Tag: os

Nokia tomorrow: Meego is Meegone

Nokia appears to be on the brink of jettisoning Meego and Symbian in favour of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7.

The deal could be announced as soon as Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, following widespread criticism of Nokia’s mobile OS.

Following his recent comments comparing the ailing firm to a man standing on a burning oil platform, claiming that the company had “poured gasoline” over its “own platform”, newly appointed CEO Stephen Elop may be close to making a deal.

The former Microsoft employee, who joined Nokia less than five months ago, looks likely to increase links with his old firm for a major overhaul that could involve the adoption of Microsoft’s closed-wall OS.

It has been suggested recently by analysts that the sooner a deal is made the better for all concerned, including Microsoft, of course.

A shake up of top level staff is also expected as Elop attempts to reverse recent perceived failures, which saw a drop in fourth quarter profits of 16 percent, following competition in the low end mobile market from less-expensive Asian manufacturers and a failure to offer any real challenges to Apple on the high end front.

“The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over two years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable,” Mr. Elop wrote in a recent memo.

“It will be a huge effort to transform our company,” he continued.

The shake-up could involve a removal of the dominance of Finnish executives at the firm, currently six out of ten, with rumours of attempting to lure Google Business Chief Nikesh Arora over.

The Finnish company could also look to Google’s Android to replace its own OS, which appeared to be so doomed to failure that all the piss ups in all the breweries in Ireland could not halt bad feeling towards it.

Should a deal be made the Meego OS probably will not be shelved entirely, allowing time for it to be suitably overhauled instead.

Nokia E7 smartphone finally ready for launch

The Nokia E7 smartphone will arrive this week, at long last, after its launch was delayed in December.

Nokia said the delay was to ensure “the best possible user experience”, which, if we consider similar delays by the company in the past, could mean that a patch was needed. A previous flagship phone, the N8, was delayed because of power problems.

The E7 will pack a touchscreen and a slideout keyboard, similar to other models. It will also be powered by Symbian ^3, the latest version of Nokia’s struggling platform.

The company reported that it was already shipping the phone to retailers but the delay means it missed out on the busy Christmas shopping season.

Nokia has been losing ground to Apple and Google in the smartphone market, with its Symbian operating system taking a major beating over the past year. Many believe that Symbian won’t last and that Nokia may be forced to adopt Android, a move which may help it recover from weak sales due to the growing popularity of Google’s OS.

It was also suggested that Nokia would sack many of its executive board members in a move to shake-up the company and restore it to previous profitability. A complete revamp of the company is expected later this year, according to Reuters.

Analysts advise Nokia to dump MeeGo

Dump Meego and switch to Windows Phone 7 is the message sent to Nokia this week by a number of analysts.

In an open letter to Stephen Elop and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Berenberg Bank’s Adnaan Ahmad said Nokia’s move to Windows Phone 7 would benefit both companies.

The analysts urged the struggling company to ditch the Symbian OS – which has been dropped by the likes of Sony Ericsson and Samsung – as well as the unreleased released MeeGo. They said developing smartphones with Microsoft’s OS would give them a much better advantage.

The recommendations come as Nokia’s newly appointed CEO, Stephen Elop plans to talk about how he will turn around the struggling business next week.

“Get rid of your own proprietary high-end solution (MeeGo) – it’s the biggest joke in the tech industry right now and will put you even further behind Apple and Google,” Ahmad advised Elop.

“Focus your high-end portfolio around WP7, and over time you can take the cost down (that’s Steve [Ballmer’s] job and cost base) to get this into the mid-range market.

“Push your Symbian solutions into the low-to-mid-range smartphone market as quickly as possible to defend market share versus Android’s upcoming lowered cost ecosystem.”

Ahmad claims Microsoft also needs the support of the world’s biggest smartphone maker. “Two million units [of Windows Phone 7] shipped in the last quarter is not really much to write home about, given $500m in marketing programmes (ouch), but with Nokia on-side, you get access to a potential 20-25 percent global share over time – and exclusivity.

The analyst’s advice was echoed by Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair, who said the switch to Windows Phone 7 “would address the key concern we have had about Nokia for the last several years: terrible software”.

MeeGo, which is in joint development with Intel, has already had its fair share of trouble despite it not even being launched. Back in November we heard that developers were none too trusting of the OS. Reasons for this included that it was late to market, it showed no signs of a solid app framework and didn’t have enough to differentiate it from other popular choices. Intel and Co. continue to pin hopes on Meego – showing off with a spendthrift attitude at a conference in Dublin where they rented the entire Guinness brewery.

And it doesn’t seem Nokia’s people have faith in the OS either. In October its MeeGo Devices VP, Ari Jaaksi resigned – leaving the company in the lurch.

Tablets, smartphones will cause boom in "lite" OS

Global shipments of portable internet devices, which run on so called “lite” operating systems, will hit the 150 million per year mark in 2015

That’s according to Ovum, which found that shipments of devices using “lite” operating systems – including iOS, Android and RIM’s BlackBerry Tablet OS – will increase from 14.2 million at the end of 2011, a compound annual growth rate of 60 percent.
 
Tony Cripps, Ovum principal analyst, says the shipment growth will be driven by users looking to “complement their smartphones
 
“Nonetheless, the greater ease of use of smartphones for the majority of consumers means that shipments of the tablet and other ‘lite’ OS devices will not dramatically erode the growing demand for smartphones. This is especially pertinent given their obvious similarity in hardware and software technology,” he added.
 
