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Looking into MeeGo's future

Intel has tried to keep a brave front in the wake of Nokia's about-face on MeeGo last week in favor of the Windows Phone platform. Intel looked beyond Nokia, showing the OS on tablets, and saying it would move on with Meego.

Intel has a lot of cash and has already put in a lot of resources into Meego, so don't expect the OS to die overnight.

As long as Intel supplies chips, it will have to supply the supporting OS that takes advantage of its hardware. So the company has to rethink its Meego strategy before it gets gobbled up by the likes of Android, iOS and even Windows Phone.

One thing is software -- smartphone OSes are tied to the processors that power the devices. A bulk of the operating systems -- iOS and Android included -- are developed around Arm processors, which go into most smartphones. Intel doesn't yet have a processor for smartphones, which is partly a reason why Meego is a non-starter today.

Meego's success could be glued to the number of chips Intel sells. Many of the drivers designed into Meego -- such as graphics acceleration -- are designed for Intel's smartphone chips. A version of Meego for Arm processors exists as an afterthought, but most of the active development revolved around Intel's smartphone chips.

So if the smartphone market loves Intel chips, they'll love Meego. It's as simple as that. If Intel hopes to push Meego into smartphones right now, it will need to promote development around Arm processors, which it won't do.

Intel is developing the smartphone chip called Medfield, which the company today said will ship this year. But it has also said one smartphone with Intel Inside will ship this year, making Meego's prospects in the smartphone bleak. Intel will need to partner with a major device maker to push Meego into the commercial space.

But Meego isn't only for smartphones. There are distros for tablets, set-top boxes and in-vehicle entertainment, but the volumes of those devices do not even come close to smartphones. Nevertheless Intel has already moved on, and showed a tablet running Meego today at the Mobile World Congress show.

If we remove Intel hardware from the equation, something really drastic will need to be done to make Meego an immediate success. Meego isn't widely recognized, so development could be merged with efforts such as Ubuntu, which has a solid reputation. Just a wild idea, but the OS needs some much-needed oomph to compete with Android.