miculog

Is the Microsoft-Nokia deal the death of the MeeGo dream: a cross-device GNU+Linux-based FOSS ecosystem?

Oh Nokia, what have you done? You made a lot of mistakes in the past. And after you started making the right decisions for a short while, you screwed it up again — but this time: the big time. You hired a Trojan-CEO, who only (or at least mainly) acts in the interest of his former employer and not in yours, and who has put you completely and utterly at Microsoft’s mercy.

Recently, you got it right with so many things: You bought Qt, pushed it, and selected it as the foundation of the common SDK for both Symbian and MeeGo. You developed Qt in a very transparent manner in cooperation with the community. You opened up Symbian. You decided to use Symbian for your low-end and mid-end feature phones and MeeGo for your mid-end and high-end smartphones (and tablets potentially). You put MeeGo under the auspices of an independent and renowned foundation, the Linux Foundation, and you found big and important partners to cooperate with for this project: Intel, AMD, Novell, the car industry (GENIVI), …

The MeeGo project got so many things right: In contrast to Android, MeeGo is not just a (nearly 100%) free and open source mobile operating system. Compared to Android, MeeGo is developed in a quite openly, and unlike Android, MeeGo is based on many standard well-established FOSS components from the GNU+Linux world: The Linux kernel (ok, Android’s got this one, as well :), the GNU tool chain, Qt, Telepathy, uTouch, udev, Btrfs and so on. Furthermore, MeeGo follows the maxime of working closely with the upstream free software projects, which is very important for a successful and sustainable (free) software development. With these facts in mind, many people have placed great hope in MeeGo and Nokia’s involvement in MeeGo that it will help a lot to fight the fragmentation of open open source software and to create a FOSS ecosystem ranging from the desktop, to netbooks, tablets, embedded systems (e.g. in cars), and smartphones (BTW: The closest example for such a software ecosystem in the proprietary world for sure are Apple’s MacOSX and iOS, which share a huge common code base). The leaked video of the MeeGo handset UX running on an emulator does look quite promising.

Regarding the thing with the »ecosystem« (now using the term in a broader sense as Stephen Elop did in his memo): It is true, for being successful with smartphones, you do not only need great hardware and great software, you need such an »ecosystem«. But Nokia would not have needed to drop MeeGo to »build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.« There would have been plenty of other better possibilities for Nokia:

  • Apps: Nokia has a common cross-platform SDK based on Qt to build Apps for Symbian and MeeGo at the same time. There are thousands of Qt experienced programmers out there. Furthermore, there is the Myriad Alien Dalvik VM, which brings all the Android Apps out of the box to MeeGo in a nicely integrated manner. Third: If Nokia and Microsoft really wanted to make a deal that both companies benefit from, they could have ported Silverlight to MeeGo (maybe using Moonlight and Mono to so) and Qt to Windows Phone 7 and build a common app store.
  • Music: There is Ovi Music. Ok, I admit it, Ovi Music isn’t that successful ;) — but is Microsoft Zune? Why not make a deal with Amazon for example — or with 7digital as Canonical did?
  • eBooks: Amazon? Google?
  • Maps and navigation: Ovi maps (navigation) is quite good! And by the way: Apple does not have its own map service (and not its own search engine) for the iPhone/iPad/i* — it seems Apple does not need it to be successful.

You see, there are plenty of possibilities, all of them better than getting bought by Microsoft for 0$.

What do you think (now addressing the reader, yes, you! :)? Do you think hiring Elop and this MS-Nokia deal was some sort of hostile take-over and conspiracy by Microsoft to kill GNU+Linux on the end user market? Or do you think this Microsoft-Nokia deal is good for the customers and good for Nokia? Do you think there is a chance that Nokia sees reason and reconsiders MeeGo as a strategic platform again (there is a petition)? Do think MeeGo is dead without Nokia being committed to it? Intel says MeeGo is still alive. Do you think this dream of a cross-device GNU+Linux-based FOSS ecosystem still has a chance?

