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Samsung to acquire MeeGo, report claims

Sep 7, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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Following a Digitimes report that Intel is planning to temporarily halt the MeeGo project, Netbooknews.de confirmed the news and claims Samsung is interested in acquiring the open source project. Meanwhile, Samsung's CEO stated that with his company's Bada operating system on the move, it would “never” buy WebOS — another mobile Linux platform in limbo.

There was more bad news this week for mobile Linux projects not controlled by Google, as a Netbooknews.de report confirmed a Sept. 2 Digitimes story claiming Intel was planning to temporarily halt the MeeGo project. What's more, Samsung is planning to take over the open source Linux project, says the story.

The Digitimes story cited "industry sources," presumably from hardware vendors in the publication's home base of Taiwan, as saying the chip giant will soon "temporarily discontinue development of its MeeGo OS due to a lack of enthusiasm for the platform from handset and tablet PC vendors." Instead, it will steer its smartphone and tablet initiatives to Android or Windows Phone, says the story.

Intel refused to confirm or deny the rumors, according to Digitimes, and said that it continued to support MeeGo. The chipmaker has championed the open source project as a way to drive the market for its Intel Atom processors.

Now Netbooknews.de has found three sources that confirmed the Digitimes report. The sources also apparently corroborated a new rumor that Samsung was planning to take over the project. 

Intel doesn't own MeeGo, an open source project hosted by the nonprofit Linux Foundation, but it has long been the major sponsor. Nokia joined it to co-launch MeeGo in Feb. 2010 as a merger of Intel's Intel Atom-focused Moblin project and Nokia's ARM Cortex-oriented Maemo Linux project.

When Nokia backed off from MeeGo in February of this year, opting to place all its smartphone chips on Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, it essentially killed the MeeGo handset project and crippled the project at large. Nokia launched its first and last MeeGo product in June with the release of the Nokia N9 smartphone (pictured at right).

MeeGo goes far beyond smartphones, however, with versions aimed at netobooks, automotive computers, set-top boxes, and tablets (see farther below for more MeeGo background).

If it's true that Intel will halt MeeGo and/or Samsung will acquire it, the entity in question is not the Linux Foundation hosted project itself, but rather the core Intel-based development staff that drives the project. According to Netbooknews.de, Intel has in recent months hired many of the Nokia staff working on MeeGo. These include operations at the Intel and Nokia Joint Innovation Center, a branch of Intel Labs Europe.

Samsung's many options: Bada, Android, WebOS, and MeeGo

In recent weeks, Samsung has been rumored to be considering the acquisition of HP's WebOS operating system, a proprietary Linux-based platform that HP has suggested is now up for sale. A WebOS sale would likely come with considerable engineering talent, as well as some potentially lucrative mobile patents. Analysts have speculated that Samsung might choose go off on its own if Google's acquisition of Motorola is consummated, and if Google shows signs of favoring its new subsidiary over other Android hardware makers.

At the IFA show in Berlin last week, however, Samsung CEO Choi Gee Sung replied to a reporter's question that his company would "never" pursue an acquisition of WebOS, according to Bloomberg. Sung was also quoted as saying that Samsung was working "harder than people outside think" to boost its software efforts, including its own homegrown Bada operating system, says the story.

Bada, a mobile middleware platform that recently advanced to version 2.0, can run atop either a Linux kernel, or a real-time operating system (RTOS), such as the Nucleus OS at the heart of its Samsung Wave smartphone (pictured).

A practical nonentity in the U.S. market, Bada has nonetheless gained ground in the global smartphone market, especially in mid-range and low-end smartphones. Bada has even eclipsed Microsoft's combined Windows Phone and Windows Mobile platforms to take fifth place in global smartphone OS share with 1.9 percent, according to a recent Gartner report.

With Bada's success in mind, not to mention Samsung's even greater success with Android, an acquisition of MeeGo seems somewhat questionable. Unlike Bada, however, MeeGo spans other mobile devices beyond smartphones, which may be of interest to the consumer electronics giant. Samsung could well buy Intel's MeeGo assets as a source of engineering talent, if nothing else, and perhaps use it as a warning shot to Google that if it gets out of line, Bada/MeeGo could be a true Android contender.

If Intel does abandon MeeGo, and Samsung or another vendor doesn't fill in as sponsor, the project could still linger on at the Linux Foundation. However, it would be largely forgotten, just as the LiMo (Linux Mobile) spec continues to limp along at the Linux Foundation.

MeeGo's struggles amplified by Nokia departure

Nokia's abandonment of the MeeGo project knocked the stuffing out of the platform, but it didn't necessarily doom it. Handsets are only one of several MeeGo user experiences (UXes) in various stages of development. Unlike the ARM-based handset project, which has been largely shuttered, the other UXes are all based primarily on Intel's Atom processors. 

The first MeeGo UX — MeeGo for Netbooks — has so far spawned only a few shipping netbooks. These include the Asus EeePC X101 (pictured) which is now available with MeeGo starting at $200, and the Lenovo IdeaPad S100, which only recently went on sale in Europe for 180 Euros ($260).

The promising In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) MeeGo UX was recently registered as compliant with the open source Genivi Alliance IVI spec. However, MeeGo is one of four other Linux distributions to hold that honor along with Ubuntu and Wind River Linux. 

More recently, a MeeGo Smart TV Working Group has been launched by the Linux Foundation for IPTV products. Last year, before the group even launched, Amino went off on its own with MeeGo code and introduced the Amino Freedom set-top box (pictured) based on MeeGo.

After Nokia's departure, Intel claimed that a number of MeeGo tablets would ship by the second quarter. A MeeGo tablet UX was formally unveiled in May along with MeeGo 1.2, but so far only a few minor models have reached the public. Once again, Android and Apple iOS have siphoned off the vendors who had previously suggested they would support the platform.

MeeGo's fate will likely be decided soon, one way or the other. The Intel Developer Forum (IDF) is coming up Sept 13-15. We imagine the chipmaker will clarify matters by then.


This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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