Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) just joined up with the MeeGo Linux project. This Linux Foundation effort to create an open-source, next-generation mobile operating system was started by the unlikely duo of Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) . Yep, AMD is officially helping Intel roll a technology snowball downhill, in hopes that it grows into something useful and marketable.
Excuse me while I pull down some blinds over here -- the flying pigs are really distracting.
All kidding aside, MeeGo really is a community project, and AMD is a longstanding member of the Linux Foundation steering the ship. In fact, both AMD and Intel have representatives on the foundation's board of directors, alongside other computing heavyweights including IBM (NYSE: IBM ) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) .
The checks and balances created by such a wide ecosystem of supporters shows in MeeGo's structure -- Nokia is no great lover of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) technologies and has often vowed not to build any Android phones, yet you can already download a netbook-friendly version of MeeGo built around Google's Chrome browser.
Moreover, Intel clearly wants MeeGo to run mostly on its own Atom processors, but the platform also supports the prevalent ARM technology from rival mobile technologist ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH ) . Neither of those situations would be likely to happen under the aegis of Intel and/or Nokia alone. Adding AMD to the immediate mix is sure to keep the project honest in terms of processor agnosticism.
What's the big deal?
But wait -- does it matter where MeeGo is going anyway? You can’t buy consumer products with MeeGo installed today, even from core backer Nokia. For that reason, the whole platform could look like a frivolous addition to an already crowded market for mobile operating systems, doomed to fail before it begins. Intel CEO Paul Otellini dreamed of "cross-industry support" for MeeGo when it was first announced, and he got his wish. But the foundation also hoped to see consumer products on store shelves by the end of the year; that doesn't seem to be in the cards.
Still, I see MeeGo as a valuable project for three reasons:
- Cross-industry collaboration of this kind is always a good idea, particularly when the end result is an open code base that feeds back its innovations to the greater Linux community.
- Today's mobile space may look like a two-way (or three-way, or even four-way) cage match for ultimate supremacy, but empires are toppled by upstarts all the time. Who's to say that MeeGo couldn't become the next giant-killing rebel? You can't win if you don't play the game.
- MeeGo consolidates the development efforts of at least two independent mobile Linux platforms and aims to pull the best bits from both. In this light, it's sort of the antithesis to Google's Android (another Linux-based platform, for the record) which is plagued or blessed (your choice) by fragmentation.
Are these guys crazy?
So Nokia and Intel may or may not have a winner on its hands in the MeeGo platform, and we won't know which until somebody -- anybody (Bueller?) -- attempts to sell an honest-to-goodness consumer product or two with MeeGo inside. Even if it's a losing effort, I think it's one worth making because the very effort is likely to improve the underlying technology and usability of all smartphones, tablets, in-car infotainment systems, and connected TV sets. Letting rivals into the henhouse as Intel is doing with AMD and Nokia with Motorola, among other rivalries put aside for this project, shows that the big boys are serious about this seemingly altruistic project and see value in getting it done.
I truly believe that heightened competition is a win-win-win situation for the competitors themselves, their customers, and for the economies they support. The only losers here are the disinterested parties standing so far out on the sideline that they miss out on even the incidental benefits of a stronger mobile ecosystem. If you want to name names, the comments box is waiting for you below.