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Nokia Preps Linux OS For Low-End Smartphones 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the eggs-in-different-baskets dept.
itwbennett writes "Nokia is going after the low-end smartphone market with a Linux-based OS code-named 'Meltemi.' The phones are expected to cost under $100 without subsidies. A Nokia spokesman's no-comment comment went like this: 'Of course, we don't comment on future products or technologies. However, I can say that our Mobile Phones team has a number of exciting projects in the works that will help connect the next billion consumers to the Internet.'"
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Nokia Preps Linux OS For Low-End Smartphones

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  • This means the three friends Linux-Nokia-Microsoft will be in bed together. It's not surprising considering Nokia already developed Qt and they were developing MeeGo which is based on Linux. Their Nokia N9 [nokia.com] phone is quite awesome, actually.

    Now what's great about this is the fact that with Nokia's history they have proven to put out quality hardware. They can also really use this to fight against both iPhone and what's worrisome for some, Android. Android has lots of fragmentation and patent related problem
    • by mhh91 (1784516)

      Sony Ericsson is known to put out quality hardware, Nokia is known for just putting out.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ridiculous. Nokia makes the best hardware out there. Their problem is being horribly late with software, due to terrible management.

        • by md65536 (670240)

          Ridiculous. Nokia makes the best hardware out there. Their problem is being horribly late with software, due to terrible management.

          This gives them an excuse to implement my conspiracy theory:
          - Nokia will have MS doing the work of "customizing" Linux for the phones. MS will brand it in a way that it both cashes in on the Linux name, and also tries to sound like "It's our own work that makes it good."
          - MS will keep building up ways to make money off Linux. They'll spin two ways; they'll claim that their work exploiting^H^H^H^H extending Linux legitimizes their right to claim license fees for the rest of it, and they'll slowly solidify th

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Having worked at Microsoft, there's no way I think this will happen in the next few years.

            Microsoft has a very strong culture of "not invented here", and is completely paranoid about open source contaminating their products. Any involvement with open source (and in particular, GPL software) requires a monstrous amount of paperwork and negotiation, and will be shot down in nearly all cases. Since Microsoft already has their phone OS, they will not use Linux.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by tech4 (2467692)

            - MS will keep building up ways to make money off Linux. They'll spin two ways; they'll claim that their work exploiting^H^H^H^H extending Linux legitimizes their right to claim license fees for the rest of it, and they'll slowly solidify their position of "ownership" due to some bullshit patents they have.

            So wait, Red Hat, Canonical, Google and other companies are all warmly welcome to contribute and make improvements, but when it's Microsoft we should go "noo, we don't play with guys like that. go away."

            They're all profiting (or as you say, exploiting) Linux just the way you describe.

            • Very true about others "exploiting" Linux, except for a major difference: They all play by the Open Source License rules. You make a change to FOSS code, AND RE-RELEASE THE PROGRAM, you must provide the source code when requested. That requirement totally negates MS's number one, and historically proven, business strategy: embrace, extend, extinguish. If they embrace and extend, they have to let it out into the wild. They can't extinguish it. That's why they have always treated FOSS like the Gods Damned Pla

              • They all play by the Open Source License rules. You make a change to FOSS code, AND RE-RELEASE THE PROGRAM, you must provide the source code when requested.

                When have Microsoft not adhered to the license terms for releasing the source code?

                That's why they have always treated FOSS like the Gods Damned Plague.

                Yes, there is no doubt that they have done scare tactics against FOSS, but then they have also done things like create http://www.codeplex.com/ [codeplex.com] to host open source projects (which they contribute a great many themselves).

                I would love to have MS come play with Linux. As long as they follow the rules and play in good faith.

                And yet Microsoft do contribute to Linux [osnews.com]. I imagine a lot of those changes were to fix interoperability with their products, but it still does show that they do contribute and play by the rules.

            • by AngryDill (740460)
              Amen, brother! I mean it ain't like one of the four companies has been very conspicuously threatening others with claims that Linux violates unspecified patents. No sir! They are all exactly the same!
        • Explain the N97 then.

