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Meltemi? Linux OS?? Am I Reading That Right?

written by: S. R. Obbayi•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 10/18/2011

Battle-lines have been drawn. This time in the feature phone market with Nokia's impending entrance of their new Linux based operating system code-named "Meltemi" which is slated to take over from the soon to be retired S40 OS.

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    Tux The rumors have broken through and suddenly it is no longer a secret nor is there any mystery about Nokia's intent to cement its hold in the feature phone segment having lost significant ground to Android based smartphones and the iPhone in the smartphone market.

    This is not the first time Nokia has been involved in working with a Linux based OS. Nokia has over the years developed Maemo which has most popularly been known to power the Nokia N900. Again with efforts made in partnership with Intel, Nokia recently released the first and last official MeeGO based smartphone -- the Nokia N9. MeeGO to some extent was spawned out of Maemo.

    It is widely believed that the teams responsible for MeeGO and Maemo developments are instrumental in the workings of the Linux based Meltemi project. Just as other Nokia projects are named after winds, the Meltemi project is named after a type of wind that is most commonly found in the Aegean Sea area.

    The emergence of Meltemi is a significant step for Nokia in the feature phone sector especially after Nokia found good reason to abandon MeeGO and eventually Symbian in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system for its smart devices. Symbian smartphones are also slated for exit but at a much slower pace than MeeGO.

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    What About S40?

    The development of the Meltemi project shows that Nokia is not banking solely on either the Windows Phone operating system or the smartphone market but it is out to protect its interests in the S40 operating system based domain. S40 is Nokia's proprietary operating system.

    Meltemi has actually been slated to replace the S40 operating system. The idea behind Meltemi is about the need to bring high-end features to the low-end mobile phone sector. This would include the ability to download and install feature rich applications and the ability to use touch based gestures, among other features on low-end feature phones.

    This is something that was not practical with S40. S40 had grown somewhat fragmented with the operating system seeing several versions, each with different features for different devices. Furthermore S40 has been bent and twisted to fit the profile needed to stay relevant. How much bending S40 could take would be anyone's guess. There is therefore a valid case for the introduction of Meltemi in favor of S40.

    The end user development capabilities on S40 were primarily driven by the use of Java Mobile Edition for native applications as well as through Nokia Web Run-time widgets for web applications which has more practical use on the newer releases of S40 based phones. The newer S40 devices come with more feature rich capabilities that allow them to leverage the features of the S40 operating system. Unfortunately this locks out the low cost phones.

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    Under the Meltemi Hood

    With Meltemi, the development shifts to Qt. Qt is a cross platform development platform for C++ developers with some bindings for development in other languages such as Python and Java, among others. Whether these bindings will be available with Meltemi is yet to be seen. The most important thing that the Qt framework brings in terms of helping Nokia to hold its position as the feature phone market leader is that Qt is designed as a write once run everywhere framework.

    This will allow applications developed for other devices such as the Symbian S60 devices and the Symbian^3 devices to be able to run on feature phones with little or no modification to the code. In some cases applications which were developed for desktop computers will find their way into Meltemi.

    All these factors put Meltemi in a good place to ward off competition from Samsung which recently announced a new open source platform called Tizen.

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    Suitability of Meltemi

    Meltemi is not designed to be a work horse operating system with every feature under the sun packed in. It is designed to be feature specific with a targeted focus on the most basic devices that Nokia has to offer. We are still unsure of what the internal capabilities of Meltemi will be, we only know that it will have to maintain a small memory footprint, require as little processor power as possible and take up as little space as possible on the mobile device.

    Meltemi will also need to focus a great deal on security. With its presence on so many mobile devices, especially mobile phones that are expected to be used by the less tech savvy people of the world, Meltemi will definitely become a target for attacks from people through malware programs as well as through social engineered techniques.

    There's no word on exactly when Meltemi will roll out but stay tuned and we'll take a closer look when it does.

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