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Once upon a time (OK, it was February 2011), Nokia's (NYSE: NOK ) , then-new CEO, Stephen Elop, sent out what is now known as "The Burning Platform" memo. In it, Elop gave a candid assessment of his company's smartphone platforms vis-a-vis the competition from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) .
"The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience," he wrote. "Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. ... Nokia, our platform is burning."
He also was explicit in his assessment of Nokia's existing mid-range smartphone OS, Symbian: "non-competitive in leading markets like North America," and "an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop."
As for MeeGo, the open-source Linux-based mobile OS jointly developed with Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , the OS that was supposed to save the company, Elop said: "We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However ... by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market."
A MeeGo phone did eventually come out, the N9 -- the first and last of its kind. Nokia then stopped MeeGo development and, as everyone now knows, went with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Phone OS.
That should have spelled bye-bye for MeeGo, just another would-be mobile ecosystem that couldn't compete with iOS and Android.
MeeGo hasn't died. Helsinki-based start-up Jolla Ltd. has said it plans to produce MeeGo smartphones and will have an example ready to show this year. The Jolla team is led by former members of Nokia's MeeGo group. The CEO is the former director of MeeGo Computer Releases and Integration at Nokia, and the Jolla COO, CIO, and VP of sales are also escapees from Nokia.
MeeGo is not the only open-source mobile OS out there vying for a decent sized slice of the mobile platform pie. Recently, Mozilla, the parent of the Firefox browser, announced its plans to launch Firefox OS. Based on HTML5 rather than proprietary code, Mozilla says Firefox OS is aimed at cheaper handsets marketed in emerging markets. And MeeGo will also have to contend with Tizen, a Linux-based OS supported by Samsung and Intel.
It would be sweet irony, indeed, for the Nokia refugees if MeeGo would turn out to have a stronger market pull than its usurper, Windows Phone. And a bitter pill for Nokia to swallow.
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