      • I don't what your experience might be to say such a thing but in my case, I've found that Nokia phones extremely reliable in terms of durability. Enduring all kinds of hardships without much more than a scratch. I'm talking about falling on the pavement at 30 Km/h and uncountable 1/1.5 mts falls in different surfaces.

      • by KugelKurt (908765)

        Sony Ericsson is known to put out quality hardware, Nokia is known for just putting out.

        SE makes good hardware? Since when? I've had 3 SE phones and they all sucked on the hardware level (software as well -- eg. worst T9 ever).
        I'd go so far saying that any hardware related to post-1990 Sony sucks.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by tech4 (2467692)
      Just a slight correction, $400 million an year of course. And so this isn't just self-reply... Nokia has always needed help with their UI and consumer friendly part in their smartphones. I think Windows 7 is a really good choice for that, as it's actually a really user friendly OS and it already as the marketplace and other stuff ready that Nokia never got off alone. But Nokia has also done good low-end phones and they're still selling really great in Asia and in Europe too. Linux is a good choice for those
      • Nokia has always needed help with their UI and consumer friendly part in their smartphones.

        They've made a really good choice of a partner, then.

        I'd love to see the ribbon interface of a phone. I guess they could market it to old folks, as it's be able to double as a walking stick.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @02:24PM (#37578446) Journal
      What I don't understand about this plan(assuming it isn't mere rumor) is that the linux-based OS is supposed to be for cheap, low-spec phones that their new MS/Nokia BFF WP7 deal doesn't provide them with an OS suitable for...

      Their MeeGo/QT work, now orphaned, was largely aimed at higher end smartphones, the same ones that are now going to be WP7 devices. None of the linux-with-custom-stuff-on-top phone OSes(MeeGo, Android, WebOS) work particularly well on sub-smartphone hardware. They are powerful, have some nice features, and don't suffer from some of the horrid, idiosyncratic development environments of the old dumbphone and featurephone OSes; but they don't actually scale down very far before you are looking at some seriously dire performance, RAM so limited that multitasking is largely a theoretical benefit, and a screen so lousy that your decent browser is nearly useless for anything that isn't a deeply spartan 'mobile' website that a 1997 WAP phone could have rendered....

      That's what I don't understand: Linux-based systems definitely have their points on more powerful hardware, and Nokia has access to one of their own(in addition to doing an adroid hostile-fork, as Amazon did); but they aren't so hot on weaker hardware(Exercise: grab a copy of the debian m68k port and replicate the features of, say, a Palm III, in 2MB of ROM, 2MB of RAM, and a 16MHz processor....). Nokia also has a number of eccentric and crufty; but eminently suited to very-low-spec phones OSes available. Why would they possibly be spinning Yet Another Linux WIth Something Weird On Top Of It OS?
      • by tech4 (2467692)
        I think you're under assuming recent generation low-end phones. They're perfectly capable of multitasking, surfing the internet, many even have cameras. They might not have so many features, the camera quality isn't really that good, but even the cheap phones now a day can do lots of stuffs. And I actually just looked from Nokia's site. Since hardware is the most cost, I think they can do it with their Linux solution since now they're using Symbian.
      • by Imbrondir (2367812) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @02:53PM (#37578646)

        Cheap low end hardware has changed since the Palm III

        They are probably thinking about an 600-800MHz ARM9/11 cpu with 128-256MB of RAM, with a GPU that can still draw 30 million triangles per second and play 1080p videos (like say the 25$ raspberry pi coming out this november). Also Nokia is moving upcoming Qt 5 rendering to run almost entirely on OpenGL (ES). This will probably make the UI on such devices (GPU with a cpu tacked on) smoother than on a high end Android 2.x phone.

        Then again, they could just as well do this on existing Symbian devices.

        • by Microlith (54737)

          Within a few months, Cortex-A8 based processors are going to be low end.

          they could just as well do this on existing Symbian devices.

