Saturday, October 09, 2010

yet another mobile OS... why MeeGo?

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Question by Robert Syputa: How does the Intel-Nokia MeeGo Software Platform Compare?

Intel and Nokia have announced MeeGo, a collaboration the marries maemo and Mblin Linux efforts and brings this forward as open source under the Linux Foundation (www.meego.com). The Qt is PDI that promises "Qt is a cross-platform application and UI framework that allows developers to write applications once and deploy them across many desktop and embedded operating systems without rewriting the source code http://qt.gitorious.org/" How does the new software platform compare to Google Android/Chrome, Apple iPhone/iPad OSX, and other OS platforms?

Specifically, are the tools, core modules, APIs competitive. Is the scope of the work similar or more extensive. What is the early evaluation of applications and device developers?



Answer1 by Michael Segel:

Robert, you ask a very open question. I think the best answer to your question is not so much a technology breakdown but a business breakdown.

You're asking the Intel/Nokia vs Google vs OSX. All are flavors of *nix. All are technically similar.

OSX- Strength Apple. Weakness Apple.
Android - Strength Google. Weakness Google.
MeeGo - Strength combo of Intel and Nokia. Weakness? Its name.

The trouble with OSX is that Apple as a culture locks down the environment and provides an excellent user experience by controlling the hardware and apps allowed to run. While AT&T got a boost from their exclusive agreement, this will go away and other carriers can get the product. But the iPhone has to continue to improve in order to capture the market's attention outside of the fanbois.

Android? Google clearly is the biggest problem. Why would any mobile phone manufacturer continue to support Android knowing that Google is going to continue to use them for cannon fodder. That is, companies like Moto are used to get critical mass acceptance so that its easier for Google to walk in and dominate the market. After all, they 'own' the OS.

MeeGo? Well, Intel and Nokia bring a lot to the table and have less baggage than both Apple and Google. From what I understand, and I'm no expert, Nokia has good relationships with the major carriers and Intel brings along a lot of experience.

Besides this, its the quality of the user experience. I'll admit I own a Nokia E-90 because at the time, it had the best key board for me and the N810 didn't have a cell phone built in.
Now you have the N900. From what I have seen, its a decent user experience, however, some of the apps leave some things to be desired. But overall, a good start.

I don't work in the mobile arena, but as I stated above, IMHO its not the technology, but the backers which will determine their success.



Answer2 by Dan DeMaggio:

You won't find a satisfying answer to your question because everything is up in the air. Android isn't finished, iPad and Meego were announced mere days ago. Calling a winner now like asking "who's going to be the dominant search engine, AltaVista, Excite or Go.com?"

Android has really innovative security features: each app is a different user. You program in Java, but the GUI is all different. (That's OK, there has never been One True GUI for Java). Behind the scenes it's different from the JVM, but that's so low-level you don't notice. Apps can share GUI components (so you can call "take a picture with a camera" or "allow the user to select a contact"). There is limited integration with non-Java code, or existing Linux apps. But the entire OS is open, so you can implement whatever you want in a pinch. So far, all the devices have been "throw aways" (no upgrades), although the most popular devices are likely to be "upgraded" by the community.

The SDK for Android is dead simple to install. You get a nice emulator for various hardware types and screen sizes. You pretty much only get to write in Java, but there are various languages that compile to Java (JRuby, Groovy, etc.). It's a little big creepy that you must sync with Google. Hopefully someone will implement a fake Google server so you can keep your private data private.

The iPad has a limited SDK that you must program to. It's good for graphics, but terrible for system services. (i.e. still can't create a background thread for a chat application.) They want it this way so they are free to upgrade without loosing existing apps. Likely most iPhone apps won't work right on the iPad anyway (without a GUI redesign it will look terrible).

iPhone development only works on a Mac. You have to program in Objective C (supposedly it's against the rules to write an interpreter for any other language, because they don't any apps "slipping by" the approval process).

The iPad and Android are purpose-built from the ground up. MeeGo tries to "re-use" a lot of existing Linux stuff. The Qt UI has been around embedded for longer than the previous GTK UI. I think the QT UI toolkit is "good enough", but integration with the rest of the OS still has rough spots. Although it should be easier to 're-use' existing Linux apps, in practice the UI will need to be rewritten for a smaller screen anyway. It will be slightly easier to get existing software on MeeGo than Android because Android has a very limited subset of the "normal" Linux libraries. All the existing Nokia GTK software will have to be rewritten to QT, so it's basically starting from scratch just like the other two. The Nokia stuff attracted a lot of Linux developers wanting to port existing Linux stuff to their tablets. But iPhone and Android are getting a lot more "out of the box" thinking.

I have no clue what Palm is doing. I'm sure it's great, but they aren't 'hot' like iPhone and Android.

The iPhone was exciting to the technically inclined, but the Apple app store policies have really turned a lot of technical people off. ("Why bother writing this if there's a chance it would be rejected?") Android has sex appeal to the deeply technical geeks, which could actually help the platform evolve faster (or at least keep your device supported, even if the manufacturer forgets about it in 6 months.) But Google isn't being a good Linux neighbour (their code was so bad it was refused entry into the Linux Kernel, and Google hasn't spent any time fixing it.) Nokia has been pretty good so far, but they are going to waste a lot of time implementing DRM (only to find it doesn't work, just iPhone has a lot of jailbreakers).

If you are thinking of writing an app, look at things like phonegap and appcelerator first. Only write native code if you have to (or if you're doing it for personal fun).




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