Even with new innovations, Microsoft will continue to employ a licensing model where phone manufacturers pay a fee for Microsoft software, Ballmer said, offering no details. He also argued that "free" software in open operating systems such as Android might not really be free.
Gold called the Meego announcement a positive for both Intel and Nokia. It will help Nokia make a "direct assault" on the enormous momentum behind Google's Android and Chrome, and will help Intel attack the ARM chip architecture used in smartphones and other smart personal devices, he said. ARM chips, developed and licensed by ARM Holdings, are used extensively in smartphones and mobile phones; Intel has developed the Atom chip to compete directly with ARM.
But Gold said "it remains to be seen if anyone besides Intel and Nokia will embrace Meego." He believes Nokia will hold onto its existing Symbian OS for lower-end mobile phones, but needs something like Meego for higher end smartphones down the road.
Nokia dominates the smartphone market today with its Symbian OS, but Android is projected to catapult to the No. 2 spot behind Nokia by 2012, according to Gartner Inc. and IDC.
While Apple's total share of the smartphone market is well behind Symbian's, the company's growth year-over-year -- and excitement over next month's arrival of the iPad -- that make it such a challenge for traditional companies like Microsoft, Intel and Nokia.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed@matthamblen or subscribe to . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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This story, "Windows Phone 7, Meego Signal New Era for Mobile" was originally published by Computerworld.