MeeGo 1.0 released, includes netbook user experience

Published by Rafe Blandford at 18:44 UTC, May 29th 2010

On Tuesday the project release of MeeGo 1.0 was announced. It provides developers with a stable core foundation for application development. In addition the releases includes the provision for a rich user experience (UI and applications) for netbooks and related devices. This means it is now possible for anyone to run MeeGo on many commercially available netbooks, complete with a usable UI and basic set of applications (like any other operating system). A user experience for touch based devices, such as handsets (e.g. N900), tablets and automotive systems will appear in the next release, which is due in October. Read on for further details.

MeeGo 1.0 and the netbook user experience

MeeGo 1.0 is available for both netbooks and the N900. However as with the day one release it will boot up into a command line interface (CLI), which may be useful for developers, but has little practical usage for the consumer or experienced user. 

By contrast the MeeGo netbook user experience provides a 'rich experience built on the latest opensource technologies'. In looks an style it is very similar to the Moblin 2.1 user experience with the same zone based UI conceptualisation. The most obvious change from Moblin 2.1 is the addition of the Chrome / Chromium browser. However there are significant underlying changes as the switched is made from 'pure' Moblin to MeeGo, which is a combination of Moblin and Maemo. Notable amongst these changes is the inclusion of Qt 4.6, which is set to become the core application framework for MeeGo.

The netbook user experience provides includes:

  • Access to synchronized calendar, tasks, appointments, recently used files, social networking updates and more through the homescreen (screenshot shown below). Aggregation of social networking content allowing easy access to status updates.
  • Internet functionality with a choice of the Google Chrome or Google Chromium browser. 
  • Easy to use applications for email (Evolution), calendar and media playback (Banshee).
  • Optimisations for power and performance.
  • Multiple language support: Japanese, Korean, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Swedish, Polish, Finnish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, English, British English.

MeeGo Netbook UI

This is a very important release for the MeeGo project. When Intel and Nokia announced the merger of Moblin and MeeGo it inevitably caused a pause in manufacturers plans and roadmaps.  This release will allow hardware manufacturers to start optimising MeeGo builds for their hardware projects. This should help enable the release of multiple MeeGo devices later this year. Furthermore the project has committed, as promised in February, to a six month release cadence, with the next release, version 1.1, due in October. 

"Releases are planned on a six month cadence. MeeGo v1.1 will be released in October and it will include support for touch-based devices, such as Handsets, Tablets, and In-Vehicle Infotainment systems. The development tree for MeeGo v1.1 is now open and we will start releasing various components in the v1.1 tree, including opening the development of the handset user experience in June.

We are now releasing the MeeGo API which includes Qt 4.6, the MeeGo SDK with an integrated application development environment, and various other operating system tools. Currently, the MeeGo SDK is focused on Netbooks, but the next version of the MeeGo SDK, an early developer release in June, will support touch-based devices, such as Handsets and Tablets." [source]

We'll be taking a closer look at the MeeGo netbook user experience in due course.

MeeGo and N900

With the PR 1.2 release for the N900 Nokia noted that:

"Although Nokia N900 devices are being used for platform development and testing purposes by those involved in the MeeGo project, we don’t have plans for a full scale commercial MeeGo upgrade on the Nokia N900. The reason? It’s really about ensuring that you have the best possible experience designed for the features on your Nokia N900 device.  Nokia realises this news may be a disappointment for some, rest assured that Nokia will continue to support the core Maemo software on your Nokia N900, as evidenced by the PR 1.2 (V10.2010.19-1) update available today."

This does not mean that it will not be possible to run MeeGo on the N900, rather it indicates that Nokia will not be providing a commercial MeeGo upgrade (i.e. a PR 1.2 style upgrade with full support). Indeed Nokia is using the N900 as the ARM reference device for MeeGo as explained in the talk thread here. This means that there will be a MeeGo version for the N900 that experienced users will be able to use. 

It's also worth appreciating that there is a big difference between the MeeGo project's open source releases and the productised version of the software that Nokia will use in its MeeGo devices. Nokia's productised version(s) will be based on the open source releases but will include additional customisation and applications (e.g. Ovi service integration). 

This is similar to the approach that Nokia takes with its Symbian products (compare Symbian Foundation releases to what you see in selling products). Other MeeGo device manufacturers will likely be taking a similar approach  in their own MeeGo products. The customisations that manufacturers make will frequently be key product differentiators and may or may not be released as open source.

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