          It is cheaper to utilize components that are getting outside development than ones requiring you do all the work internally. That's why they merged Maemo into MeeGo (long term planning, really) and why they seem to be transitioning the low end to Linux.

          Only question is if they'll drag Aegis over to the low end and cripple the systems even more severely than iOS and Android.

          • The Nokia Linux phones I saw so far (N900, N9 and N950) where quite accessible. You can either boot in secure mode or switch to development mode; the user is free to decide, he doesn't even need to hack the device or anything - just use the well documented setting. In secure mode each app has its own secure data area, cryptographically protected; something I wouldn't want to miss for some sensitive information. In development mode you can access anything you like - even the encrypted secure storage of the

      • by Flambergius (55153) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @03:22PM (#37578814)

        It's probably more than just a rumour, at least that's the impression I got from the Finnish media, which tends to be fairly well informed. Meaning that the OS exist and there are products planned, but of course no guarantees that a product will ship.

        As to how the Meltemi-stuff make any sense:

        At the level that Nokia makes decisions, the smartphone segment of mobile business isn't about hardware anymore, it's applications and services, or probably more to the point, it's about attracting developers. Nokia ditched their own OSes because they knew that by themselves they could not attract enough developers to build a fourth "ecosystem" (iOS, Android and WP being the there current ones). Nokia said that they chose between Android and WP, and, while we can speculate why they chose WP, one of the stated reasons was the fully-fledged and mature tool-chain that WP has.

        Meltemi itself may be about many things: hedging their bets, getting something out of the Linux experience they have, or maybe they just feel that the segment suits a Linux-based OS. The next generation of sub-$100 phones will be much more powerful then previous ones and it would be misleading to think them as having very low specs, but it will still be a distinct segment, separate from the smartphone segment, especially it will not be driven by third-party applications and services. That means that Nokia can still, by themselves, make a competitive phone to that segemnt without having to build an ecosystem.

        In summary, Nokia ditched Linux (MeeGo) on smartphones because they had to, and they are using Linux (Meltemi) on feature phones because they can.

        • by toopok4k3 (809683)

          When I showed news of this to my boss. He just replied "yeah my old buddy who's still at Nokia works on this". My boss used to work at Nokia himself.

          Anyway, the rumour began to sound more plausible after hearing his comment.

      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @04:51PM (#37579338)

        Microsoft doesn't have a good history of playing nice with partners. They tend to die painful deaths and their history in the mobile space is that of spectacular failure.

        Scaling Linux from Meltemi up from a low spec to a high spec smartphone would be relatively easy. If the MS "partnership" goes the way all the previous ones have gone, Nokia would be dead, full stop. This way they may have an escape route.

        Oh and "feature phone" these days is 100MHz with 32Mb RAM, 2Gb storage. That sounds like a 30 user system to me.

      • I've got an old motorola a780 somewhere that ran linux fine with only a 200MHz cpu in it.
      • You can run uClinux on a Nintendo DS or even lower specced hardware. The OS (let's go by the textbook on this guys and not the beige box=hard drive trendy marketing definition) is powerful enough it's the applications they need to be slimmed down - and that includes display managers. There's plenty of ways to do a GUI without going full Maemo/Meego. It's worth doing if you intend to port other stuff to it, it's not about doing completely new stuff in isolation with nothing to do with other projects as yo
      • by ras (84108)

        What you are possibly missing is that Linux doesn't use much hardware in todays terms. OpenWrt will happily run Linux plus a user space in 16M. That 16M gives you real time multitasking, IPv4, IPv6 and CIFS network stack, firewall, QOS, flash, HDD and fat, file systems, ACL's, 80211 stack, bluetooth stack, USB drivers, memory management, a mature development environment with every language known to man.

        On today's hardware 16M is nothing, even Nokia's current S40 phones have 16M. In fact they (eg a Nokia

    • It's half of a really smart strategy.

      The other half involves inventing a time machine and doing it in 2007.

    • by gtall (79522)

      Wow! So MS is getting $146 Billion a year from Android. Neat, that's more than their entire yearly revenue. How do they do it?

