MeeGo, the new netbook Linux, arrives

Take one part Intel's Moblin, mix with Nokia's Maemo, bake for three months in the Linux Foundation oven, and you get MeeGo. Linux Foundation executive director, Jim Zemlin has called this new embedded Linux, the open-source uber-platform for the next generation of computing devices: tablets, pocketable computers, netbooks, automotive IVI (In-Vehicle Infotainment) and more."

Zemlin went on to say that "With MeeGo, you have the world's largest chip manufacturer and the world's largest mobile handset manufacturer joining forces to create an incredible opportunity for developers who want to reach millions of users with innovative technology." That sounds great, except the world's largest search engine company, a little business I like to call Google, already has an embedded Linux named Android that's already out in the market and doing quite well.

Still interested? Well, don't start downloading a copy of MeeGo right now though unless you're a developer. Version 1.0 of MeeGo, as Imad Sousou, director of Intel's Open Source Technology Center, blogged, "This release provides developers with a stable core foundation for application development and a rich user experience for Netbooks. The MeeGo Netbook user experience is the first to appear, with the development of the MeeGo Handset user experience moving to the open in June."

In other words, this 1.0 release is one for programmers, not ordinary mortals. I'd agree with that. I downloaded it and, after converting the MeeGo image file into a VirtualBox VDI (Virtual Disk Image) I was able to install it and run it in VirtualBox 3.20 to know that it's not ready for mainstream user prime time... yet.

Still, in just playing with for a few minutes, I could see that I'd like it. Instead of Android's View interface, MeeGo uses a more traditional Unix/Linux X 11-based and Qt 4.6 structure for its front-end. Combine this with other more common Linux desktop APIs (application programming interfaces) and you have a system that Linux desktop developers will be able to pick up more quickly than they can Android.

MeeGo is also built on the Linux 2.6.33 kernel and uses DeviceKit and udev for working with hardware devices. Thus supports gUPnP a universal plug and play framework. For voice and data connectivity, MeeGo uses the Connman connection manager, Ofono telephony stack, and BlueZ Bluetooth.

Since I was running this in a virtual machine, and not on a netbook, I wasn't able to even kick the tires of the last three elements. But, since they're all mainstream Linux projects, I'm sure they work just fine.

The operating system also comes with Google's Chrome, complete with such goodies as its newly integrated Adobe Flash Player for is main Web browser. If you'd rather use the purely open-source Google Chromium, you can download and install it as a Chrome replacement.

All-in-all, I rather like MeeGo, silly name and all. But, heck, Google and Yahoo are both funny names too, so I won't let that bother me.

That said, I do wonder if MeeGo is too little, too late. Yes, it will be much easier for Linux desktop developers, but Android is already out and quite popular. I suspect that the Linux developers who wanted to work in the mobile space have already put in quite a few hours with the Android SDK (software development kit) and aren't looking to start work on another platform with a much smaller market. We'll have to see just how much effort Intel and Nokia put behind MeeGo. If they put a lot of time and money into it, MeeGo may yet become a major embedded Linux player.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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