When the dust settled from Nokia's announcement last week that it will transition its smartphones to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, Intel was left holding the next-generation MeeGo operating system it had been developing with the handset maker. In a panel discussion Wednesday at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said his company will continue to back MeeGo.
Otellini said he "understood" why Nokia made the decision. "I guess if I was in his position, I would have made the same or a similar call," he said. He also noted that, when Nokia CEO Stephen Elop called to give him the news, he used a swear word that Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz "has often used."
'More Than Smartphones'
Otellini told news media that MeeGo still has a future, as mobile "operators still look for an open, operator-friendly operating system."
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at industry research firm NPD Group, said the future could be on various hardware, as "there is more to MeeGo than smartphones." He noted that Intel will be offering the OS for use in motor-vehicle systems, and Intel has said that MeeGo will begin showing up in tablets sometime this year.
Ross also noted that Nokia doesn't appear to be abandoning MeeGo completely, but that it is treating the OS development "almost as an R&D project that could incubate new technology into the next disruption."
It's not clear at the moment, he said, if this "next disruption" will be incorporated into the contributions that Nokia will make to Windows Phone 7, or if Nokia will continue development and implementation on a parallel track.
Rubin pointed out that Nokia will be "contributing code" on an ongoing basis to Phone 7, including its mapping technology and the effort to adapt the OS to a wide range of hardware "beyond high-end smartphones."
'Opportunity To Learn'
Nokia has also said it will ship one MeeGo product this year as an "opportunity to learn" how it does in the marketplace.
To keep interest in MeeGo alive, Intel showed a "pre-alpha" build of the OS at the congress. It was demonstrated on a ExpoPC, an Intel Atom-based tablet. A key organizing feature of the user interface is the use of columns on the home screen to group applications by music, social networking, web, photos and so on.
With the center of gravity for computing having moved to mobile devices, and with sales of smartphones now exceeding PCs, Intel is looking to get a bigger presence in the smartphone and tablet market, where ARM processors are popular.
To help move its processors into smartphones, Intel said this week that its low-end, 32-nanometer Medfield chip will become available for smartphones later in 2011. The company said Medfield provides twice the performance for the same energy consumption as current processors when running on Android.