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MeeGo still a go

First there was Maemo, then Moblin, then MeeGo. Now, there's Tizen. Confused? Let us explain.

You probably know that computers have operating systems - software on which they run applications. You've probably heard of the major operating systems of the smartphone era - iOS, which runs iPhones, and Google's Android. But there are lots of others. In the olden days, every phone manufacturer had a different one. So when the modern smartphone era began with the iPhone, various manufacturers started working on their own smartphone OSs.

For Nokia, that project was called Maemo. A few tablet-y devices running Maemo were released, but they didn't get much traction in the market. At the same time, Intel was developing an open-source mobile OS called Moblin, designed to be a mobile counterpart to Linux. Then a couple of years ago, Nokia and Intel realised they'd be stronger together, and merged their efforts to create MeeGo. Work began on MeeGo-powered Nokia phones, and all seemed well.

Then it all went wrong. Nokia, increasingly panicked at its shrinking share of the smartphone scene (try saying that ten times fast) realised MeeGo had too far to go to be their answer to the iPhone, and ditched it for Microsoft's Windows Phone. That left MeeGo looking rather forlorn and abandoned, even more so once Intel announced they too were stopping work on it earlier this year.

So many assumed the open-source mobile OS dream was dead, and we'd all be beholden to Apple and Google forever. But maybe, just maybe, that won't prove the case. Because today, MeeGo has been reborn - as Tizen.

Now, the name change isn't a big deal - they've exchanged one horrible, only-a-nerd-could-love-it name for another. But what matters is that Intel is back on board, and they have a new partner - Samsung. This is great news for Tizen, as Samsung has swept the board in recent years to become one of the world's biggest smartphone makers.

What's in it for Samsung? Well, they do have their own OS, Bada, but it's not really up to the job of competing in the smartphone market, where they're dependent on Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone. So it makes sense for Samsung to have a smartphone OS that's working in the marketplace and where they're not dependent on a giant rival for software.

Will Tizen succeed where MeeGo fizzled? Gawd knows. iOS and Android have a very big headstart when it comes to apps. But there's an awful lot of people out there who really want it to succeed, so here's hoping.

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