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17 thoughts on “Is the Microsoft-Nokia deal the death of the MeeGo dream: a cross-device GNU+Linux-based FOSS ecosystem?

  • [...] Is the Microsoft-Nokia deal the death of the MeeGo dream: a cross … [...]

  • micu sagt:

    Some updates: I hate conspiracy theories, but the more I read about the Microsoft-Nokia deal—the »elopocalypse«—the more I come to the conclusion that there is something really sticky about it. This deal is not only bad for free software, it is bad for Nokia even on a pure capitalist level. Only Microsoft benefits, Nokia only loses. Stephen Elop has already signed a Microsoft-Nokia deal before — but on the other side, he is the 7th biggest share holder at Microsoft, while holding no stocks at Nokia, Stephen Elop has done a similar thing with Macromedia and Adobe before, Alberto Mardegan, a Nokia employee, reports that MeeGo is ready and not an R&D project. Who does this Stephan Elop work for — Microsoft or Nokia?

    There is at least some hope left.

  • Michael sagt:

    It’s pretty obvious that Elop works for MS, but to see a conspiracy with the goal to choke Linux in the end-user maket is nonsense imho. WinPhone 7 has not been very successful so far, so teaming up with one of the worlds biggest mobile phone manufacturers just makes sense for Microsoft.
    Hindering the spread of FOSS is not the goal but just some collateral damage (but a very welcome one, nonetheless)
    M.

  • micu sagt:

    Oh, is there something going on? See Nokia Plan B.

  • Carl sagt:

    I have been researching open source culture for my thesis for the past six months. It is incredibly important for me to remain impartial, with regards to creating an opinion about open source software practices, structure, organization, etc. in the construction of a business model that will create businesses and jobs. Every time I think I have seen every possible reaction conceivable, another on pops up. “Do you think hiring Elop and this MS-Nokia deal was some sort of hostile take-over and conspiracy by Microsoft to kill GNU+Linux on the end user market?” I’m sure that Red Hat, Canonical, Oracle, and Novell are not worried about that. As a matter of fact, it should be obvious to anyone and everyone involved with open source software that the world, including many of your own ranks, have moved away from the Stallman-esque model that was once the standard of free software, and embraced a new model, where the software not only grows, but develops. The net result is that good software isn’t encumbered by pseudo values. This isn’t a fight between hackers and the man. It’s about evolution. If the evolution had not occurred, MYSQL might still be like R. Imagine such awesome software like R and not a single soul being compensated directly for their contribution. Last Friday, I went to a MIT sponsored hacker session at Microsoft Cambridge, MA. Part of the Silverlight, Visual Studio presentation was interrupted for a significant amount of time by a self proclaimed “FOSSatolla”. Some people walked out. Open source software can be disruptive in a good way, to add balance to a lopsided market, and I applaud that. I do challenge the arguement that there are thousands of good Qt programmers, now, and this arrangement will change that. I propose that even if this arrangement is successful between Nokia and Microsoft, that there will still be thousands of Qt programmers, and maybe some of them will be using visual studio with the Qt plugin so when they aren’t busy working for free coding Qt, they could be writing some silverlight , AJAX, SOA aspx mashups that they be paid for. Maybe collectively we need to stop worrying about capitalistic impingement about this arrangement, and worry more about the people who are getting paid to code while we become emotionally involved with software, and it’s future. Next year there will be something that will replace all of this OSS and semi-proprietary code. Also next year, Nokia, and Microsoft will still be here, paying people so they can pay their bills.

    • micu sagt:

      Sure, there is »mixed source«. Nokia, by the way did that, as well. And even the »open source company« Google does it. But this was not what I am talking about in my blog post. Yet I do think FOSS plays quite an improtant role for a free information society → http://www.micuintus.de/2010/10/27/die-gesellschaftliche-bedeutung-freier-software-und-offener-standards/ (sorry, only in German). The blog post’s focus was this »cross-device GNU+Linux-based FOSS ecosystem« (consisting of many already well-established free software components) thing.

