Analysing UX implications of the Meego platform

With the announcement of Meego earlier this week at MWC, Nokia and Intel are taking a significant step to establish a new OS which can power multi-platform user experiences across a wide range of connected devices, from in-car systems to home entertainment and mobile computers. The full details of the announcement can be found here, but simply put, they are merging Intel’s Moblin OS with Nokia’s Maemo OS, agreeing on Nokia’s Qt as the application development framework and running the operating system as an open source project under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.

To understand the motivation behind this partnership, we must look to some real consumer experiences. As always, it is the reality of customer behaviour which provides the best insight into what should define industry strategy.

Here’s a quote from one of our recent MEX consumer interviews on this subject. The interview candidate was a 49 year-old father of 3 in the UK, talking about his 16 year old daughter:

“She has the laptop, the home computer, her phone and the TV on all at the same time – she never goes out anymore. She swaps between them so quickly, she has zero attention span. I don’t know what to do. I can leave the house at 10am and come back at 7pm – she’ll be exactly where I left her, in front of the computer.”

She’s not alone – this is an emerging pattern we are finding in user studies, where users of all ages, but particularly those under the age of 21, are combining numerous digital devices to create their own experiences.

Consumer behaviour is already moving towards a world where the same services and content are consumed from multiple devices: a simple example would be using your mobile phone to play music through your home entertainment system or in-car audio. However, product designers currently lag this curve of consumer adoption, with most products and services still designed on an individual basis, with little thought given to how they will interconnect with all the other touchpoints in a user’s life.

Companies throughout digital industry are slowly coming around to this realisation, but still lack the platforms and development tools to deliver services in response to this new consumer behaviour. This was one of the key findings at our most recent MEX Conference (‘Enhancing the mobile user experience in a multi-platform world‘) in December 2009.

If you want to know more the full MEX report, including videos, sketches and presentations from this event is available to purchase. This topic will also be at the heart of the agenda for next MEX Conference in London on 19th / 20th May 2010.

Meego and Qt are an attempt to provide the software under-pinnings which will support these multi-channel services. Nokia’s Qt, acquired from Trolltech, has been chosen as the new application framework for future versions of the Symbian OS and is already used on numerous different platforms from TV to automotive (see my article and video on this from MWC).

Sun is also playing in this space, trying to build a unified approach to multi-platform development with its Java FX offering. There’s more on this in another of my articles from MWC.

Nokia and Intel have several advantages in their favour. Firstly, Intel’s chipset business will enable them to pre-integrate Meego into a wide range of processor sets and reference specifications, making it relatively fast and inexpensive for manufacturers to use this platform. Nokia brings unparalleled scale in handset distribution, giving them the opportunity to rapidly populate the world with Meego-powered devices.

Also, Nokia has made some serious commitments to developing its own portfolio of multi-platform services, such as Ovi Maps, Messaging and Music, which will give it end-to-end control of how these products are delivered.

As demand grows among brands to develop services which combine multiple touchpoints into something greater than the sum of their parts, they will look to platforms which provide unified toolkits, underlying code compatibility and broad reach into several areas of consumer electronics.

This is what’s driving Nokia and Intel’s partnership over Meego. They’ve recognised the opportunity early and also that there are numerous other players with varying degrees of existing competitive advantage (think Google, Microsoft and diversified consumer electronics manufacturers such as Apple, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung and LG), who will all soon start moving their strategies in this direction. There’s a limited window in which Nokia and Intel can reap the rewards of first mover privelege.

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