  • WTF??! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jay Maynard (54798) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @02:05PM (#37578316) Homepage

    Is there any level on which this decision makes sense in light of Nokia's direction?

    Any phone smart enough to run Linux us smart enough to run WP7.

    And Nokia? Embracing Linux? After jettisoning MeeGo?

    And Stephen Elop? Linux?! HUH?!

    Consistency? What's that?

    Does Nokia have any strategic direction at all?!

    • Re:WTF??! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by multi io (640409) <olaf.klischat@googlemail.com> on Saturday October 01, 2011 @02:26PM (#37578458)

      Is there any level on which this decision makes sense in light of Nokia's direction?

      Looks like different factions within Nokia competing/fighting against each other.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        They've been working on Linux for phones for a long time, mostly as a fallback plan if symbian didn't take off.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          I seem to recall Trolltech were doing things for linux phone GUIs for several years before Nokia bought them. That adds up to a fair bit of developer time and real time.
    • Though this isn't true:

      Any phone smart enough to run Linux us smart enough to run WP7.

      You can strip Linux down to sweet fuck all. Windows OTOH isn't Windows unless it has windows.

      But yeah... WTF?

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        While your statement is both true and vulgar it lacks details.
        Linux can run on ARMv4 for sure and maybe even lower versions while WP7 requires at ARMv7 aka Cortex CPUs I believe they use the Tegra as their target.
        Take a look at the Raspberry Pi as an example. Combine that with a touch screen and a phone chip and you have a smartphone that can run Linux.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Any phone smart enough to run Linux us smart enough to run WP7.

      Not true. Lots of embedded devices use Linux, it can have a very small footprint.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      And Stephen Elop? Linux?! HUH?!

      Apparently, Linux is only good for the dumbphones, while the smart ones run Windows. Makes sense from a general Microsoftie point of view.

    • Re:WTF??! (Score:5, Informative)

      by EvilNTUser (573674) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @04:27PM (#37579198)

      According to rumors I've heard, this isn't Linux as we know it. They're going to run Qt as close to the hardware as possible with everything else stripped away. And we'd better hope it works, because it's the last chance we have of a Desktop Linux-compatible toolkit getting significant phone market share. I don't want to develop in Java, goddamnit.

      • It's already worked on what is now low end hardware, there were Qt interface phones even before Nokia bought Trolltech. The proof of concept has been there for years. What it hasn't done is made it into the mainstream.
    • by AftanGustur (7715)

      Is there any level on which this decision makes sense in light of Nokia's direction?

      Any phone smart enough to run Linux us smart enough to run WP7.

      And Nokia? Embracing Linux? After jettisoning MeeGo?

      And Stephen Elop? Linux?! HUH?!

      Consistency? What's that?

      Does Nokia have any strategic direction at all?!

      My guess is mass engineer dissapointment with corporate decisions or some other internal war burning in Nokia.

    • Any phone smart enough to run Linux us smart enough to run WP7.

      Yes, but they were probably talking about embedded Linux, not what you currently think of when you think of the Linux stack, or even the x86 Linux kernel.

      And in that sense, no, embedded Linux can have a much smaller footprint than WP7. Have you even seen the minimum requirements [gsmarena.com] for WP7? They're not super high by today's standards, but they're not super low either. I think Microsoft even stated it as a benefit that they were not going to start their phone with low end hardware.

    • by drolli (522659)

      That means: MS wants to first harvest good revenue market segments and not spoil things by selling anything too cheap to early. I see WP7-Starter editions coming after the fat cows have been milked.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Any phone smart enough to run Linux us smart enough to run WP7.

      No, no, and no.

      WP7 runs only on a certain processor (it's called a "chassis"). Right now it's a specific Qualcomm SoC. This ensures the WP7 experience is relatively consistent across all WP7 phones.

      Linux can run on many more processors, and on processors far lower-end. You know, the ones that give Android a really bad name because they run it on sub-400MHz processors that can't keep up.

