If you’ve never played around with the Nokia, the only MeeGo handset on the market, then you’re missing out. It’s one of those handset that geeks everywhere get a little nostalgic about because MeeGo really was a great operating system. According to an industry insider Nokia is working on 2 new low end MeeGo handsets, and the information was received directly from Nokia’s Next Billion Group.
Who is the Next Billion Group?
Simply put, they are working on bringing the next billion people to the internet, the mobile phone being the first port of call for many. Since Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft, the company has essentially been divided into two groups, one focused on Windows Phone and the Next Billion Group who is responsible for the S40 & Asha lines. The two groups have completely different tasks, the Windows team obviously keeps Microsoft happy and the Next Billion Group is tasked with creating low costs handsets which will likely be the first place that they will access the internet. Even though Windows Phone has the budget Lumia 610, Windows Phone isn’t the capable of being a low cost handset for a few different reasons.
The big question is “Why would Nokia still care about Meego?”
The most obvious reason is that Windows Phone just can’t compete in the low end smartphone game. First there is the operating system which isn’t free, that alone drives up the price. If we take a look at the latest budget Windows phone the Lumia 610, it is a 256mb devices and some features are being disabled because the device just doesn’t have the available RAM.
Let’s keep on looking at Nokia’s other operating system options, there is also their S40 java based devices aka the new Asha line. This line up of handsets haven’t exactly received stellar sales numbers. One of the reasons the line isn’t performing as well is that the touch experience isn’t competitive. When you’re competing on price point it’s often about packing in as many features as possible and if you go up against similarly priced Android handsets there it is really no contest.
Nokia could also use Symbian, expect they can’t, Symbian is now run by Accenture so they don’t have control over the Symbian device roadmaps which is aimed at high end phones. So we’re going to see the same problems here as in Windows Phone 7 and the base cost of fully functioning feature rich handset are going to be too high.
Mary McDowell, the head of the Next Billion Group is tasked with creating low cost robust handsets, to do so she is going to have to come up with a touch enabled device that is able to offer an experience that will rival Android.
What other open and free operating system are out there for Nokia to consider. At Mobile World Congress 2011 Nokia dropped MeeGo in favor of Windows Phone which effectively ended MeeGo. But the community evolved MeeGo into Tizen which is backed by Samsung, Huawei, the Limo Foundation & Intel to name a few. Other major players all have one foot in with an open source operating system but when Nokia abandoned MeeGo they actually removed themselves from all open source projects. MeeGo is their only option if they really want to play in this space.
If we take a look at MeeGo and put it up against the S40 operating environment, its not even a contest which offers a better experience. The N9 SoC is actually 3 years old and offers just a snappy and robust experience as today’s modern handsets. Plus there is the added bonus that if Nokia went with MeeGo they would have access to Android apps. Getting people to continue to develop for S40 phones can’t be a easy, compare it to the effort needed with MeeGo that instantly has access to most of Androids 450,000 apps, it seems like an easy decision.
MeeGo is also a lot more adaptable than Windows Phone, its roots are in open source. PhoneNews raises some good points around MeeGo, if we think about where the next billion handsets are coming from they are going to be in areas where solar power charging may be more important than ten-point multitouch. MeeGo can also work with monochrome or e-ink display’s and the Windows Phone platform restrictions would shoot down the innovation that Nokia will need to drop smartphone technology in places where it cannot today.
Could it be that these two low end MeeGo handsets are being used to test the water to replace Nokia’s S40 line up? I’m not saying that this is the full intention, but I’m saying that it’s got to be a thought, because seriously? What operating system are they going to use to get to the next billion?
If you’re wondering who the woman is behind this project, Nokia Conversations has a nice video where she talks about the project. It is an explanation of why the S40 environment should still be interesting to developers but if you listen to what she say’s about her plans to get full featured handsets into low cost devices, she doesn’t seem like a woman who leave any stone un-turned.
Update: We like to offer a clarification, MeeGo Harmattan 1.2 is a version of MeeGo, Maemo 6 and Maemo 7 when it is released will be called MeeGo even though they are not MeeGo it it’s purest sense. Maemo.org talks about the name change here.
If you’re looking for a little more information, I’ve already written an article “Why is Nokia Still Working on MeeGo“