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Fireworks in Cairo; A 'Burning Platform' in Espoo

by Roger Lanctot | 2月 12, 2011

Both Cairo and Espoo witnessed revolutions on Friday, Feb. 11th. Mobs in the streets of Cairo saw the 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak come to an end and Espoo saw global handset market leader Nokia embrace the smartphone platform of rival Microsoft. While Egyptians have been left to sort out what their nearly bloodless military coup hath wrought, the open source community surrounding Nokia’s now cast-off platform is assessing the long-term prospects for MeeGo and the Qt developer framework.

The implications for the automotive OS world are yet unclear.

Nokia says the first device using MeeGo is still in the works and will arrive later in 2011. Absent from any public statements at the announcement of the partnership with Microsoft was the statement of a plan for supporting MeeGo as the open source OS choice of the automotive GenIVI Alliance.

By the end of the day, crowds in Tahrir Square in Cairo were setting off fireworks and celebrating deep into the night as Mubarak made his way to the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Meanwhile, executives involved in the Qt developer community suggested, by Friday evening, that there was no change in their plans as a result of the Nokia-Microsft announcement. Intel made a belated statement of support for MeeGo:

“Our strategy has always been to provide choice when it comes to operating systems. MeeGo is one of those choices. We support a port of choice strategy that includes Windows, Android, and MeeGo. This is not changing.

“MeeGo is not just a phone OS, it supports multiple devices. It is already shipping and we’re seeing early momentum across multiple segments today, including automotive systems, netbooks, tablets, and set-top boxes.”

Operating system momentum in the automotive industry is slow to build and slow to dissipate. By now, MeeGo and GenIVI indeed have momentum. But there is no doubt that the Nokia announcement was NOT good news for either MeeGo or GenIVI. Both MeeGo and Mubarak were clearly “thrown under the bus.” (Perhaps it is more accurate to say Symbian was thrown under the bus, but MeeGo was clearly de-emphasized.)

In the short-term, the Nokia-Microsoft announcement is a minor blip on the automotive OS radar screen. Longer term, industry executives will watch closely to see the impact on developer support. If Stephen Elop learned nothing else from his time with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (http://bit.ly/qiASt) it is the power of developers.

Qt and MeeGo both have already attracted legions of enthusiastic developers. Elop’s handling of the announcement reflected a cultural disconnect between an executive coming from outside the open source world taking the helm at a company steeped in the rich broth of open source solutions including Symbian, MeeGo and Qt.

While there is no doubt that the open source community failed to deliver the competitive edge Nokia needed, the company might take better care that it is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Nokia must decide whether it can support both the open source community and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7.

It is worth noting that no one in the industry is questioning Google's commitment to Android.

Conclusion:

Strategy Analytics expects a strong statement of support from Nokia for Qt and MeeGo at this week’s Mobile World Congress. A late statement of commitment and support is better than no statement at all. The legions of developers around the world that are bringing energy to those platforms – which are NOT in flames, to use Elop’s analogy – would benefit from a strong endorsement equivalent to the one given by Nokia to former rival Microsoft.

GenIVI will likely forge ahead with or without MeeGo over the long haul. As an open source platform, GenIVI has the flexibility to shift to a new distribution of Linux if necessary. The ship has already sailed and there is no turning back. It’s just not clear that Nokia is on board. And the company is certainly not at the helm.

Additional insight:

- Tosses the Car Keys to Microsoft - Insight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service

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