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The world of personal computers is pretty easy to understand: It's Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows versus Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) underdog Mac with a modest side serving of Linux systems. The end (for now).
Mobile operating systems, however, is a much tougher space to pin down. You have Mr. Softy and Apple joining the fray with Windows Mobile and the iPhone OS, of course, but in terms of smartphone units, those two are bit players in this drama, not clashing titans. According to research firm Canalys, Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) is the worldwide smartphone leader with a 47.2% global market share for its Symbian OS. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) ranks second with its BlackBerry platform, followed by the iPhone and Windows. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is the rapidly growing upstart in fifth place, and then there's a gaggle of mostly Linux-based platforms that make up a minuscule 3.4% of the market -- combined.
Beyond smartphones, we’ve seen Android being aggressively adopted by new tablet computers, and Apple has built its new iPad on the same software as the iPhone. Mobile platforms are expanding across a range of devices.
The Linux portion of the mobile market is consolidating, though. Nokia and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) just announced that their separate Linux-based mobile platforms are shacking up under the catchy name MeeGo. Manufacturers might be more interested in a single Linux platform with strong support than in picking one of a handful of contenders out of the hat.
This combination of software projects is the first tangible result of last year's Intel-Nokia development partnership. MeeGo goes far beyond smartphones and is intended for "pocketable mobile computers, netbooks, tablets, mediaphones, connected TVs and in-vehicle infotainment systems." In short, if it ain't a regular old PC, you should be able to install MeeGo on it.
The other Meego -- a short-lived sitcom that featured guest spots from Jaleel White, better known as Steve Urkel -- lasted just a few episodes before being canceled. The name could be prophetic if the new MeeGo never soars like its creators intended. The joint press release does state that "MeeGo-based devices from Nokia and other manufacturers are expected to be launched later this year," and Intel CEO Paul Otellini dreams of "gaining cross- industry support."
We'll see about that. For now, the momentum seems to belong to Google's Android and the iPhone, and I don't see Intel and Nokia deflecting that trajectory very much. But thanks for playing, guys.
Does MeeGo matter to you as a consumer or an investor? Discuss in the comment box below.