's MeeGo, Palm's WebOS, Microsoft's Windows Phone, RIM's BlackBerry, and Nokia's Symbian; seven in total. Now there are just four. HP acquired Palm earlier this year and just killed all WebOS devices. While not formally announced, virtually everyone has given up WebOS for dead. Symbian and MeeGo are gone as well.

That leaves Android and iOS on top. BlackBerry still has significant share, but it is sliding. RIM is in the process of transitioning to a QNX-based platform, the same OS that powers its PlayBook tablet. Windows Phone is all new, replacing Windows Mobile. It is definitely the underdog at this stage, having single-digit share.

Over two years ago I wrote that the six platforms then on the market were too many. Developers couldn't hope to keep up. Today, developers have at the most three platforms to deal with--iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. The QNX based BlackBerry should run Android apps natively, which is good for developers, but that means there will never be a plethora of rich QNX apps. Two or three platforms also gives enough competition that consumers are served well with innovation and choice.

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