MeeGo Offers Platform Diversity Beyond Smartphones

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Nokia and Intel announced the merger of Nokia's Maemo operating system with Intel's Moblin operating system to create a new, Linux-based, open source smartphone platform--MeeGo. An alliance between tech giants the caliber of Nokia and Intel is bound to draw some attention, but MeeGo is facing an uphill battle to try and scratch out a market amid established smartphone competitors.

Noia and Intel are merging Maemo and Moblin to create new MeeGo operating system
Although Apple's iPhone is the second place smartphone platform in the United States, well behind RIM's BlackBerry, and the iPhone doesn't even register on the market share for mobile phones in general, iPhone is the smartphone platform to beat. The slick hardware, combined with its simple, intuitive interface, and over 150,000 available apps have carved out more than a simple niche and have made the iPhone the platform to beat.

Google's Android has emerged as arguably the best iPhone competition to date. Google is not Apple, but rivals Apple in terms of brand recognition and the loyalty of its users. The fact that Android is an open-source operating system, and that Android-based devices like the Droid and the Nexus One are available with wireless providers other than AT&T both provide solid arguments leading some users to choose Android over iPhone and driving the growth of the platform.

The iPhone and Android platforms have captured the hearts and imaginations of consumers. While it pales in comparison to the iPhone App Store, Android has around 20,000 apps and growing. These two platforms don't lead in smartphone market share (yet), but they are the platforms that are driving innovation and raising the bar.

When it comes to business presence--at one time the sole target audience for smartphones, RIM has established the BlackBerry as the de facto platform. While RIM has done almost nothing innovative and hasn't even really kept pace with its smartphone competitors, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and RIM's dominant position in the enterprise have allowed RIM to stay on top of the smartphone market in the United States for the time being.

Microsoft is the wildcard right now when it comes to smartphones aimed at business professionals. The Windows Mobile platform has languished and been in decline for some time. Microsoft released an interim version, Windows Mobile 6.5, to attempt to keep pace with competitors while struggling to reinvent the platform with Windows Mobile 7.

With the unveiling of Windows Mobile 7 this week, Microsoft is in an enviable position. While Windows Mobile has lost market share and dropped to third place behind the iPhone, it still has a solid slice of the smartphone pie and its seamless integration with the servers, desktops, and applications predominantly relied on by businesses puts Microsoft on the right track to regain some smartphone swagger and perhaps eventually even pass Apple and RIM.

So, where does MeeGo fit in? Nokia is the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. However, it has been riding that title for a while as its market share has been bleeding away. Symbian, which is now an open source operating system, still makes up most of the Nokia portfolio.

Nokia just introduced Maemo--which was met with mixed reviews. Now, Maemo will be merged with another obscure platform in Moblin, to create an equally obscure new operating system that has little hope of capturing market share from Apple, Google, RIM, and Microsoft in the smartphone arena.

Where Nokia and Intel might be able to create some success for MeeGo is in the cross-platform opportunities. Competing head-on with established smartphone platforms is not a very good strategy, but Nokia and Intel also have their sights set on bigger prey, like leveraging MeeGo for netbooks, notebooks, televisions, car computer systems, and more.

The broader application of MeeGo could yield success for Nokia and Intel, enabling them to circumvent the smartphone competition and blaze their own trail into new markets. If MeeGo can establish itself in other markets, the integration with MeeGo-enabled smartphones might help outflank competitors and ultimately lead to a bigger piece of the smartphone market.

Businesses need smartphones with emphasis on the "smart". Consumers love bells and whistles, but companies are more focused on how the device can improve efficiency and increase productivity. A camera with a flash, or built-in music player are frivolous, while the ability to connect with backend business systems, and integrate with business processes is critical. Straddling smartphones, netbooks, and other platforms may prove to be a benefit that businesses can leverage.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies . He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW , and can be contacted at his Facebook page .

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