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2010-11-12 The Promise of MeeGo

For a while, my understanding has been that Intel has been mostly, if not all, about hardware. I am tending to change my opinion after attending the MeeGo seminar. It was a decent show. Wondered why two of the declared speakers didnt make it. Those who did, however, spoke well - Preethi Raj and Prem Chandra Rao from Intel and Prafulla Joshi from Wind River. For the first time, I did some live tweeting and enjoyed it. I saw some familiar faces, including Ramkrishna Reddy, but didn't create time to chat up. These are my notes from the seminar.

MeeGo revolves primarily around the Intel Atom (and also a bit around the ARM) architechture. MeeGo has an embedded linux pedigree (being of Moblin and Maemo descent), is fully open source and is targetted towards various kinds of devices like netbooks, tablets, smart-tv, handhelds, IVI, and mediaphone. I noted the lack of specific mention of mobile phones - officially, that is. One of the attendants declared that he was using a MeeGo based mobile phone and folks were welcome to see it, but I lost him in the crowd.

C/C++ is the primary development language and Qt the chosen development platform - meaning the Qt Creator IDE, other developer tools, the Qt Meta Language (QML) for data interfaces and so on. One can sign up at and download the just released SDK and try it out. Apart from netbooks, there aren't many kinds of devices with MeeGo on them, as yet, and the promise is of first quarter of 2011. There is the emulator of course, as part of the SDK, to ease development. As of now, the SDK and emulator is available only for linux, the windows and mac versions are 'coming soon'. There are also the 3 versions of Qt licences to contend with - the GPL, LGPL, and commercial. Help is also available in the form of the #meego channel on IRC as well as mailing lists and so on. Check MeeGo Zone out.

The API is grouped into these modules: Security, System, Location, Multimedia, Communications, Qt, PIM, Graphics, Essentials, Kernel, Software Management and Data Management. MeeGo doesn't encourage virtual machine based development, and there is no support for any kind of runtimes. One needs to do native C/C++ and Web (html, css, ...) development for the x86 (Atom) architecture and this is supposed to be a differentiator in terms of better performance of the applications developed. I tend to agree. We were shown a cool looking Cloth Shader UI. I also noticed a nice and narrow but thick font used for the presentations. Why do I think I've seen it before on Nokia phones !? :)

The applications thus developed will need to go through Intel's compliance program and can be sold on the Intel AppUp Marketplace. Yet another mobile application marketplace, ostensibly to provide a single marketplace for range of devices ! One difference I thought I noted was that it allows for monetising oppurtunities for developers of libraries, components and so on. This feature can get it popular fast. App developers get 70% of the pie and 30% goes to Intel. It gets a bit more complicated if the app uses a component sourced from the store.

I was expecting a better crowd than was present, though it was good in terms of numbers. People forgot that this was all about Intel and MeeGo. They asked questions like "Does meego support write-once-run-anywhere (java) ? Why not, its a better way to develop you know !" and "Will Android applications run on MeeGo devices ?" and "What? meego sdk api doesn't support MSExchange? but android does !" and also "What? No cloud API in the SDK ? No 'face detection'? meego no care for visually impaired ?" :) You get the drift.

WindRiver is an Intel company since last year or so and was part of Open Handset Alliance early on. Wonder why Intel choose moblin (the predecessor of MeeGo) over Android. [Open source linux (moblin) based meego seems to be intel strategy to combat Google android proliferation.] Wind River have hardened MeeGo into a Wind River Platform for MeeGo (PFM) and created variants like one for in-vehicle-infotainment (IVI). They also have added some key closed components like FOTA (firmware-over-the-air). They also have some value to add to developers in terms of FAST - a validation and testing tool for MeeGo applications. We were also told that Wind River is working on virtualization in the embedded space i.e. on devices such as those running MeeGo. Meaning, ways to simulate multiple numbers and/or types of logical devices on one physical device.

So, it would seem that, plain vanilla meego is for the kiddie individual applications developer, while Wind River PFM is for OEMs with industrial strength requirements across verticals - am I the only one smelling big bucks here ? And, are you equally dissappointed ?

The seminar ended with a meego lab session. We played with an emulated meego netbook on an ubuntu laptop and saw sample apps in Qt Creator. Nice :)

All in all, a good event. Speaker Preethi Raj categorically pointed out that Android is not fully open source anymore. 'wintel' has made history with commercial success on desktops. Will 'intelokia' repeat it for smart devices ? That's the promise.

Tags: MeeGo, Intel, Embedded Linux, Wind River, Atom, Android, Java.

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