Samsung to open source Bada next year. Will they use Meego to do it?
According to Wall Street Journal, Samsung is planning to open source their Bada smartphone platform next year.
Companies that do have their own successful proprietary platforms are no it usually too eager to start giving them away in hopes that outside developers will make it better in exchange. Companies who’s platforms do fail to take off or get into trouble, on the other hand, sometime do try to turn to the open source community for help. Sometimes these efforts work and result in a successful product (e.g. Netscape Navigator turned Firefox), sometimes they end in disaster – e.g. Nokia’s Symbian experiment. However, even in Netscape case – it wasn’t the actual open sourced code, but the community created in the process that built Firefox browser from scratch, without much help from Netscape. And it took years of stale browser competition for Firefox to emerge, while Netscape’s corporate owner reaped very few benefits from open sourcing.
So Samsung’s hints about Bada open sourcing plans next year does not sound like a sign of strength. When we combine this with Samsung’s apparent failure to achieve its own publicly announced goal to ship 10 million Bada phones in the first half of 2011, their own platform efforts do not look so successful anymore. But I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see what happens.
But how will Samsung go about open sourcing of Bada?
Bada is not an operating system itself. It is middleware, application framework and user interface layers running on top of Mentor Graphics owned Nucleus real time operating system kernel. Open Sourcing Bada without the operating system kernel makes little sense. But the current kernel is not owned by Samsung and will not be opened.
Fortunately for them, Bada was designed to be more or less independent from the underlying mobile OS. According to some company reps I talked to, they can replace the current RTOS kernel with Linux based mobile OS whenever they chose to do so. What they forgot to mention is that Samsung has to have a suitable Linux based mobile OS to put underneath Bada. But they do not have one, and mobile OS is not a trivial thing to develop.
And here’s where it gets interesting. What if Samsung teams up with Intel to put Meego kernel underneath Bada platform?
There were rumors that Intel is suspending Meego development for now, and Meego’s non-appearance during Intel Developer Forum last week seemed to confirm that. But then Steve “Chippy” Pane has published his impressions about Meego from IDF. And I started having some doubts. According to him:
No-one in Intel that’s involved with Meego is talking Meego. There’s no Meego conference planned yet, there was no Meego representation in the IDF technology showcase and I even heard a ‘watch this space’ comment in one of the technical sessions. Everyone is keeping their mouths shut tight. Something is going on.
If Meego was cancelled or suspended at Intel – there will be quite a few disgruntled employees, ready to spill the beans, and we would have heard something by now. But we have silence instead.
What if it’s for a good reason? What if this reason is that Samsung has decided to use Meego to replace Nucleus as an OS underneath the Bada? Samsung really needs a stronger underlying OS to give Bada a chance of competing with Android and Windows Phone. After Nokia defection, Intel desperately needs a smartphone hardware partner to keep Meego alive in mobile space. Among various flavors of Linux – Meego is the best there is for smartphones, and Samsung is the best hardware partner Intel can get for its mobile ambitions. Intel’s Meego on Samsung’s Bada phones looks like a match made in heaven. At least on paper, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in real life.
But, even if Samsung decides to go with Meego, the current Meego on smartphones branch is still at a near death. Without active Nokia support, there is no one to push it forward. And Sammy has no reason to do it either. Swipe interface that was such a hit on N9- is a proprietary Nokia thing, as is a lot of other smartphone related stuff that went into the Meego/Harmattan.
Intel may have tried to buy Meego assets from Fins, but Nokia did not sell – so a lot of things that went into N9 won’t be making the transition to Samsung. And I seriously doubt that Qt will make it onto Bada phones too. Mobile Qt is still controlled by Nokia, and Samsung will not trade its dependence on a still more or less neutral Google, to a dependence on one of its main rivals.
Samsung smartphones may get Meego core, but they will be much more Bada then Meego phones, with their own UI, SDK, app store and other distinct Samsung features.
Will it work? At this point I have some very serious doubts. Buts lets wait and see, and hope Samsung is up to the task to make Meego/Bada a success. The more competition we have out there – the better off we, users, are.