Friday, February 11, 2011

And what do I do now?

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened. 
That quote was the first thing that went through my mind when I heard the announcement about the MS/Nokia partnership.  As a community member I feel betrayed but I feel even worse for the employees.  Nokia has been building up a strategy that attracts a very passionate group.  The main supplier of your mobile platform switching strategies away from your needs is a drop in the bucket to your employer switching strategies to the exact opposite of where your passion lies.  Whether you quit, get layed off, switch to developing a product you dislike, or even move to a project in the forgotten shed that gets no attention are all options that are not fun.

So drop in the bucket time.

I first switched to Nokia Linux-based products from Palm because I needed pocketable internet access.  I was moving to a lot of internet services so my Palm wasn't doing a good job fulfilling my needs.  I was annoyed with the Linux support which was purely a community effort.  Momentum is important so that I will have the apps I need and the lifetime to make the switch worth while.  I bought the 770 more as an experiment and found it fulfilled my needs.

I started developing applications for it to fit different needs and have come to appreciate it as a development platform.  I can develop and use my applications on the desktop and have them also work on Maemo.  That makes development easier and means I can make greater use of my work.  I've also come to appreciate a flexible architecture with things like Telepathy allowing VOIP/IM service to be first-class, sharing system, libsocialweb (Meego), and hopefully in the future libfolks for contact aggregation.

Writing mobile applications has grown beyond fulfilling my needs as a user.  I enjoy the opportunity to provide benefit for people as well as the chance to experiment and play with things that I don't get to in my job.  Releasing my applications for free changes the feeling of user support, fixes, and new features from have-to to get-to and keeps things very liberating and fun.

Where do I go from here?

Meego: Intel is sticking with Meego.  I am curious to see what all devices are announced next week.  If they look like they have life to them then maybe I'll stick around.  Nokia is still keeping Meego development around as a project and is releasing a device this year.  I wonder if this is to fulfill some item in a contract with Intel.  If so and when the contract ends, this is dead.  If not, I wonder how long it will survive.  I am sure the financial analysts will be telling them to kill it to shift even greater investment to money pot they will expect WP7 to be.

Android: Android would probably offer me the apps I need.  Linux being under the hood is meaningless when you don't have the full Linux experience.  I feel no motivation to develop for it, either in Java, C++ and the Python supported seems grotesque at first brush.  I dislike the siloed approach that apps focus on.  You don't get the power of frameworks like Telepathy, libsocialweb, or libfolks where the backend is decoupled from the front end, allowing for choosing the front-end and back-ends that best fulfill your needs rather than sacrificing one over the other.  I dislike the idea of a manufacturer holding back updates and feel too lazy to always be following the latest custom ROMs (or some of the feats you need to go through to load one on some devices).   I've played with friends Android devices and follow high level developments in the Android community but I could be mistaken on some things either good or bad.

webOS, something else? WP7 and iOS are out of the question.  webOS seems a bit limited in both apps and development platform but does offer "synergy" which sounds like it provides a similar experience of a plugin architecture that Maemo has.  I feel a bit concerned over the momentum of the platform especially in terms of how well it'll stick around.  Being from a single vendor adds to that risk and limits device options (which was why I was glad Nokia partnered with Intel to create Meego).  I only have cursory knowledge of webOS and have never played with a device whether this biases me in its favor or against it is to be seen.

I think I'll wait for next week to see what Meego devices come out of MWC before making my decision.

In the mean time I'd be curious if people have recommendations:
  • Pocketable (3-5 inches) devices with modern specs (Required)
  • Google Voice / VOIP Support regardless of network connection (Required)
  • Good support for desktop Linux (Required)
  • Support for Google services (GMail, Reader, Calendar, etc) (Option because I'm used to using the mobile website)
  • Access to a Linux command line with VIM and SSH (Optional but encouraged)
  • Support for Python or some other higher level language (maybe I'd even be willing to venture into Javascript which always felt dirty to me). (Optional but encouraged)
  • Apps run on both desktop and handheld without modification or emulation (Optional but encouraged)
  • Official way to distribute free apps without charge (Optional but encouraged)

I'd also be curious what users of my applications will do.  There have been some stalwarts on Maemo 4.1 (n800, n810).  Will you all be sticking around or giving up on it?  Will there be a similar stalwart community on Maemo 5 (n900)?  If I move from Maemo to Meego and everyone jumps ship from Maemo 4.1 and Maemo 5 then there is no reason for me to put in the extra effort to maintain compatibility with Maemo.