      @Qt: Maybe Nokia will continue devleping Qt with passion even if they become a Microsoft company — I hope so! But why would Nokia continue pushing Qt forward *at this rate* if it isn’t even available on their »new strategic platform«? Qt, Symbian, MeeGo/Maemo, GNU/Linux,… it was all they would have needed.

      I’m sure that Red Hat, Canonical, Oracle, and Novell are not worried about that.

      Intel, Canonical, and maybe Red Hat are at least a bit, I guess.

      also @Michael: Please never forget one thing: Microsoft isn’t Apple, Microsoft isn’t Oracle, Microsoft is *the* inventor of the proprietary software buisness model.

  • Carl sagt:

    Microsoft did not invent proprietary software. Proprietary code began early in the 1970s. Even though it was not the first copyright infringement lawsuit, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center suit against Apple for infringement of their graphical user interface is the case that relates to the earliest proprietary software instance.
    Even if Nokia no longer moderates the development of Qt, the forward progress of the project has generated significant community interest in the development of code. Open source culture has never dropped a project this far in. To address the assertion that Microsoft will purchase Nokia, my sense is good for Nokia employees. Are you aware that Microsoft has never had a lay-off or downsizing? Last year they celebrated 35 years in business, and in all of those years they experienced growth, expansion and development. Microsoft has purchased hundreds of companies, and interests in thousands more start-ups, or ongoing concerns. Every one of those companies has prospered from the arrangements. Microsoft is now big enough to buy there next innovation and has the resources to continue that innovation. When you get to the end of the day, I truly think it’s unrealistic that Qt or Meego will go away for one big reason. Bear with me for a minute. A colleague and I developed some code for an application that I wished to use to establish a development benchmark. My hypothesis was that OSS is developed considerably faster than closed source. I put the code on source-forge, freepository, and codeplex. Within 3 months, we had a working application from codeplex (Microsoft’s repository). We abandoned freepository, as no one joined the project, and redirected everyone who was interested from source forge to codeplex. Now imagine if Qt and MeeGo end up on codeplex, and get interop code on WP7. Hmmm. Sounds like more developers are going to get hired. Like the ones developing Qt and MeeGo. Microsoft is not the kind of company that ignores free work in progress. They usually end up paying for WIP, so this is a bonus. I am a pragmatist, but also a realist. In these times, it is important that people get jobs that can’t be outsourced. Facilitating a business model that embraces open source, and a solid value proposition is a way to move forward. At least that’s what my thesis implies.

    • mike sagt:

      To be honest, I am astonished with amount of ignorance this post.

      “Microsoft did not invent proprietary software. Proprietary code began early in the 1970s.”

      Name one company that did proprietary software (with no hardware, mind you) before Microsoft. You can’t. There was system builders, and for example, IBM was distributing free software (public domain) on their mainframes. Same with DEC PDPs, there are lot of write ups and speeches by ex DECies that praised hacker culture at DEC in 70s. As for IBM, you should see this collection http://www.ibiblio.org/jmaynard/

      It was Microsoft *and* AT&T who started despicable proprietary software business without making hardware at all.

      “To address the assertion that Microsoft will purchase Nokia, my sense is good for Nokia employees. Are you aware that Microsoft has never had a lay-off or downsizing? Last year they celebrated 35 years in business, and in all of those years they experienced growth, expansion and development.”

      Microsoft fired thousands of people just in last couple of years.

