This is very exciting news. While Apple’s iPhone OS and Google’s Android OS have been fiercly battling for the top-dog spot in the mobile OS market, Intel and Maemo have struggled to be noticed at all. Which is kind of sad, because I consider both of these platforms superior to the two major players (Nicolas already described some of Maemo 5.0′s features on the N900).
With this merger, these two currently minor players promise to become a serious competitor instead of fighting for scraps left over by Apple or Google. After all, Nokia is still the largest manufacturer of mobile handsets – it owns almost 40% of the smartphones market vs 17% for Apple according to Gartner – , and anybody watching the Linux crowd is no doubt aware of Intel’s immense contributions to the Linux kernel in the past few years.
I just hope they release a usable SDK to application developers A.S.A.P. I wouldn’t want MeeGo to suffer the same fate as Maemo did: a superior platform alone won’t sell many phones if only a handful of apps (~ 164 at the time of this writing) are available for it. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem though. Unlike Android, which has a custom Java-based virtual machine for running applications, both Moblin and Maemo currently use toolkits already well-known within the open-source community, GTK and QT (MeeGo will only support QT, however). The learning curve for new developers shouldn’t be that high.
Let’s just pray that Nokia and Intel will expedite this merger so that we won’t have to wait too long for the first handsets. Nokia had Maemo 6.0 planned for 2010-11, but I think it is safe to assume 6.0 will be dropped in favor of MeeGo. Early 2011 would be great, but I guess I won’t get around buying a Nexus One until then…