Intel committed to MeeGo, despite Nokia defection

Intel executives said that there remains an active group of companies committed to the operating system

Intel put on a brave face Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, insisting that there is continued strong support from it and many companies for MeeGo, the open source software platform that Nokia last week said it would abandon in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.

"Intel is disappointed at Nokia but life goes on," said Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's software and services group, during a press conference. "Our decision and resolve on MeeGo is only stronger."

She pointed to a long list of companies that are participating in the development of MeeGo including competitors Advanced Micro Devices, Texas Instruments and ST Ericsson; operators including Orange, Telefonica and Sprint; and software companies including Novell and Wind River.

Intel expects to see MeeGo tablets shipping this year based on its Atom chip, a low-power chip designed for smartphones and other portable devices. Handsets will follow, James said.

Despite Nokia's announcement that it would phase out use of Symbian and MeeGo, it still plans to ship its MeeGo phone this year.

To demonstrate the continued progress for the software, Intel showed off a new user interface for MeeGo running on tablets. It involves a series of columns that users can scroll through. The columns include one called "My Friends," which pulls in data from friends from Twitter, e-mail and other social networking sites.

Other columns display photos, videos and recently viewed Web pages.

In the MeeGo booth, a demonstration tablet includes an application that gives users remote access to their Windows PC or Mac computer, so that any application running on the computer can be accessed from the tablet. That demonstration unit also included Swype, the software that aims to make typing on touch screens faster.

An executive from Orange spoke at the press conference, reiterating the operator's support for MeeGo. He said that Orange first decided to support MeeGo because it represents an open environment. "The vision we shared [with Intel] was that this industry needed a truly open ecosystem providing a level field for all players," said Patrick Remy, vice president of devices for Orange. "That need is still there."

He may have been subtly referring to Android, which is open source but developed essentially exclusively by Google.

Even though the first MeeGo phones have yet to reach the market and only a few tablets are shipping with the software, Intel has high hopes. At a minimum, Intel would like to be in third place, since Apple and Android area already far ahead, James said.

Despite its enthusiasm, Intel is sure to be negatively impacted by Nokia's decision. Intel has made very little headway in the mobile phone market. It likely hoped that Nokia's support for MeeGo would help it sell its low-power Atom chips. Now that the world's largest phone maker has switched to Windows Phone, Intel loses that opportunity. Windows Phone 7 does not work with Intel's Atom processors.

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Nancy Gohring

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