Intel handing MeeGo wheel to Samsung?

More rumors about the other Linux mobile platform

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Here's another rumor to go onto the MeeGo pile: reportedly Korean electronics giant Samsung has taken a strong liking to the Intel-driven mobile operating system and may plan on taking the project over from the core Intel development team.

If at all true, this could bring some much-needed resources to the MeeGo project, particularly in light of other rumors that Intel may have stopped work on tablet and smartphone iterations of MeeGo.

The story, which appeared on Netbooknews.de (English translation), apparently confirms the Sept. 2 DigiTimes story that broke the rumor Intel would "temporarily discontinue development of its MeeGo OS due to a lack of enthusiasm for the platform from handset and tablet PC vendors," instead focusing on the Android or Windows Phone platforms.

But the German story also highlighted that according to three (unnamed, of course) sources, Samsung could be moving in to take Intel's place as the primary commercial driver for MeeGo. The project is currently stewarded by the Linux Foundation, though Intel is MeeGo's biggest sponsor.

It's a lot of rumor to take in, particularly since Samsung has their own mobile platform, Bada. Bada may not seem like much, but it actually ships on more global devices than Windows Phone 7.

Since they have Bada, and it seems to be doing relatively well, it would be odd for Samsung to forgo Bada for the sake of MeeGo on its smartphone products. That's no slam on MeeGo's capabilities, mind you, just an observation on market momentum.

Here's what I think may be going on, based on some comments from GNOME and MeeGo developer Dave Neary twittered to me after I posted last week's story on Intel's rumored departure from MeeGo smartphone and tablet development.

Neary emphasized that this was less about Intel dropping MeeGo than shifting its focus. And, interestingly, nothing in the DigiTimes story contradicts this: it is only reported that development on smartphones and tablets is supposedly being dropped. That does not include other devices that run MeeGo, such as netbooks, smart TVs, and in-vehicle entertainment systems. All device types, by the way, that Samsung has a hand in creating.

I think what we may be seeing is Intel sharing MeeGo development more with Samsung. Of course, sharing was always part of the game--MeeGo is open source, after all, way more open in practice than Android. (Android's state-of-open seems to be shocking, by the way, to some certain analysts who rely on uninformed media to spread their hysteria. I was glad to see at least one writer with his eye on the truth. But I digress.)

Regarding MeeGo, what I am referring to is the development leadership of MeeGo: who drives the bus, so to speak. Bada is a smartphone platform, and currently nothing more. If Samsung wants a home-grown operating system for its other devices, then MeeGo could make a good fit. In that case, it makes sense that Intel would deemphasize the tablet and smartphone development of Intel and have Samsung share or take over project lead status and drive MeeGo development for the other device types.

What the reports out of Taiwan and Germany are seeing, then, are separate glimpses of the behind-the-scenes moves to make this transition happen. Taken as separate, out-of-context events, they seem far more dramatic than they truly are--like glimpsing shapes on a foggy Scottish lake and presuming it's the Loch Ness monster, later realizing it's just a fisherman in a boat.

Would a hand-off to Samsung be a good thing for MeeGo, presuming any of this actually happens? I believe yes. No offense to Intel, but I could never quite shake the feeling that Intel driving MeeGo was just weird. They make chips, for goodness sake--making whole devices is not their strong suit. Samsung, however, makes plenty of devices, and if they start to co-pilot or pilot MeeGo, it just feels like a better fit to me.

Definitely don't count MeeGo out yet.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. 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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