MeeGo is a new Linux-based mobile operating system designed through the collaboration of Intel and Nokia developers. The name MeeGo is meant to convey a merging of Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin. While Maemo was primarily geared toward handheld devices, such as the Nokia N800, N810, and N900 and Moblin was primarily geared toward netbooks, MeeGo aims to touch both markets and more. Among the other markets they hope to reach are in-car consoles, commercial devices for businesses, and tablets.
When I first set out to try MeeGo, I had hoped to boot up the live USB image on my netbook. What I soon discovered, however, is that it would not work. My netbook (an EeePC 1201n) has an Nvidia Ion graphics chipset, which is not supported by MeeGo (along with ATI and Intel GMA 500 chipsets). I further found that my other netbook (EeePC 900) was also not supported because it was a pre-Atom model, and MeeGo only supports Intel Atom processors.
No worries, I thought. Surely MeeGo would run in VirtualBox on my Quad-core system that can run Linux and Windows simultaneously with VirtualBox. Unfortunately, it does not. MeeGo will not boot in VirtualBox. Finally, after searching, having not even started my review, I found a site with a MeeGo Qemu image that would let me test it. You must download all six parts and extract them into one image. Then, follow the instructions on the website.
MeeGo reportedly boots fast, very fast. The boot I performed was simulated by KVM, so it was not an accurate measurement of actual MeeGo boot speed. Having said that, it booted immediately. I did have to make one change. According to the listed instructions, one of the KVM flags is “-std-vga“, but this has been deprecated and replaced with “-vga std“. After I made the change, it booted correctly.
The user interface looks very similar to Moblin. In fact, most users would have difficulty distinguishing the two at first glance. The opening screen after login is called Myzone. It includes an area for social media content, appointments, tasks, and the favorites (quick launch) bar for applications at the bottom.
At the top, MeeGo’s navigation bar is divided into tabs:
- Zones – Rather than having a task bar, MeeGo divides running applications off into zones. The user can then click the Zones button or use Alt-Tab to switch to a different zone. Multiple applications can be dragged into a single zone, much like Linux virtual desktops.
- Applications – MeeGo’s application launcher. Users can run apps, search, or add them to the favorites bar.
- Status – MeeGo’s social media integration. From here, you can login to Twitter, Facebook, and more to update your status.
- People – Connect with others for chat.
- Internet – MeeGo’s Internet component uses Google Chrome browser (or Chromium if you prefer not to agree to Google’s license). This, however, was the most disappointing feature in terms of aesthetics. Google Chrome is known for being light and taking up as little screen real estate as possible, but, for whatever reason, MeeGo adds a thick, nasty title bar above it. It takes up a ridiculous amount of space and would be awful on a netbook. Th top tabs already take up enough space by themselves.
- Media – Play music, video, and view photos.
- Devices – Here you can configure your battery, check disk space, adjust the sound volume, manage files, and connect external storage, such as USB drives.
What Was Not Tested
Because I was using Qemu, there were certain features I could not test, namely:
- wireless connectivity
- battery life
- general power management
MeeGo seems like a pretty decent operating system. On the surface, however, it does not seem very different from Moblin, which would make it appear to be a one-sided Intel affair. Underneath, however, Nokia has integrated it with the QT widget set and underlying Linux kernel development merged from Maemo. All of this makes MeeGo very fast, which I was not able to accurately test in Qemu.
Overall, it seems good, but it will need some screen size improvement to work well on netbooks. For tablets, the large tabs at the top will work nicely. Assuming Intel and Nokia plan to support a larger number of devices than they currently do, MeeGo will be a nice addition.