Late last year Nokia was in trouble. Once the world’s most popular mobile phone maker and a leader in the smartphone market, the Finnish company had fallen on hard times. Stagnation was the prognosis. Nokia’s once powerful Symbian operating system had become antiquated, its hardware representative of old-world thinking. Nokia’s platform was “burning”. In a desperate attempt at moving to a more modern platform, Nokia chose to refocus their efforts on Windows Phone 7.
Yet before the move to WP7, Nokia was internally working on a new platform. Called MeeGo, the operating system was a fusion of Nokia and Intel’s two existing Linux platforms: Maemo and Moblin, respectively. The final product would have allowed for a modern, scalable OS that could be used on both smartphones and netbooks. Yet over a year after MeeGo’s announcement, nothing materialized. With Nokia dropping Symbian and moving to WP7, MeeGo looked like nothing more than an experimental OS.
Finally, that experiment is a reality, if only briefly. Yesterday Nokia announced the world’s first MeeGo-based smartphone: the N9. The device continues Nokia’s penchant for finesse and quality. A high strength plastic unibody enclosure holds a modern 1Ghz processor, 3.9″ AMOLED display, NFC chip, and is the first all-touch phone with no physical buttons on the front panel. Nokia is touting the rear camera as one of the best ever at 8MP, wide-range 28mm Carl Zeiss lens, and wicked fast response time.
The real magic is in the software though. Nokia’s UI interface is deceptively simple, with only three screens. One is the app launcher, another is notifications for email, social networks, texting, and the phone; and the last is the multitasking app switcher. These three screens are remarkably powerful and yet simple to use. It makes it all the more of a shame that Nokia won’t take MeeGo seriously.
The N9 will most likely be one of the only MeeGo phones to ever reach market as Nokia begins to ramp up production of the new Mango-refreshed WP7 phone. It’s almost frustrating that Nokia is teasing us like this. Hopefully Nokia can see how the press are raving about MeeGo and revise their roadmap to keep this promising software alive. Until then, this phone may be a reality, but it’s still an experiment.