The Linux Foundation's Collaboration Summit (LFCS) is focused on, well,
collaboration, so it is no surprise that a recent high-profile collaborative effort in
the Linux world,
MeeGo, had a strong presence
at the conference. Both sides of the merger of Moblin and Maemo, Intel and Nokia, had
representatives giving keynote speeches about MeeGo and how it intends to
interact with the community. Since the project is hosted by the
foundation, it makes sense that it would devote a good portion of
LFCS—a day-long MeeGo track in addition to the keynotes—to the
mobile distribution. The focus of both speakers was on developing MeeGo in
the open and working closely with upstream projects, rather than targeting
Ari Jaaksi, Nokia's VP for Maemo devices and MeeGo operations, spoke first,
which he saw as an advantage because Intel's Imad Sousou would be sure to
correct anything he said "wrong". The goal of the MeeGo project is
to "provide industry with an open platform" for various kinds
of devices. Both companies have been working on mobile distributions,
which means that they "integrate the same
components multiple times", and that is "stupid",
Jaaksi said. That is one of the main ideas behind the merger.
Nokia has been working with Linux and free software for a
number of years, since 2002 or 2003, and that it has been a "learning
exercise". It "made a lot of mistakes" but tried to
work within the community by participating with many different projects.
Its early realization that it needed to be part of the community, and not
"just use the code", was important.
But the integration
process, where the various components that made up Maemo were built and collected
into a release, was not open to community involvement. That is something
that will change for MeeGo: "We are going to build the MeeGo platform
in the open". It is a "huge change" that is going on
"right now, as I speak". The idea of doing that "may
seem trivial" to LFCS attendees, he said, "but it is a big
deal with us".
Sousou, who is the director of Intel's Open Source Technology Center,
echoed that idea. Working in the open will make collaboration easier, but
"you will see the messes, and we are OK with that". One of
the keys to making that work will be to focus on the upstream projects, he
said. It took Intel "some time to figure it out", but
downstream projects must "contribute and use the open source model".
There are "hundreds" of Intel engineers working on MeeGo,
Sousou said, but most of the work is not actually in MeeGo
itself. "It's happening upstream", at kernel.org,
freedesktop.org, and others. He doesn't want to see kernel patches, for
example, submitted to MeeGo, "submit it upstream". It's all
about "working with upstream and contributing upstream — there
is nothing more".
Both speakers talked about governing MeeGo in the open, with steering
committee meetings on IRC. Jaaksi notes that there is still some
adjustment that Nokia needs to make. He gets email from other employees
about seeing MeeGo roadmap plans on the Internet; they are worried about
competitors getting that kind of formerly secret information. He tells
them: "Yes, that's
how we do things".
Jaaksi notes that Palm had gotten products out earlier than Nokia,
"with our code", and that was "not their fault, [but] our
fault" by being too slow to market.
Google has also used Maemo code, and "we hope to use theirs".
A concern is that MeeGo will give competitors an advantage, but he
believes that it is the companies which participate in the project that will see
the most benefit. That concern may not be relevant for most of the people in
attendance, he said, but within Nokia, there is a question on how to
Sousou listed oFono and ConnMan as two projects where the two
companies had already worked together.
For MeeGo, they complement
each other well, Jaaksi said. Nokia brings experience working with mobile
handsets, ARM, and the phone companies, while Intel has "so much
knowledge about the Linux kernel". Both have good teams that
"know how to work in open source and combine open source with
business". Choosing the "best of breed" components from Moblin and
Maemo—or elsewhere—for MeeGo is something that both speakers
stressed—there is a general sense that the project is trying to avoid
But it's not just Intel and Nokia, as
the MeeGo project is looking for more contributors, which is another thing
that both speakers emphasized. Because of
their close working relationship, it was relatively straightforward to
merge Maemo and Moblin into one project. They didn't bring in other
companies at the start, because, in Jaaksi's opinion, "it would have
taken too much time" to get agreement with more companies. He said
that MeeGo wants to "demonstrate that it is an open source
project" that others can participate in. He listed multiple
companies that have become involved since the MeeGo announcement, including
hardware vendors, Linux distributors, embedded Linux vendors, and so on.
The two main participants have decided on a blueprint of the architecture,
which includes Qt as a platform for application developers, but the design
of the system is an "ongoing process that we invite people to
participate in", Jaaksi said. "Now is the time to join
MeeGo", he said, and there is much to be done, but there is little
risk for others because they have made a
commitment to do things in the open. Both stressed that there is a
simple, open governance model.
But, as an audience member pointed out, there is a veto power that Intel
and Nokia have over the project. The audience member wondered if a
community can still be built around that veto. Jaaksi responded that
things "will be fixed if we need to fix them" and that changes
will be made for anything that becomes an obstacle. Currently, MeeGo is
focused on getting more people involved and having "simple
governance". Earlier in his talk, he said that the governance
needed to stay out of the way to maintain the speed of development.
There are 200-300 participants in the IRC meetings, Sousou said, and anyone
can get involved. "If you contribute, you can help make
decisions", Jaaksi said, but MeeGo will "make some mistakes
The veto power for Nokia and Intel was one of the things that LFCS
participants grumbled about in the "hallway track". There is concern that
community input will be ignored. One area that is particularly sensitive
is the choice of RPM as the mandatory package format for MeeGo-branded
devices. Debian/Ubuntu-oriented developers felt slighted by that
requirement, and there seems to be no room to change that decision, which
gave rise to concerns about governance. Assuming it wants only one package
format, there is no "good" choice for the project as either
plausible choice would irritate some.
Beyond that, attendees seemed interested, some even excited, by the
prospects of MeeGo. Some consolidation in the mobile Linux arena is to be
welcomed. In the end, though, it will be the MeeGo devices that will largely
decide its fate. While Moblin and Maemo are available, neither has gained
the widespread device availability that Android is starting to enjoy. Most participants seemed
to be taking a "wait and see" approach, with the sense that many will be
watching developments fairly closely.
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