MeeGo and the Great Betrayal Myths of tech history
Twitter fanbois demand resurrection of burned-out platform
Nokia's first MeeGo phone is amazing - why did they chuck MeeGo away?
So say Linux fanbois distraught after Stephen Elop turned Nokia's future platform into a rolling skunkworks project. They've started a petition. It's got 287 signatories. "Reality denial" doesn't even begin to sum it up.
The N9 does look quite slick, admittedly, and I won't bet against more MeeGo devices trickling out here and there - maybe even from Nokia. It may even capitalise on that enthusiast market, which may or may not be there for years. But don't look for Nokia to return to it - as Elop said recently, the company's "Plan B" is making sure "Plan A" works.
MeeGo isn't coming back, and to me, looks to have all the makings of a betrayal myth. These are popular with idealistic political groups, usually (but not always) on the Left, for whom Being Right is more important than Winning. I suppose it's been around since Marx's false consciousness (although he never used the phrase); and eventually Being Right becomes the whole point.
It's not about taking power, or making it work, but demonstrating one's splendid ideological purity. Betrayal myths are also popular with technology enthusiasts too - I know, because I've seen several.
In this narrative, a bold and brilliant piece of technology is thwarted not because it isn't good enough, or has failed in the marketplace, but because of (delete where applicable) marketing incompetence, or nefarious interference. If that interference comes from Microsoft, so much the better.
A great example is Digital Equipment Corporation's Shark network computer. I have it on impeccable authority that the Shark was killed off because Compaq had acquired DEC, and feared losing its Windows license. Microsoft played hardball tactics with OEMs on pricing all the time, even IBM found itself on the end of this. Redmond was at its most paranoid and somehow thought a cronky Java terminal was a mortal threat to its entire business. The Shark never even launched.
But the greatest Betrayal Myth of all belongs to OS/2. IBM developed this OS with Microsoft and then decided to go it alone, hoping that a vague strategy built on microkernel buzzword marchitecture - that embraced Apple, Unix and OS/2 - would be unstoppable. It wasn't even coherent.
The GUI version of OS/2 had already been on the market for almost four years by the time the first competitive version of OS/2 2.0, IBM's 32bit version, began to ship - and the opportunity to conquer the desktop had already gone.
By 1992 Microsoft had succeeded in replacing almost half of the PCs running DOS with Windows, a GUI that nobody was ecstatic about but most IT buyers thought would eventually improve enough to pass muster. They wanted a GUI to reduce training costs, run the basics, and build Noddy forms-based applications so departments and branch offices could query a database.
OS/2 was better than Windows - but the best doesn't always win
OS/2 succumbed to the inevitable because it didn't have enough OS/2 developers - it juggled DOS and Windows 3.1 quite well, but the OS/2 applications either weren't there, or weren't very good. Once Windows had slithered onto the enterprise desktop, it would take something an order of magnitude better and cheaper to replace it - something a "bit better" wouldn't be enough. The business world outside the IBM camp quite liked where they were, too, and weren't in a hurry to go back and limit their future choices.
After two more versions, OS/2 limped on into 1996, but IBM knew the game was up: OS/2 just wasn't popular enough. And flogging the dead horse was bad for the rest of IBM's business.
"'IBM Only' solutions have caused client/server customers to lose confidence," an internal memo later reported.
If there was the slightest chance that OS/2 had captured, say even 20 per cent desktop share, Big Blue might have kept on investing in it. But it really was too late. Yet to this day there are people who insist it was a terrible betrayal, and if only IBM had marketed it better, the users would have seen the light, and Microsoft's ascent would have been checked.
Next page: Schisms in the Church of Unix™
It's all pretty much irrelevant now
Meego might or might not have run a set of amazing smartphones - however it is really aimed at the generic smart device market rather than specifically phones. There are quite a few Meego devices, most of them go inside cars.
Symbian did run a lot of good smartphones and featurephones.
Symbian is dead and buried, Meego lives on at Intel.
Windows Phone 7 was very nearly dead in the water before it even launched due to the association with Windows Mobile 6.x, and has received several cuts due to apparent MS incompetence. (I say 'apparent' because it's quite likely much of that is down to the operators rather than MS directly.)
So really, Nokia are on an extremely-high-risk path - for Nokia to survive, both MS and Nokia have to get their act together quickly enough to produce some feature-rich and *perfect* WP7 phones before the customers all move elsewhere.
If there is any smell of the Windows Mobile problems there at all, Nokia will fail.
If they fail to integrate perfectly with Outlook and IMAP, Nokia will fail. (Oh dear - WP7 currently doesn't sync to Outlook....)
However, if WP7 fails, Microsoft won't.
That's the basic problem here - Nokia have tied themselves to a brand-new, unproven ship made by a company with a history of ships that sink. Unfortuantely for Nokia, the captain of that new ship doesn't really care all that much, and is very well insured should it sink.
this has the makings
of an interesting and well-argued article.
Do let us know when you've finished it.
I don't know Andrew ...
you normally write reasonably sensible stuff, but this looks like a bad hair day.
OS/2: at one time this outsold Windoze by a wide margin in Germany, a market where people tend to prefer function over form. There were tons of first-rate apps for it, starting with StarOffice as OS/2 only in its first 5 iterations before Sun bought the company as part of its attempt to move all OS/2 desktops to itself. OS/2 is till used by HSBC bank here in the UK due to its acquisition of Midland bank. The reason I switched from OS/2 to Gentoo Linux was simply that it got to the point where I spent more time maintaining the toolchain than using it, and have to say that the crap multi-threading, while know on Wind, was a shock on Linux. Try compiling something, burning a CD and doing other normal stuff simultaneously on OS/2 and it works; on Linux you burn coasters (not that I would go back mind ..). What really happened, as documented in various US records, is that IBM suits lost their bottle in the face of illegal pressure by MS.
Android - I have a Samsung Galaxy S, bought straight after a Nokia 5800 (only a so-so touch screen phone) and this is frankly a disappointment. Android is only saved because its rooted, has a custom ROM and apps like ConnectBot with portforwarding etc, otherwise the whole thing is immature and sloppy. But that's Google sloppiness for you, starting with their gratuitous mangling of the FHS, to their choice of Java instead of something decent like QT, to the rough and sloppy implementation of core apps (as I first found when writing a perl interface for GoogleCheckout). It long ago became apparent that "Do no evil" was not a promise from them to the world, but a command to the world to "do no evil" to Google.
Meego - I'm not a fanboi, don't know where you might vote and CBA bothering with it. But I would buy a Nokia Meego phone in a heartbeat, as many others would. Standard Linux and FHS, able to run a shedload of Linux apps, supported across phones, tablets and automotive systems etc. And with Nokia engineers it would have all the tweaks to battery life and basic functions that Symbian is so good at.
Nokia's problem has always been piss-poor management, and that has only been exacerbated with Elop's final mismanagement before the boat sinks - a classic example being his assertion that they would recoup decimated mark-ups in "services", while being unable to explain or quantify to questioners what this meant.
Is Elop also a 'myth'? Alas no, this is just as calamitously real as the others mentioned, and even though betrayal is the wrong attitude for the problem, the fact is that none of these situations benefited us poor mugs in consumer land at all, and in fact we are the losers on every count.