Editorial: Intel keeps pushing MeeGo, but why?

If you hadn't noticed, Intel's running huge MeeGo ads all over the place today, including here on Engadget. That's got our attention for a few reasons: first, our editorial staff wants the hair-trigger audio playback and content-obscuring animation disabled as badly as you do, and second, we're sort of wondering what Intel is trying to accomplish by pushing MeeGo now that Nokia has strongly backed away from the OS in favor of Windows Phone 7. It's hard to understand, especially since Intel's directing these ads at developers -- who's going to develop apps for a platform that has zero shipping mass-market devices? And even if there were a groundswell of MeeGo development action, why is Intel leading the charge, when it has yet to ship any chips suitable for a phone or tablet, and MeeGo tablet development appears to have completely stalled out? It's very curious.

Now, we have great faith in Intel -- the company is smart, capable, and big enough to succeed at anything it wants to, and it's made it very clear at MWC that devices with Medfield mobile processors will ship sometime this year and be competitive with the best of what ARM can offer. That will be an enormous and noteworthy accomplishment when it happens -- Intel's been promising a serious mobile chip for years now, and it'll be exciting to see the company finally join the race. But let's be honest: any viable Medfield device will be running Android, not MeeGo. To quote Nokia's Stephen Elop, the battle of devices has become a war of ecosystems, and MeeGo simply doesn't offer an ecosystem that's competitive with iOS, Android, or what Nokia and Microsoft are planning to build with Windows Phone 7. It's a harsh truth, but it's inescapable. Sure, maybe Intel can convince a second-tier manufacturer to ship a Medfield / MeeGo device -- it's using the Atom-based ExoPC Slate to demo the MeeGo tablet UI, for example -- but it's simply not going to entice the Samsungs and HTCs of the world to invest the serious capital required to make MeeGo a success without some sort of major industry disruption.

Now, that disruption isn't impossible to imagine -- let's say one of the various IP lawsuits aimed at Android is successful, or something -- but unless and until that happens, we'd say Intel's far better off investing its resources into working with a vendor on a top-tier Android handset that can run with something like the Motorola Atrix 4G or the HTC Thunderbolt. That's a sure way to get back into the conversation -- and after years of empty promises around Moorestown, Medfield, Moblin, and now MeeGo, getting back in the mobile conversation is something Intel desperately needs to do.

Oh, and figuring out how to make ads that don't autoplay audio wouldn't hurt, either.