  1. Doing a bit of research, plenty of people use the command line on webOS and there is a open repository. Doesn't sound like there are python bindings though so I'd be stuck with C++/Javascript though Python can be installed.

    Also some interesting notes from the following page
    * Synergy is being openeed up, allowing custom sources for IM, Contacts, and Calendar.
    * I love the idea of stacks. You can think of it as a generalization of Maemo 5 Stackable Windows ora shrinking down of Tree Style Tabs.

  2. Anonymous1:09 AM

    Nice post Ed, bookmarked!

  3. Anonymous1:56 AM

    Petition to Nokia: Reconsider MeeGo as strategic platform!

  4. Good post and must say thinking similar thoughts like many in the community I bet.

    I see no alternative to Maemo - except MeeGo. Hopefully there will be some smaller vendors who will release a handset or two with MeeGo.

  5. Unfortunately I doubt a petition will carry much weight. Neither do I think it will help kissing up to their (limited) Meego department. That almost seems a bit too close to Stockholm Syndrome for me.

    I tend to agree with Qole's twitter post
    Saying the community could make MeeGo compelling for Nokia is just the "Don't cancel Firefly" approach. You waste energy, they ignore you.

  6. For vaporware, there is what Samsung is working on according to Rasterman

    Though I wonder how that compares to them already having Bada

  7. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Consider this:

    In Nokia there were a few thousand people working on Meego projects(actually a Maemo/Meego hybdrid) and until yesterday most of them were convinced that it was THE Nokia strategic platform. I don't think that at this point Nokia affords to lose all the effort and money they put in this. Also consider that the OS and device were about 95% ready and again IMHO it would have been the killer Linux device.
    Before starting making petitions everyone should take a deep breath and wait for some official announcement because the plans aren't clear even from the inside.

  8. Anonymous8:46 AM

    I'm for evolution of Maemo into Debian Mobile platform. The momentum is right.

  9. I have not seen MeeGo as a replacement, based on what I've seen and heard of the interface and on Nokia's history with supporting Maemo.

    In terms of OS, the only reason I bought an N900 instead of something running Android after the crushing disappointment that was S60v5 on the N97 mini is the hardware - the combination of QWERTY, camera, speakers and card slot, none of which can be matched in the 'droid world when combined with an open and easily upgradeable system (no locked bootloaders, I'm looking at you, Motorola).

    Today, there is no phone I consider a complete replacement. I object to WP7 for numerous reasons, not all of which I can trust Nokia to address in their "customising", don't see Bada as a solution and reject Apple's locked-in control of iOS and the App Store.

    I have hopes for WebOS, but, well, I need to see them prove themselves and attract developers and a community first.

    I have supported Nokia thanks to their hardware competence and my familiarity with previous incarnations of Symbian/S60, but I can not support their OS choices now.

    As for apps: I do need note-takers, list-managers and audiobook players (nQa is a key install on my N900) but I have found replacements before and will again. I need the underlying system to be solid, good to use and attractive to developers.

  10. I will keep using the N900 as long as it can do what I want. MeeGo 1.2 is coming soon and it's quite promising.

    After that, I will look around the tablet market, definitely. A 5" tablet + a cheap HSDPA-capable phone is cheaper in total than a 3-4" smartphone, so for me this will be the way to go.

  11. Anonymous8:25 AM

    Thousands of people working on Maemo/MeeGo??

    Compare that to the productivity of Red Hat.

    Red Hat have around 3000 people working on all their products.. Red Hat write more of the MeeGo code than Nokia itself.

  12. Anonymous7:24 PM

    In full agreement with your sentiments and analysis of the landscape.

    For me, the only way I see a satisfactory road ahead is if Intel can find a replacement partner to take over Nokia's role in bringing MeeGo to handsets. There must be companies currently taking a minor (and low-profit) cut of the Android/WP7 markets, who would be willing to risk branching out to additionally bring MeeGo to their devices.

    These prospective partners may be preferable to Intel anyway, as they wont have their own app-store and services facilities that they need to incorporate with MeeGo devices.

    It might be good if Intel were able to buy out Qt development from Nokia, but I doubt Nokia have any intention of releasing resources that may be beneficial to what has become their competition...

  13. Anonymous9:03 AM

    Here is my take:

    1) Nokia is buying time as symbian is shrinking faster than expected. Eloop bought time and is hoping to capture the corporate market and attack RIM and some of the consumer market

    2) They will keep Maemo/Meego alive but downplay it until they need it (as a check and balance against Microsoft). Hopefully they keep it dev - like Google produces "Dev" high end android phones.