Intel seeks consumers for MeeGo

As the company rolls out its open source, Linux-based operating system to netbooks and various other form factors, it is looking for consumers to utilize the platform, an Intel exec says.

TAIPEI--Intel has released more details and the deployment roadmap for the company's MeeGo operating system (OS), highlighting its desire for consumers to start utilizing the open source platform.

During his keynote here Wednesday at Computex 2010, Peter Biddle, director of Intel's AppUp products and services, noted that while he is "no longer worried" about attracting developers to create content for the MeeGo platform, it is consumer adoption that now preoccupies his thoughts. "We need more consumers!" he declared.

MeeGo version 1.0 was unveiled last week and the chipmaker said netbooks running the OS will be made available via partnering PC makers later in the year.

An updated iteration of the OS will be made available every six months, and the upcoming refresh in October will see MeeGo fitted out for tablets and handheld devices, noted Douglas Fisher, vice president of Intel's software and services group, who was also a speaker at the keynote presentation.

Intel is also betting on its AppUp Center, which aggregates software for netbooks, to help create a computing experience that users seek.

Biddle noted that AppUp is an app distribution channel similar to those of Apple's and Google's dedicated app stores, but differentiated by the fact that it is an open source project that allows for partner companies to customize apps according to their users' needs and business models.

"We are working out [the compatibility issue] as we go along but what we are focused on providing our partners are the tools they can use to create a responsive, intuitive experience for their users," Biddle told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of the conference.

AsusTek Computer (Asus) yesterday announced plans to launch its customized Asus App Store, powered by and compatible with Intel's AppUp Center.

Ellis Wong, director of Asus's systems business group, said during the Intel presentation that users can expect a bundle of software and product offerings pre-packaged, via the AppUp store, into Asus computers running MeeGo when they launch in 2011. An example of the pre-packaged service will be Asus Wi-Fi, a global Wi-Fi connection service that the company is providing with more than 100,000 partnering companies, Wong said.

When quizzed if market demand can support another OS, Biddle noted that the MeeGo project is an example of how the company is "reducing fragmentation" within the industry.

Intel integrated its Moblin Linux project with Nokia's Maemo Linux software into a single offering, and created a standard application programming interface (API). This, he said, is an indication of Intel's commitment to reducing market fragmentation.

Furthermore, he added that the issue of fragmentation lies in how many APIs developers have to work on to bring their products to a wide variety of devices--and not in the number of OSes, Biddle noted. As such, he disagreed that there are "too many OSes" in the market today.

Fisher also reiterated Intel's commitment to being a "port of choice" on which other OSes can flourish. He pointed out that Microsoft's Windows OS and Google's Android mobile OS will be supported on Intel's chipset architecture.

Heavy investment needed
However, at least one industry watcher is skeptical about MeeGo's viability in a market that already boasts established players such as Apple, Microsoft and Google.

Ovum's principal analyst, Tony Cripps, noted that while MeeGo provides "a complete, robust, and scalable device and application platform that spans an array of device categories", Intel's effort will come to naught if the OS is not a viable "multi-screen application for developers".

"The reality is that Nokia and Intel need to sell more Meego devices if they want access to the potentially lucrative seam of tools, consulting and systems integration surrounding cross-platform, multi-screen application development that [Nokia's graphical toolkit], Qt, offers," he said in a statement.

Cripps also added that developers need to be persuaded that MeeGo is a "better alternative" than existing platforms and this, he said, would be a "big ask".

He did add that it is too soon to write the OS off completely without first "seeing the merchandise", but both Intel and Nokia will have to put in "considerable investments" to win over their skeptics.

Kevin Kwang of ZDNet Asia reported from Computex 2010 in Taipei, Taiwan.