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Andrew Binstock

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Let's All Write a Mobile OS!

May 23, 2012

It certainly seems like the commercial world has become infatuated with writing operating systems for mobile devices and then spending lavishly to promote them. After a disappointing customer response, do the vendors fold up their tents and go home? No, they start the cycle once again.

The most egregious case of this anti-pattern is surely Intel's repeated forays. Why Intel would be writing operating systems for mobile devices is an enigma in itself. But let's look at the recent past to get the full sweep of its efforts: In 2007, it rolled out Moblin, its OS for the Intel Atom chip. While the chip runs x86 code just fine, Intel wanted this light, customized version of Linux for netbooks. However, not a lot of consumers were looking for netbooks with one-off versions of Linux, so two years later, Intel pushed Moblin on to the Linux Foundation. There, partially supported by Intel, Moblin was merged with Nokia-sponsored Maemo to form MeeGo. Meego, which presumably suggested "me on the go" rather than a truncated form of "enemigo," was even shorter-lived than Moblin. It was officially cancelled in September 2011. A new OS project was then launched by Intel and, this time, Samsung: Tizen. The recently completed first conference on Tizen left my contact there thoroughly unconvinced.

Nokia, meanwhile, morphed MeeGo into Meltemi, a new OS the vendor is hoping to use to replace Symbian on its low-end phones. It already uses Windows Phone for the higher-end devices. That same Windows Phone is an ever-evolving platform in its own right. It was previously Windows Mobile, before that, PocketPC, and originally Windows CE.

If you're having trouble keeping up, welcome to the club. More than any other segment in technology, if you follow mobile operating systems, you will need to become a historian — quickly! It makes me appreciate Android and iOS just a tad more.

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