      5000 of people in january 2009
      http://blogs.computerworld.com/microsoft_lays_off_5k_employees_saves_1_5bn

      Following 3000 in May 2009
      http://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-10233569-56.html

      Then another 800 people in late 2009
      http://www.pcworld.com/article/181402/microsoft_lays_off_800_people.html

      2010 continues with more layoffs
      http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-layoffs-marketing-office-partner-groups-all-reportedly-hit/6757?tag=nl.e539

      That is just in last couple of years. Also consider that lot of execs that jumped ship like for example Ray Ozzie, Muglia, and many many others. Not just that your claims about Microsoft’s invulnerability are completely wrong and outlandish, but Microsoft is in reality a declining company. Everybody who pays attention knows that and investors are suggesting that they should split the company while they are ahead http://www.mobile-computing-news.co.uk/industry-news/7543/goldman-sachs-says-microsoft-should-split.html

      Here is more about Microsoft going downhill.
      http://madhatter.ca/2010/11/10/microsoft-death-watch-confirmation-from-business-insider/

      “Microsoft has purchased hundreds of companies, and interests in thousands more start-ups, or ongoing concerns. Every one of those companies has prospered from the arrangements.”

      Every singe one? Like for example Danger and KIN? Riiiight.

      There is list of “partners” that got ripped off and pillaged by Microsoft:
      http://www.asymco.com/2011/02/11/in-memoriam-microsofts-previous-strategic-mobile-partners/

      “My hypothesis was that OSS is developed considerably faster than closed source. I put the code on source-forge, freepository, and codeplex. Within 3 months, we had a working application from codeplex (Microsoft’s repository). We abandoned freepository, as no one joined the project, and redirected everyone who was interested from source forge to codeplex.”

      Let me guess, your application was using .NET or otherwise depended on Windows? Because that is only explanation how this could be true. Alternative is that you are lying. Sorry, but after all misinformation and overzealous Microsoft praise you wrote above, I demand evidence that your “experience” is true.

      “Now imagine if Qt and MeeGo end up on codeplex, and get interop code on WP7″

      I don’t even want to imagine that. That is just about only way they could kill those projects.

      >Hmmm. Sounds like more developers are going to get hired.

      Wow… dude give me some of that you’re smoking. You seriously suggest that MSFT is going to hire folks to work on MeeGo and Qt? The ones that compete with WP7 and .NET? They only might do that to retard it in a way that serves their agenda and hinders GNU/Linux. Not something that any rational person would wish… unless on MSFT payroll.

      “I am a pragmatist, but also a realist.”

      Haha. You look more like Microsoft zealot.

  • Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.

  • WINDOWS = SATAN sagt:

    WINSHIT IS OUT TO KILL OPEN SUORCE !!!!!

    BUT THEY WILL FAIL !! THE CHHINESE WILL KILL WINDOWS WITH OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARES
    BECAUSE THEN THEY WILL OLSO KILL USAs WEBESPIONAGE !!!!

  • tim73 sagt:

    Nokia=next Commodore. Money men will destroy the company. Probably Microsoft paid a lot of money to Nokia. It looks good in the short term but it will be long term catastrophe.

  • therohan sagt:

    Personally, I see your point but I am not sure yet it is really needed: unlike other hardware manufacturers, Nokia has the license to customize WP7. Actually, they claim they’ll be working in partnership with MS to that purpose. So, I’m aready assuming that the WP7 OS we’ll find on Nokia phones will be to some degree different (albait compatible, I really hope) from the one on other hardware producers. And yes, I too agree that the latter may quite dislike this.
    I also think it will be quite likely we’ll see other features I can’t really understand why are currently missing in WP7, such as thetering and Sync with Outlook.
    In other words, I think this degree of exclusivity may be enough to generate that uniqueness that is indeed needed to compete against the iPhone.

  • micu sagt:

    Here you can find a quite interesting and sharp analysis of the Nokia Maemo MeeGo FOSS disaster by Richard Hillesley — although I certainly do not agree with him on every aspect. The same applies to the analysis by Eric S. Raymond.

  • micu sagt:

    FYI: Yesterday, Mirko Böhm published a very interesting in-depth analysis of the Elopocalypse — above all concerning its possible impact on Qt, KDE, MeeGo, Symbian, GNU/Linux, and FreeSoftware in general.

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