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Nokia MeeGon tarina
October 10, 2012 4:25 PM   Subscribe


 
Parenthetically, I should note that Nokia might want to get some native English speakers consulting on their name selections. "Senna" is a counterintuitive choice for a tablet, "Symbian" is one letter away from an entirely different personal item, and "MeeGo" involves no actual brain canister technology whatsoever. But then, maybe the problem is just that I'm a twelve-year-old.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:38 PM on October 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Thanks, that was thorough if a bit ponderous. If there is a second act for Meego, it'll be coming (as mentioned) from the Jolla team.
posted by donovan at 4:38 PM on October 10, 2012


"Symbian" is one letter away from an entirely different personal item

I thought of simians first, surprised that monkey servants were becoming common enough in America to be regarded as a personal item.
posted by FJT at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


MEGO: My Eyes Glaze Over
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:48 PM on October 10, 2012


All their names are like uncanny-valley versions of other words. I keep wanting to think Harmattan is a plan on Manhattan but it turns out it is the name of a wind in Africa. I keep thinking of Moblin as some sort of mythical creature sort of like a goblin, even though I know it just means Mobile Linux.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:49 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Forget the naming problems. How about making a non-sucky OS? Start by NOT ripping the good parts out of Debian.
posted by DU at 4:49 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My first and only phone is Nokia's N900. It's a nice pocket computer for what I do (ssh, music, web browsing, youtube, stellarium) and it feels like a bonus that I can make and receive calls with it. Maemo and Meego both live on it, though Meego feels slower so I use Maemo more regularly.

I was intrigued for years by the development of N770, N800, N810, and N900 and couldn't see myself owning a non-maemo/meego phone once I bought mine. Needless to say, Nokia's direction since I purchased my phone 2 years ago hasn't sat very well with me and so I'm hesitant about buying the N9. I hope my phone will function until Jolla releases a decent Meego phone.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 5:05 PM on October 10, 2012


A really sad story.. a lot of work done, some great, and so little to show for it now. I think the root cause was the refusal to acknowledge that Symbian was/is a dog. Even if you can justify not replacing it before the iPhone in 2007, that should have provided the wake-up call that Symbian wouldn't be able to cut it. Instead it took OPK getting fired to get there 4 years too late.
posted by cmicali at 5:29 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: "I keep wanting to think Harmattan is a plan on Manhattan "

Let me tell you about the Hamattan, a drink of whiskey, vermouth and garnished with a round of proscuttio.
posted by boo_radley at 6:01 PM on October 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I was an N900 user and loved it. I could always amaze my iPhone holding friends by opening and running 20 applications at once. I wanted more of a mix though, with some real app marketplace that had useful titles. I liked mucking around in the OS and learning how to run things from root but sometimes I just wanted a simple solution. If the N9 had the right processor and allowed for faster network speeds, I'd have considered it. I currently utilize a Windows 7 phone (not a Nokia model) for work and an Android phone for my personal use. Neither one of them compares to what my N900 was. Sigh....
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:05 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm hoping to pick up a Jolla phone when they come out. I'm hoping the hardware is decent.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:12 PM on October 10, 2012


I peeked at the specs for the N900.

Resistive touchscreen in 2009. No wonder they're on death's door right now.
posted by mullingitover at 6:24 PM on October 10, 2012


Except for the weak power supply connector, the n900 was awesome.

I use computers far too much to be carrying one in my pocket, and I prefer the dumb phone functionality wise, otherwise I would have immediately gone and bought a second n900 when my first broke.
posted by idiopath at 6:24 PM on October 10, 2012


For my few years of use, I never had an issue with the resistive screen on the n900. I never figured out how to use a multi touch UI though, so I probably don't know what I was missing.
posted by idiopath at 6:26 PM on October 10, 2012


The N900 was a great device that mostly worked really well in its era. It had a great, high resolution screen for when it came out. Of course, the iPhone 4 (which came out after the N900) surpassed it. The resistive screen was actually really good. At times you'd think it was capacitive in terms of how sensitive it was, and it didn't have some of the odd effects and weird softness of accuracy I've gotten from all capacitive screens.

