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Is the Microsoft-Nokia deal the death of the MeeGo dream: a cross-device GNU+Linux-based FOSS ecosystem?

Oh Nokia, what have you done? You made a lot of mistakes in the past. And after you started making the right decisions for a short while, you screwed it up again — but this time: the big time. You hired a Trojan-CEO, who only (or at least mainly) acts in the interest of his former employer and not in yours, and who has put you completely and utterly at Microsoft’s mercy.

Recently, you got it right with so many things: You bought Qt, pushed it, and selected it as the foundation of the common SDK for both Symbian and MeeGo. You developed Qt in a very transparent manner in cooperation with the community. You opened up Symbian. You decided to use Symbian for your low-end and mid-end feature phones and MeeGo for your mid-end and high-end smartphones (and tablets potentially). You put MeeGo under the auspices of an independent and renowned foundation, the Linux Foundation, and you found big and important partners to cooperate with for this project: Intel, AMD, Novell, the car industry (GENIVI), …

The MeeGo project got so many things right: In contrast to Android, MeeGo is not just a (nearly 100%) free and open source mobile operating system. Compared to Android, MeeGo is developed in a quite openly, and unlike Android, MeeGo is based on many standard well-established FOSS components from the GNU+Linux world: The Linux kernel (ok, Android’s got this one, as well :), the GNU tool chain, Qt, Telepathy, uTouch, udev, Btrfs and so on. Furthermore, MeeGo follows the maxime of working closely with the upstream free software projects, which is very important for a successful and sustainable (free) software development. With these facts in mind, many people have placed great hope in MeeGo and Nokia’s involvement in MeeGo that it will help a lot to fight the fragmentation of open open source software and to create a FOSS ecosystem ranging from the desktop, to netbooks, tablets, embedded systems (e.g. in cars), and smartphones (BTW: The closest example for such a software ecosystem in the proprietary world for sure are Apple’s MacOSX and iOS, which share a huge common code base). The leaked video of the MeeGo handset UX running on an emulator does look quite promising.

Regarding the thing with the »ecosystem« (now using the term in a broader sense as Stephen Elop did in his memo): It is true, for being successful with smartphones, you do not only need great hardware and great software, you need such an »ecosystem«. But Nokia would not have needed to drop MeeGo to »build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.« There would have been plenty of other better possibilities for Nokia:

  • Apps: Nokia has a common cross-platform SDK based on Qt to build Apps for Symbian and MeeGo at the same time. There are thousands of Qt experienced programmers out there. Furthermore, there is the Myriad Alien Dalvik VM, which brings all the Android Apps out of the box to MeeGo in a nicely integrated manner. Third: If Nokia and Microsoft really wanted to make a deal that both companies benefit from, they could have ported Silverlight to MeeGo (maybe using Moonlight and Mono to so) and Qt to Windows Phone 7 and build a common app store.
  • Music: There is Ovi Music. Ok, I admit it, Ovi Music isn’t that successful ;) — but is Microsoft Zune? Why not make a deal with Amazon for example — or with 7digital as Canonical did?
  • eBooks: Amazon? Google?
  • Maps and navigation: Ovi maps (navigation) is quite good! And by the way: Apple does not have its own map service (and not its own search engine) for the iPhone/iPad/i* — it seems Apple does not need it to be successful.

You see, there are plenty of possibilities, all of them better than getting bought by Microsoft for 0$.

What do you think (now addressing the reader, yes, you! :)? Do you think hiring Elop and this MS-Nokia deal was some sort of hostile take-over and conspiracy by Microsoft to kill GNU+Linux on the end user market? Or do you think this Microsoft-Nokia deal is good for the customers and good for Nokia? Do you think there is a chance that Nokia sees reason and reconsiders MeeGo as a strategic platform again (there is a petition)? Do think MeeGo is dead without Nokia being committed to it? Intel says MeeGo is still alive. Do you think this dream of a cross-device GNU+Linux-based FOSS ecosystem still has a chance?