A few days ago, we heard of the big news that Intel and Nokia have started consolidating their Moblin and Maemo codebases and have come up with a new distribution named Meego.
From the blog, it states that they “are taking the best pieces from these two open source projects and are creating the MeeGo software platform. Both teams have worked for a long time to support the needs of the mobile user experience – and MeeGo will make this even better.”
As I knew that Maemo’s interface was more suited for the mobile phone area for Meego, I decided to look into Moblin itself and see how it would serve the role of addressing the netbook part of the new platform.
As we see it currently, the pre-built Moblin live image is a largely Fedora 10 based distribution. It can however be built from Fedora 12, and Ubuntu 9.10. It is interestingly enough that the resulting build with be rpm based, not deb based.
Installing the live image to harddisk on my Benq Joybook was simple enough – it was actually similar to the Fedora/RedHat installs that I am used to.
Booting up was a treat: compared to Ubuntu Netbook Remix, the interface was intuitive and smooth.
The Miser interface upon first boot shows practically a wonderful display of your tasks, favorite apps, documents opened and other stuff that you’ve just used.
Different tabs allows the user to navigate through different sections of Moblin – easily categorized into media, internet, status, applications, zones, people and pasteboard.
The way that Moblin is organized is, in my opinion, one of the best interfaces that I’ve seen in a linux distribution for netbooks. It simply is the best optimization of space for 8″ to 12″ screens.
There are drawbacks however.
For one thing, NTFS is not supported in moblin. And due to licensing issues, the MP3s and H264 video is not supported out of the box, as well as proprietary codecs.
Another thing is that Moblin’s repository is still rather small. Understandable though, because this distribution is meant for netbooks.
There are a number of hacks you can do though, one is you can use the Fedora 10 (and sometimes 11) repository to download other programs.
Another option is to compile the source rpms from the fedora repositories yourself. The trick is to enable the development tools of moblin by typing in the command:
sudo yum groupinstall “Development Tools”
If you’re a little lazy to compile gstreamer yourself, you can use a repository created by a Moblin user named Matthi. The repository, albeit small, includes some nice programs to install for Moblin, such as WINE, Blender, and the gstreamer plugins to make your Moblin distribution run codecs supported by ffmpeg. You can get instructions for his repository here.
What is the Moblin’s future as Meego? I would say, rather bright. Seeing how the interface really compliments the Intel Atom netbook specifications nicely, I believe that most of the GUI Moblin has implemented will be carried on in the netbook versions of Meego. A possible challenge will be on how to implement the user experience on the Qt toolkit (Meego will be based on it, rather on GTK that Moblin uses). Since Moblin uses the Mozilla codebase for it’s integrated browser, it is not farfetched to assume that Meego will implement the Webkit browser as it’s integrated browser for the Qt for it’s WM/Miser interface.
As Qt has integrated media, browsing, APIs, as well as a compositing engine compared to GTK (Gnome still uses Compiz as it’s compisiting engine), we would probably see a more integrated architecture internally, when Meego reaches it’s final stages of development into stable.
Nokia and Intel would benefit each other, because for one reason, Nokia has a netbook. Also, Nokia’s design principles are horrible and clunky (see the S60 interface on symbian as an example) and is also seeing pressure on their interface designs from competitors like Google and Apple. One thing that Nokia has, is that they’re great at hardware R&D (especially mobile), and it is my belief that Intel is also looking into the mobile sector, especially considering that OSes like chrome, and android run on ARM processors and are indirectly competitors with Intel on this space.
All in all, I would say that if both Intel and Nokia play their cards right, Meego will be a very good competitive platform for mobile and netbook apps in the future.