I stayed with my N900 probably a bit too long and then gave up with Nokia and now I have a Galaxy Nexus, which is both way better and in some ways not as good (OLED screens are both awesome and horrible, for example). And the fake multitasking when you never know when a process will be thrown out and get restarted when you switch back bothers me.

Nokia had such a chance with the pre-iPhone and early iPhone area with their N series devices. And they missed it, which was probably inevitable for the size and culture of Nokia. Even as I and other people I knew in the free software area loved the N900, we all knew it was doomed. And Nokia would abandon it. Nice to have a huge document describing its path however.
posted by skynxnex at 6:34 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I keep thinking of Moblin as some sort of mythical creature sort of like a goblin, even though I know it just means Mobile Linux.
No, you were right.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:49 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How could I have forgotten that.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:57 PM on October 10, 2012


Ad, you just lost Three Internets...

...and must start back at the beginning of the labyrinth.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 7:07 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tried MeeGo for a while on my netbook. It was okay; pretty, but not really intuitive. Spent too much time trying to figure out how to do stuff instead of just doing it. Switched back to Ubuntu fairly quickly.
posted by xedrik at 7:33 PM on October 10, 2012


Ad, you just lost Three Internets...


I don't even know who I am anymore!

I've never owned a Nokia. I've always bee partial to StarTacs but that ship has sailed (unless some small shop wants to do StarTac repro kickstarter. A new StarTac workalike with a one line multi segment LED and 5 monophonic ring tones would probably cost $20 today).

Parts of the story are sadly familiar. Crawl through hell with seemingly the entire company against you only to be torpedoed at the last minute

I am going to preorder one of the Nokia WP8 phones. I know metafilter doesn't agree but I think Elop probably made the right choice just shutting everything down. I think trying a 3rd option, while riskier, may have greater rewards than competing for scraps in the android market. There is a world wide market, Apple doesn't enjoy subsidies all across the globe, I think MS and Nokia can catch them slipping.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:42 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Forget the naming problems. How about making a non-sucky OS? Start by NOT ripping the good parts out of Debian.

As usual, you and I seem to disagree about all things unixy. Ah, well. I thought they did a great job of keeping the most important parts of Debian intact.

Maemo, before it was Meego, was so close to being great I can barely stand to talk about it. Apt-get in a phone! Incredible maps, the best Bluetooth integration to be had anywhere, and Hildon, still in my opinion one of the great tablet interfaces that was not to be.

I still use an n810 as an e-reader and backup terminal, it's charging on my desk next to my phone, but... Such odd decisions for feature incompleteness. Skype, except the camera doesn't work, that sort of thing. I understand that eventually, after a long time, it was finally made to work on the n900, but by then it was too late, and Nokia never actually made enough of them anyway.

And though the n900 was uncompetitive in a lot of ways - that dodgy touchscreen was not the worst of it - my God, the abandoned N9. Such a waste, Nokia, such a waste.

If you ever get a chance to play with an N9, don't pass it up. It is different from anything else on the market, and an amazing device. Just for a moment, Nokia had proof, proof in their hands, that there was a way to build a beautiful, world class phone without imitating Apple. Build quality, software polish... It was there. They had it, and they threw it away.

It's not to be now, of course. And that software stack has a long history of failure behind it, but if you look closely, that was a lot more mismanagement more than misfeature. Maybe they have a shot, we'll know in a few weeks.

Jolla, I want to believe. Please be great.
posted by mhoye at 8:12 PM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sorry, but in the war of survival for quixotic smartphone operating systems, my heart goes out to webOS. And even for BB10, if for nothing but for sympathy towards the Canadian economy.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:32 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was like they headed for the station to catch the train to success but just couldn't decide on what to pack or who to leave the dog with. It wouldn't have mattered anyway because that train was an express and didn't even stop at their station.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:39 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again, Symbian was fine for what it was designed to be, not a touch screen OS. A couple of years ago, it was even whipped into decent enough shape for touch screens (Belle). Maemo, when finished (aka when the N9 was released), was one of the best smartphone OSes ever to grace this earth. The N900 shipped with a what, 600MHz Cortex A8 and a paltry 256MB of RAM. Yet it can do everything my Gnex does very nearly as smoothly even though the Gnex has twice as many cores, four times the memory, and twice the clock rate.

