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Microsoft, Nokia, and MeeGo: Are they all doomed?

Windows and Linux pass in the night

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Microsoft's hook up with Nokia could do more harm than good to Windows Phone's chances in terms of broad adoption by other OEMs. Not only will Nokia "help drive and define the future of Windows Phone", but "Nokia and Microsoft will closely collaborate on development, joint marketing initiatives and a shared development roadmap."

For HTC, Samsung, LG, Asus, and Dell, Microsoft's partnership with Nokia has powerful competitive ramifications: their biggest competitor will now help Microsoft build and sell the same phone operating system that they are trying to make money from. Nokia will not just specify what goes into Windows Phone. It will also try to ensure its handsets work best with the operating system. And then Nokia will try to get more consumers through aggressive marketing. It would be like Hewlett-Packard helping design and build Windows in the early days of Microsoft when it was also partnering with IBM, Dell, and others.

It's about now that Google's Android has to be looking like an attractive, independent option. And don't think Oracle's legal action against Google over claimed Java patent violations in Android will keep Windows Phone OEMs in the Microsoft camp through fear.

Open-source code licensing watcher Black Duck has told us that Samsung, LG, and Motorola, – all clients who sell Android handsets – are pressing ahead with Android regardless of the suit. Tim Yeaton, president and CEO, said: "They are not concerned about the Google versus Oracle battle on Android. They're more concerns with getting a new rev out."

But Nokia's partnership with Microsoft and the problems for Windows Phone don't represent pure upside for Linux and open-source. While Linux crossed over to the PC elsewhere, Nokia's commitment to Linux and open source is now in serious question.

In electing to put Windows Phone on its smart phones, Nokia has turned Symbian into a "franchise platform". That sounds like anybody still using Symbian will be allowed to license Symbian from Nokia. With Nokia, Symbian's chief patron, now committed to Windows and the non-Apple world picking Android, this is putting Symbian out to pasture.

MeeGo, the open-source mobile Linux project Nokia entered into with such flourish a year ago with Intel, has been demoted from a platform play to a "project".

Intel and Nokia were the biggest backers of MeeGo, a project that helped put Intel's chips in smartphones. With the prime phone maker now putting its bets on Windows, it's questionable how many MeeGo-phones will now be build. Nokia had committed to one MeeGo phone this year.

Instead, it could be that MeeGo's focus now becomes non-phone deployments like in-car systems, set-top-boxes and netbooks.

Intel has said it remains committed to MeeGo and welcomes Nokia's continued contribution to MeeGo open source. The MeeGo Project is officially housed with the Linux Foundation, which echoed Intel's comments, saying the chip giant is "really, really committed."

Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin told The Reg that while he's naturally disappointed with Nokia's choice to back Windows instead of MeeGo, MeeGo is a community project with input from people other than just Intel and Nokia.

Among those listed as MeeGo supporters are Acer, Novell, MontaVista Software, Wind River and a slew of car companies who've committed to MeeGo through the GENVI auto alliance.

"There are definitely people out there building real products," Zemlin said. "Like any open-source project, we are patient and open. We think that's important. Linus Torvalds has 20 yeas of experience of communities forming around Linux. These communities have a life of their own." ®

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