Thursday, March 25, 2010

The danger of weak branding or: which MeeGo is the real MeeGo?

By following various blogs and forums, it occured to me there is quite a confusion as to what actually MeeGo is. The basic idea, announced in Barcelona during the MWC, was to have Maemo and Moblin merged into a new OS called MeeGo. So far so good (number of MeeGos: 1). However, recently Nokia re-branded Maemo 6 as MeeGo / Harmattan, which uses a different package format, repositories, so not quite the same MeeGo that was originally announced, despite the general similarity (number of MeeGos: 2). In the same vein, Moblin folks started calling Moblin 2.2 simply MeeGo (number of MeeGos: 3). But wait, the plot thickens! It has recently been confirmed that the N900 will be Nokia's reference platform for ARM-based MeeGo devices. Now, this is closest to the MWC MeeGo, but is just a developer reference platform, not something that end users are expected to install/use (number of MeeGoos: 4). Getting dizzy? Take a look at meego.com, you'll see that MeeGo also intends to provide separate versions (as in different user experience) of  MeeGo not just for Pocketables. There will be distinct editions for Netbooks, Media Phones, TVs, In-vehicle devices and, as you probably guessed it by now, they're all called MeeGo (number of MeeGoos: 5, 6, 7, 8). So the next time somebody asks for or talks about MeeGo, make sure it is clear what the object of the talk is, lest the discussion turn into Marklar.

This problem has been usually tackled by subbranding, for example Ubuntu very successfully uses names like KUbuntu, XUbuntu, Edubuntu, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, etc. Why is this so important you ask? MeeGo targets a very wide range of devices and users, far more diverse than Ubuntu. By allowing everything to be called MeeGo, despite having different UIs, architectures, application stores, DRMs, APIs, packaging systems and repositories, MeeGo becomes a weak brand. It will no longer be important whether something is MeeGo as it provides no guarantee of anything except for a generic Qt based compatibility (which means little to end-users). It's crucial this branding mess gets cleared up by the powers that be before the first releases are made and the first devices hit the streets, otherwise MeeGo (all 8 of them if I counted correctly) risks going from a strong distribution brand for the embedded industry to being just a generic synonym for 'Linux with Qt'.

14 comments:

  1. Totally agree and have been thinking the same thing. lots of confusion in the forums. Makes you wonder if Nokia even knows what's going on!

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  2. I think Nokia is losing to much traction to Android!!! Too much time to react to Android...
    Every big and smaller hardware producer on the planet are producing devices with Android inside, even the chinese clonners are producing them!!
    On the other side there is ONLY ONE device with Maemo on the market.. And probably wont run the new version of Meego6... Nokia didn't confirm if will support it.. There are lots of doubts on the air about this new plataform and Nokia needs to clarify quickly if it wants to win the war!!!

    The brand "Android" is becoming popular because there is a massification of devices with Android on the market , and with many devices out there, then is market to the software houses and free developers!! Thats my view...

    Greetings , Humberto Patricio

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  3. Well yes now that you mention it it does seem quite confusing indeed. And here I was, criticising the "indecision" between Maemo and Symbian. Little did I know!

    However if in the future we'll have MeeGo everywhere, then maybe the MeeGo in my fridge magnet can be whatever it is and I need not consern myself with it. I think this applies to Netbook and Mobile versions as well: I don't necessarily need to know the difference in MeeGo, as long as it doesn't change from (Nokia) phone to phone!

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  4. > Makes you wonder if Nokia even knows what's going on!

    We do. If you can't bare the current branding ongoing work you can just stay aside and wait. Or join the discussion with great ideas!

    Consider that the MeeGo brand has similar deadlines than the platform itself. Today we are in pre-code-dump phase and your confusion about branding is no different than the confusion you might have about the Multimedia subsystem, the UI toolkits etc. We will have a target architecture and code dump next week, a release on May, etc. Things will be come clear about the software and the project organization week by week, and I expect exactly the same about the brand.

    At the end users will only pay attention when there is a stable release and MeeGo devices announced to be in its way to the shops.

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  5. MeeGo is ENTIRELY about branding. To answer Humberto's point, the reason for changing the name is to open the platform to device manufacturers that might be worried about Nokia or Intel being the company holding the OS, and some binary code hostage.

    Google was seen (after releasing the Nexus One) as directly competing with their partners, device manufacturers don't feel comfortable with that. It'd be similar if I were selling you tomatoes that you turned into ketchup, and then one day I started making ketchup. How likely would it be that you'd start to look elsewhere for tomatoes?

    My point is that yes, MeeGo is just branding, just as "Windows Mobile" is, or "iPhone" is, or Android for that matter, since most manufacturers have added their own UI layers, backend APIs, and Application stores. The difference is that MeeGo aims to provide the same application framework across all platforms, so the application for your phone can also run on your TV set. Quim's point is very correct, if you want to have a say so it where MeeGo is heading, get over to MeeGo.com, add yourself to the mailing list and get involved

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  6. I rarely comment on blogs, but now I think it's time. You're absolutely right on this one. In my humble opinion, the only thingamabob that should be called MeeGo is the result of combining Maemo and Moblin, and of course the descendants. If Nokia chooses to call Maemo6/Harmattan MeeGo, without being really compatible with it, it should then be called Maemo6/Harmattan! As simple as that! The same goes naturally to all the other variants listed.

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  7. MeeGo is a terrible name at least Maemo sounded serious. I would like Nokia to carry on with the Maemo brand, but i doubt that will happen now.

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  8. Why announce something if it is not ready yet? That is my question. I think Nokia was fooled by Intel (who is not much into the mobile phone industry anyway) into announcing something that was not even in an embryon state. Other big corporations keep their new products and "weapons" so secretely until they hit the market and make a major impact.

    Maemo was around for a while but not the N900 and even if it was "target" towards early adopters the bloody fuss about Meego should not have been announced before the new Maemo update. It was a poor and rushed marketing decision by Nokia. Now because of the bloody fuss, People go for the Droid or Nexus one instead of N900. It does not even appear on CNET best smartphone list (http://reviews.cnet.com/best-smartphones/) eventhough it shares similar specs with Droid.

    Now from your perspective as a developer it might make sense or even as a discussion in a meeting room. But all this talk should not be in the internet. By the time we get a working commercial version of Meego we will all be using some HTC EVO II with Android 3...

    Peace.

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  9. Great article, Attila, and right on target IMO.

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  10. well i reckon unr sounds less scary now its just ubuntu netbook edition now

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  11. Zombificating this thread, slightly, it seems that "MeeGo 1.0 N" might be the new name for Harmattan:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=site:slideshare.net+%22meego+1.0+n%22&filter=0

    /via thp4: http://twitter.com/thp4/statuses/25899985783

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