Is Tizen the end of MeeGo?

Intel, Samsung launch new Tizen mobile OS

First, it was Mobilin. Then it was MeeGo. And now, today, the Linux Foundation is announcing they are hosting a new mobile OS project: Tizen.

Actually, it may not be all that new. Like MeeGo before it, which itself was a merger of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo platforms, Tizen seems to be a combination of efforts from the Linux Foundation and the LiMo Foundation's mobile operating systems.

Remember all that guessing I and others were doing about the rumors surrounding the fate of MeeGo? This, clearly, is the ultimate resolution.

But what kind of a resolution is it?

While Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin denied that MeeGo was being phased out of existence, many industry analysts are seeing this as a graceful way for Intel and Samsung (which is a major partner in the LiMo efforts) to work together on a common mobile platform.

Is, then, MeeGo being merged away? Well, perhaps, but not right away. Here's the evidence.

First, there's Zemlin's statement on the fate of MeeGo. "But many of you who closely watch this space may be asking: what about Meego? While Meego will remain a project at The Linux Foundation, we see industry leaders lining up behind Tizen," Zemlin wrote in a blog entry timed to go out with the news about Tizen last night.

But MeeGo's technical steering group co-leader Imad Sousou has another take on Tizen: it will replace Intel's MeeGo efforts.

Here's what Sousou had to say in his own blog:

"So it begs the question: why not just evolve MeeGo? We believe the future belongs to HTML5-based applications, outside of a relatively small percentage of apps, and we are firmly convinced that our investment needs to shift toward HTML5. Shifting to HTML5 doesn't just mean slapping a web runtime on an existing Linux, even one aimed at mobile, as MeeGo has been."

So why do Zemlin and Souso have differing opinions about the fate of MeeGo? Here's the key statement from Sousou that I believe reconciles the two points of view: "Emphasizing HTML5 means that APIs not visible to HTML5 programmers need not be as rigid, and can evolve with platform technology and can vary by market segment."

Rather than Tizen being a merger of MeeGo and LiMo technology that's happening now, which many are saying is the case, I think that each platform will actually try to remain separate, at least for the time being. Intel and all the other partners in these endeavors will be able to pick and choose which platform tools to use: native-app-based MeeGo or HTML-5 based Tizen.

At least, that's the plan. But thinking about it for a moment, I see big problems with keeping both platforms alive. Despite the promise of MeeGo, it has yet to build a reasonable collection of apps for end-users--the kiss of death, as far as I am concerned. Now, that could change, but if it doesn't, then all of the effort for MeeGo will have been for naught.

But, if you had an open source, Linux-based platform that was geared more towards HTML5, and that platform could perhaps run some of the few native Moblin apps as a bootstrap of an application collection, wouldn't that be a more compelling strategy? With HTML5, Tizen could pick up HTML5 apps from wherever it wants. After all, HTML5 is standards-based, so an HTML5 app developed for one mobile platform would look and act the same when used for another HTML5 platform.

Because, if you think about it, suddenly any mobile OS like Tizen that depends on HTML5 essentially becomes a browser. Web pages are all created equal: they only have slight differences depending on which browser is used to view them. That means that Tizen would have access to almost any HTML5 app in the ecosystem, thus negating the problems of the app-hobbled MeeGo.

If that's the reasoning behind Tizen, then I don't think that MeeGo will be standing long as a separate project, despite what Zemlin says. The end of Sousou's blog takes a different stance from Zemlin's "keep MeeGo alive" theme, almost as if Sousou knows what's inevitably coming:

"Over the next couple of months, we will be working very hard to make sure that users of MeeGo can easily transition to Tizen, and I will be working even harder to make sure that developers of MeeGo can also transition to Tizen.

"I want to personally thank everyone who has participated in MeeGo over the past year and a half, and I encourage you to join us at We hope to use what we learned from the MeeGo project to make Tizen successful, and I hope to see you participating in Tizen!"

Sounds like a good-bye to me.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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