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23 June 2009, 20:43

Intel and Nokia partner on open source mobile computing

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Could Intel and Nokia together make a success of the ‘Mobile Internet Device’ concept? The two companies announced plans to create what Kai Öistämö, Executive Vice President, Devices, Nokia calls “the next wave of mobile technology”; a new mobile device platform based on Linux and a range of open source technologies using Intel x86 Architecture chips and Nokia HSPA chipsets (which Intel is also licensing to use alongside Wi-Fi and WiMAX in other platforms).

Don't expect Nokia to abandon Symbian and produce a Moblin N98 with an Atom chip in next year. Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president of Intel’s Ultra Mobility Group, explained it was too early to say which of Intel’s many x86 chips might find its way into the device and Öistämö said that the ARM chip “will continue to be an important part of Nokia’s future”. This doesn’t mean Intel is backing down on support for WiMAX either; Chandrasekher said the partnership is about “expanding wireless broadband”. And while LTE might become part of the roadmap in future, Intel is licensing 3G because it's “in the market today”.

Instead, he says this is a multi-year collaboration to define “a next generation of mobile devices” that will offer “the best of communications technologies and the best of software and services“. Chandrasekher believes there is a market for MIDs, claiming that for users “the key requirement we hear is they want a rich experience anywhere anytime”. More ambitiously, Öistämö talked about creating “an entirely new category of device; we are exploring new ideas in shapes, in sizes, in material and displays that go far beyond devices in the market today. There is a lot of room for innovation here redesigning what mobile can do; we need innovation to go far beyond today's smartphones, notebooks and netbooks. We are exploring a new architecture that can break new ground.”

That could include sensors and location information, he suggested. “The ability of the mobile device to connect you and what matters to you, based on the location what other things area round you what context you are in is a very powerful concept. We want to make the Internet more social, more distinctive and empowering. We believe with this we are a step closer to making this vision into reality.”

Chandrasekher says Linux and open source are key to a partnership that “will ultimately deliver open and standards-based technologies, which history shows drive rapid innovation, adoption and consumer choice,” though again details are sketchy.

Intel and Nokia have each championed their own mobile Linux distribution, Moblin and Maemo and these aren’t likely to merge. Intel refers to multiple ‘Linux-based operating systems for these future mobile computing devices’ and Öistämö says that “common technologies across Moblin and Maemo will help to foster the development of applications for these two software platforms”. Intel and Nokia will also “co-ordinate” and “align” their investments in a number of open source projects, he said, predicting a “significant contribution”.

(Mary Branscombe)


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