It's called efficiency, and I like it very much.

Anyway, Nokia's plan to unify the API between Symbian and Maemo/MeeGo with Qt and push Symbian to lower end phones and use MeeGo on the high end was absolute brilliance. Symbian, unlike all competing smartphone OSes, requires little in the way of system resources, so can be stuffed into a phone with a $20 bill of materials and still work reasonably well. Unfortunately, just as the plan was reaching fruition, shareholders got antsy and revolted, leaving us with this idiotic tie-up with Microsoft and a slowly dying company instead of a continuation of their utter dominance in global smartphone sales.

It's not terribly surprising. It's very rare that an executive can leave the US and do anything approaching a good job at a foreign company. Whether it's culture or incompetence, I don't know, but Stephen Elop killed Nokia with his impatience. Say what you like about OPK, but he at least had a workable vision for the future and presided over the company that sold by far the most smartphones worldwide year in and year out. And he built Nokia Stores before Apple Stores were even a gleam in Steve Jobs' eye. Sadly, the store in NYC is gone now, so I guess fuck you if you want to see and feel what it is you're buying before shelling out the dough if you don't want a damned carrier branded phone. It's just another in a long line of mistakes.
posted by wierdo at 9:48 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've had my N9 for the best part of a year now, and it's easily the best phone I've used. The UI is intuitive and smooth, the phone itself is very aesthetically pleasing, and there's an enthusiastic community tinkering and updating. Elop truly did drop the ball on this, especially seeing as the WP7 Lumias did not fare any better.

At the end of the day smartphones are just mobile computers, and the OS is hardly a differentiating factor anymore. The same apps are available on iOS and Android, and that's what makes the difference. You can't have a successful OS without the latest shiny apps and games - and that's where systems like Meego can't keep up.
posted by xqwzts at 2:09 AM on October 11, 2012


Sorry, but in the war of survival for quixotic smartphone operating systems, my heart goes out to webOS.

Well, I've got some news for you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:44 AM on October 11, 2012


Maemo, before it was Meego, was so close to being great I can barely stand to talk about it.

This is so opposite of what I found my n810 like I'm boggling. It had apt-get, but hid it and made a separate "app store"-like thing that completely sucked. It was impossible to find anything even when you knew it was there and the offerings stank. Just as an example, I found a grand total of ONE mp3 player that supported bookmarking (essential for audiobooks) and the playlist support was nearly non-existent. I had to manually rename files and make a playlist so the player would do the right thing.

And I had to do that renaming on my desktop, because BusyBox (a crime against humanity) has such a broken implementation of everything that you can't do much with it.

Every single app was like that, really. It was like someone had seen, for instance, a to-do list and calendar manager once and spent 15 minutes making something like that, then released it as a mature application.

I think I tried installing via apt-get once and trashed my OS, had to reflash, suddenly apps I used to have weren't available (even in the store) or wouldn't install, etc. It was a nightmare that having to interface through a single finger wasn't helping.
posted by DU at 4:56 AM on October 11, 2012


I feel sort of inexorably tied to MeeGo. I pre-ordered the Nokia 770 I was so excited about it (how Nokia USA screwed over their pre-order customers by intentionally not filling their orders first is another story). After I got it, I built an interface for my squeezebox specifically for the Nokia 770. That work eventually parlayed into a real job working on the squeezebox, which was awesome until the parent corporation spectacularly bungled the spirit of it all, killing the product and alienating the incredible user community. Kind of like what Nokia did with MeeGo. Circle of life.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:49 AM on October 11, 2012


The whole story is dreadfully believable, and I've seen many elements of it elsewhere. When your biggest enemy is another team in your company, it goes very wrong - it can work out, as Sony and Intel have managed competitive development in the past, and I think Apple is a big proponent - but it's very resource hungry, burns people out and can go poisonous very fast. It most certainly can ruin a company, unless it's managed with ruthless efficiency.

