Can Nokia Earnestly Sell the N9 When They’ve Publicly Abandoned the OS?

Updated on 28 June 2011 by

nokia n9By now you’ve certainly caught wind of Nokia’s N9, their first, and only, Meego handset.

I want to be excited as everyone else is about the phone, after all, it looks great and Nokia has never disappointed me in the hardware department. However, the phone is running Meego, an OS that Nokia has publicly dropped in favor of Windows Phone 7 a few months back.

If this was happening prior to the app store movement, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Today, however, phones and their operating systems live and die not only by continuous first-party support, but by third-party developer backing as well.

Without a critical mass of applications, a new smartphone OS is destined to fail in the face of contemporary operating systems. What message is Nokia sending if it has already abandoned the OS in favor of another?

As a consumer, the message it sends to me is “don’t buy this phone! inch. No matter how well crafted the hardware is, and even how well the software works from a technical standpoint, I wouldn’t invest my money and time (moving all of my music/contacts/life/etc.) into a platform that I know won’t be seeing long-term support from the company that is responsible for it.

Interestingly though, and the only reason I believe that Nokia is going ahead with a Meego N9, is that Nokia isn’t entirely responsible for it. Meego is a merger of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo efforts. Meego exists as its own entity, and will live on through Intel and the open-source community even if Nokia has dropped it.

This means that it’s possible that the Meego-running N9 will still see decent application development, and perhaps even long term support for the OS from the Meego community, though I doubt that it’ll be at a level necessary to reach critical app-mass; just take a look at Maemo, a predecessor of Meego, and you’ll find that the OS never even came close to taking off (into the mainstream realm, that is).

Sadder still is the fact that Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, says that Nokia is dropping Meego regardless of how well the N9 sells, according to an interview with a Finnish newspaper (via Engadget).

If I was in the market for a new phone, I would stay away from the N9 thanks to Nokia’s resolute desire to abandon Meego.

Engadget’s Vlad Savov has an interesting piece on the N9 and Nokia’s decision to abandon Meego, and one sentence in particularl nicely sums up my feelings:

If Nokia isn’t fully invested in MeeGo and Qt, why should you be?

What say you, dear readers? Is there anything that could convince you to buy a phone with an OS that you know won’t see long-term first-party support, and likely won’t hit that ever important critical mass of apps and third-party developer traction?

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Peter says:

    Nice article, Ben! Let me sum up what I think / feel like:

    It´s upsetting that some individuals at NOKIA are doing everything not to sell the N9 – just think of Elop´s “Turn your cameras off, please” “Sea Ray” stunt, which was quite a pathetic move. Those who dumped MeeGo (or shrunk it down) actually don´t want the device the success it certainly could be – browsing speed and usability will be a lot better on this device, which still has the Nokia DNA in hardware and software and thus is (in comparison to “Sea Ray”, which is expected to be a pretty stock “Mango” phone quite interesting to die hard Nokia fans. But stating “There won´t be another MeeGo phone” and the general move to WP7 will turn off many potential buyers.

    Nontheless, NOKIA can´t kill MeeGo. With LG and ZTE at least actively considering MeeGo we will see other devices running MeeGo pretty soon, and than there is the Open Source project (though the N9 made the “MeeGo Handset UX” look terribly hobbyist and unfinished – but they could come up with something like “OpenSwipe” – in fact, I expect this happen.

    In my opinion the N9 sets a benchmark for MeeGo UX and thus is a good thing for MeeGo. Remember: This project is still in its early stages, just have a look at what´s coming with MeeGo 1.3 if you doubt that MeeGo will have a future. (OMG, I sound like a MeeGo fanboi!)

    Besides my own blog articles at LINMOB I would like to point everybody to this article by Paul Miller, which is a good read.
    http://thisismynext.com/2011/06/22/nokias-burning-platform-phoenix/

  2. mbo says:

    Interestingly Nokia tries to market the device as “the first Qt phone”, not as Meego phone. I guess that could lead to new third-party apps even in a year from now, but the platform itself will only be supported for some months.

    I would buy one, but mainly out of curiosity and for developing. Developing for Meego, not for Nokia…

  3. jb82 says:

    Of the hundreds of thousand android and ios apps how many do you think people actually use on a daily basis? How many new apps developed are actually any good? The quantity and the increasing number is highly overrated. I’ve been with symbian for some years and the app development has been nothing compared to android and ios … so what… it matters little in the real world. As long as it has the ones you want and a few extra to play with users will keep with their phones and be happy.

    If meego can come with a wide range of quality apps to begin with then why not get this? By the time you want to move on the whole industry would have changed back to qwerty messengers anyway. Times change. Buy what is right for you now. No one buys a phone for long term development prospects. We were buying blackberries and nokias a few years ago and now it is all about iphones and androids. A few years ago it was smaller the better and now it is the bigger the better. Hardware keyboards were in now it is software.

  4. jb82 says:

    oh yes and it was only until ios and android came in that phones needed to be regularly updated because the OS changes so rapidly. Blackberries and nokias didn’t need to get the latest OS all the time because the one they shipped with was already good. There was an overhaul every few years and you got a new device if you wanted to. Everyone was happy with that because they got a good life out of their phone.

    Now everyone has to have the latest and the phone you bought 2 months ago is already outdated. I think I’d rather get this N9 as it will ironically be more stable and last longer. You can’t even guarantee that android phones will be updated to the latest OS anyway.

  5. rabs says:

    I’m more worried about the hardware choices (no keyboard and soldered battery) than the software part (if the base works well).
    As an advanced Linux user, it’s part of the fun to hack/port/build/script.
    The difference is between having a box with tons of polished objects, or a tool box that let quickly assemble anything (even on the go).

    But I understand your point of view: given the situation and despite the look, it’s closer to a Maemo device (tool box) than a real mainstream smartphone (object box).
    Though it can be interesting for some people with strict fulfilled needs. And we’ll see how it evolves around Qt/MeeGo.

  6. arthur says:

    Ben, nice article. You have a typo in the title.

  7. BGK says:

    I think if it’s like the N900 OS experience it could be a good phone. I really liked their repository system and it was easier to use than any app store and had a bunch of useful apps even a year ago. But I am disappointed to read that it has a soldered in battery. It’s likely a deal breaker for me. I gave up using my old n79 last fall to use a MyTouch 4G android phone and while I like it, I am very interested in trying out a capacitive screen Nokia. I was just turned off by the N900’s touch screen so I ended up passing it on after a month. I may just try the N8 instead. I have zero interest in a Windows Phone device from Nokia. I think I’d prefer giving an S40 Touch and Type phone before going the WP route.

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