      So a lightweight Linux phone OS is still useful - something

    • by Urkki (668283)

      I believe it'll be a "Qt phone" more than a Linux phone. It could just about as well use Windows kernel, except it'd cost money, and there probably even isn't suitable Windows kernel for the purpose, I doubt Win8 kernel without Metro would make much sense really, since those two have been more or less designed to go together, and also I believe Windows kernel hackers are in somewhat more short supply than Linux kernel hackers...

      Another thing is, with Qt-based solution, Nokia has complete control over SDK, w

    • Is there any level on which this decision makes sense in light of Nokia's direction?

      It makes a perfect sense because Elop can't fire all linux developers at once. It's just impossible under the law. So he has to find them a useless work for an year or two.

      Consistency? What's that?

      Everything is consistent. They are going to kill linux devlopment, just can't do it in one month.

      Does Nokia have any strategic direction at all?!

      Yes. Microsoft.

    • by jrumney (197329)

      Any phone smart enough to run Linux us smart enough to run WP7.

      Probably not. Unlike the versions of Windows Mobile before it, Microsoft is attempting to control the hardware that is released with their OS. This means there is a large low end smartphone market that is almost exclusively there for Android, since Microsoft and Apple are not interested.

  • .... Nokia elopes with best man, Linux. Leaves Microsoft at the altar.

    Sounds like an episode of Jerry Springer's show.

  • For less than $100 you can't expect too much, but maybe xterm?
    • by zlogic (892404)

      Windows Phone 7 is kinda text-based.
      Nokia could use a command-line interface with cloud-based voice recognition and create a really cheap phone - no keyboard, no touchscree, plus bonuses from AT&T for making people pay for traffic even when they're not actively using the internet.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @03:01PM (#37578696) Journal

    Even here, in Finland (one of the most expensive countries in Europe), you can find decent Android phones for under $100. I don't see how Nokia can compete, after Elop's brand suicide.

    • by tsa (15680)

      Could you name me some of those decent Android phones? I'd like one for that money but I have no idea what to look for. There is so much on the market!

      • by Kynde (324134)

        For Androids the cheapest Huaweis sell here for about 110e and you get a ton of options around 150e.

        There are a lot of Nokians that sell between 50e and 100e, but I doubt that Nokia could sell anything they can jam linux into below 100e. Those cheap ass phones are all series40 with virtually zero sw costs and a line of phones they've been making for ten years now so no wonder they can make them cheap. Nokia always had good hardware manufacturing and logistics, it's what they did and didn't do with software

    • Obviously you can get an Android with your contract. But these are Nokia phones that just plain don't cost $100.
      • I checked the local prices a few days ago. SEKUSD is now at 6.8756. Huawei U8180 Ideos X1, no plan, 599 SEK, that works out to $87. Samsung GT-S5570 Galaxy Mini, no plan, 990 SEK, $144. The Android competitors are on a race to the bottom. You get them for free now if you sign up for a plan. It is too late for Nokia. They ruled the "damn cheap" price range the last decade. That price range is now seeing competition from cheap Android phones and I would rather have one those if I were to spend less than $100
    • by Locutus (9039)
      compete? who said Nokia is out to compete? Elop is out to destroy Nokia to the point that Microsoft can get them for a song and dance and all their patents too.

      LoB
  • by Locutus (9039) on Sunday October 02, 2011 @01:46AM (#37581712)
    so they still have to use Linux because Windows Phone X, Y, or Z can't scale to the phone hardware Nokia wants to sell? Nice job Elop. I'm sure that's going to work out fantastic for you in your quest to destroy Nokia and hand the remains to Microsoft. No doubt the Linux base you have them building is going to be a constantly changing bastard of some sort so nobody has a chance to like it and the users all get driven to other phones/vendors.

    LoB
  • Not when the US carriers charge what they do. A cheaper iphone isn't going to help boost verizon subscriptions up to corporate expectations... cheaper rates will. Im as tired of hearing "cheaper phones will make..." as I was of hearing "ipod killer" 5 years ago and "ipad killer" today. When the carriers lower the rates - and not until then - I'll buy one.

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