Oddly, it's the sort of high-risk strategy that otherwise conservative companies like. It may have a purpose in hollowing them out from the inside.
posted by Devonian at 5:56 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


my God, the abandoned N9. Such a waste, Nokia, such a waste.

If you ever get a chance to play with an N9, don't pass it up. It is different from anything else on the market, and an amazing device. Just for a moment, Nokia had proof, proof in their hands, that there was a way to build a beautiful, world class phone without imitating Apple. Build quality, software polish... It was there. They had it, and they threw it away.


This is probably unseemly, but I lusted after the N9. As in, I actually had physical reactions upon seeing it in action. Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh...

...And I was naive enough to believe that, surely, either Apple or Google was going to pick up on it for the next version of their OS and/or flagship phone. Instead, it went to Microsoft, who did what they could with their mishmash of an OS (at the time, Windows Phone 7.5) and the Lumia family. They're very pretty, and Windows Phone 8 looks quite decent, but it's not the same. I will admit to being somewhat tempted towards a Lumia depending on what happens over the next year with Nokia and WP8. If you have an Android phone, you can download a set of a couple hundred app icons done in the style of Harmattan, if you want to try and recreate the look of the homescreen/app drawer. But the N9 is gone and it may well be a long time before we get something that looks that good and comes with an OS and interface that is worthy.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2012


But the N9 is gone and it may well be a long time before we get something that looks that good and comes with an OS and interface that is worthy.

Maybe not as long as you think.
posted by mhoye at 7:31 AM on October 11, 2012


DU: "I think I tried installing via apt-get once and trashed my OS, had to reflash, suddenly apps I used to have weren't available (even in the store) or wouldn't install, etc. It was a nightmare that having to interface through a single finger wasn't helping."

I did not have that experience with my N810. I did find it underpowered and the application lineup unimpressive. The N900 was much better on that front.

I'm still waiting for a decent phone with a large touchscreen and a slide-out QWERTY, not having been graced with an N950 and not really desiring an E7 at its price point. It would have been nice for them to lend me an E7 to try out, but no dice.
posted by wierdo at 2:07 PM on October 11, 2012


It would have been nice for them to lend me an E7 to try out, but no dice.

I have one in my pocket right now, and it's classic Nokia. It's got the best bluetooth around and HDMI-out, so if I want to hook a keyboard and mouse up it can serve as a full-sized terminal. It's got one of those reversible USB hubs in it, so I can plug a USB key _into_ it if I want to. Solidly built, quite good camera, the best physical keyboard I've ever seen on a pocketable device on it, bar none.

That is to say: the hardware is solid, from good to surprisingly great so in some places. And the software is garbage. It is unambiguously junk. Unreliable, flaking out in horrible ways (using more than one mail account with it will periodically just wedge the whole phone) and with bugs and UI-related edge cases that harken back to the bad old days where diagnosing computer problems was some sort of weird event-driven voodoo.

As one example, a problem that hasn't been fixed in two major updates, is that if you unplug it after a charge you get a well-meaning little popup telling you to unplug your wall-wart to save energy. But if you receive an SMS without dismissing that popup, the SMS dialog appears overtop of it, but the original popup stays blocking on the entire OS; you can't dismiss it, and now the only way you can interact with your phone is after a hard reset.

And that's all, and nowhere near the worst, of it. The worst is, every now and then for no reason I can duplicate it just silently forgets it's a phone. Won't send or receive calls, email, sms, anything. It just silently dies in your pocket. Were you expecting any calls then, maybe your wife and kids, or a prospective employer? Too bad, your phone's busy being a doorstop or pretending it's in a cave or something.

I'd pay good money to be able to install Meego, or Android, or almost anything else on this phone. As it is, it's just about junk.

Which is all to say, you do not want an E7, and if anyone from inside Nokia is reading this, can you tell me how to install Meego on this thing? I'll give you money.
posted by mhoye at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2012


I'm glad people wrote and translated this article, so now I'll have a single place I can point people to instead of orally explaining that Debian begat Maemo, which with Moblin begat MeeGo, which begat Tizen ....
posted by brainwane at 7:06 PM on October 11, 2012


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