North America and Western Europe are the two regions which Ovum predicts will fly. They will experience the greatest penetration of tablet and other mobile internet devices by 2015, with 23 percent and 19 percent of global shipments, respectively.
 
However, the two will be trumped by the Asia Pacific region, predicted to take the largest regional slice of shipments by the end of the period. Ovum says this will be because of the potential addressable markets and the relatively low penetration of PCs. It predicts shipments in the region will account for 35 percent in 2015.

Google looks like it will dominate by numbers over Apple’s OS – with Ovum predicting Android will push current frontrunner iOS into second place. 
 
Cripps adds: “We believe that Apple constituted 90 per cent of the market in 2010. However, by 2015 we expect this market share to drop to 35 percent and Google’s market share to rise to 36 per cent. Other software platforms, such as RIM’s Blackberry Tablet OS and HP’s web OS, will find some success but between them all they will only account for 29 percent of the market.”

This is because the dominant software platforms from Apple and Google attract the most attention “from the cream of the developers”. As a result they gain the “best, most talked about applications and content”, which drive buying. 

40 percent of new US smartphone sales are Android

Forty percent of new smartphones that are bought in the US are Android phones, according to the latest report by consumer research firm Nielson Company.

The report details the growth of the top three smartphone operating systems, Android, iOS and Blackberry, from June 2010 to November 2010, with Android growing the most and Blackberry falling the most.

In June Android started with 27.5 percent of the market, but by November this had grown to 40.8 percent. Apple’s iOS platform, used on the iPhone, also grew from 20.9 percent to 26.9 percent in the same period.

Blackberry, on the other hand, saw a substantial drop from 35 percent to 19.2 percent, a trend that many believe is likely to continue as the once dominant RIM loses market share to more consumer friendly devices.

The largest increases for Android were seen between July and September, while the largest falls for Blackberry were between June and July and then August and September. Growth for iOS was largely stagnant between September and November.

Despite the clear success of Android, the iOS still has a slight lead of 2.8 percent in overall consumer market share, totalling 28.6 percent, while Blackberry has a 0.3 percent lead on second place, totalling 26.1 percent. If Android’s growth continues at its current pace, however, its 25.8 percent market share is set to rise considerably and help it pass by its two competitors.

The smartphone market in general is booming, with over 45 percent of new purchases of phones in November being of the smart variety, up from 34 percent in June.

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Tablets are "epicentre of convergence"

Analysts are predicting that with the arrival of Apple’s iPad and the subsequent proliferation of the tablet there has a been a convergence between consumer, computer and communications which will have a massive effect on the market for OS based devices in the future.

According to William Kidd, director and principal analyst for iSuppli, the definition of convergence has changed over time with the latest describing it as “voice, video and data services” being delivered to the home via a broadband connection. 

“While that trend still exists,” said Kidd, “the convergence of consumer electronics devices and industries are now coming together at a fast pace, with the tablet form factor serving a tangible representation of that convergence, since it is part smart phone and part notebook.”

It is noted that the implications of strong links between consumer, computer and communications will have an effect in consumer electronics in areas beyond tablets. Kidd points toward the rise of the iPad as a parallel to the growing importance of the mobile operating system in a number of devices where an OS was not previously a factor – or there was previously no OS at all.

According to Kidd this is why so many manufacturers are racing to deliver the next game-changing tablet or smartphone device like the iPad.  Though companies are incredibly keen to stay one step ahead, designs are being kept open as it is still so early in the product life cycle.

Kidd believes that it is imperative companies realise the rise of the mobile OS means distinct product categories are blurring together. “For example, note the similarity both in external functionality and internal electronics between Apple’s tablet, smart phone, MP3 player and set top box product lines,” he said.

“Not only do they run the same OS, but all these Apple devices are internally similar, plus or minus a screen and touch interface. Industries likely to face the impact of convergence through the proliferation of mobile OSs include televisions, cell phones and notebook PCs.”

According to iSuppli, televisions are likely to be the next important catalyst in the evolution toward a more unified consumer platform that can connect with significantly more devices.

Despite challenges and past failures in this area, iSuppli expects mobile OS providers will in the near future get the formula right for the integration of TV sets.

It’s predicted that in the long term, tablets are likely to reshape the computer market as well.

It is thought that functionality for tablets could move away from simply being a tool for the consumption of content such as online newspapers, and begin to see the devices take on content creation capabilities like that of notebooks.

It is thought that this will coincide with growth in the tablet segment in 2012.

However this transformation would require the development of OS’ that are more evolved that those currently used in, for example, the iPad.  It is even predicted that Microsoft may be the one to design such a functional tablet OS. Furthermore it’s thought Apple may combine its iOS and Mac OS at some point.

Google showcases Android 3.0 Honeycomb

Google has barely launched Android 2.3 and is already showing off a tablet with Android 3.0 on it, which is set to come with many of the features missing from Gingerbread, along with plenty more – and is expected to release some time in 2011.

Android 3.0, which keeps up the alphabetical sweet products nicknames with Honeycomb, was the version number widely expected for Gingerbread but was revealed in early November that it would be 2.3 instead.

The Gingerbread update came yesterday and includes a slightly refined UI, faster text input, new copy and paste options, improved power management, extra camera support, more VoIP options, and a slew of smaller tweaks. Not quite what people were building up for then, with the UI changes being minimal and there being a very obvious lack of video chat, which was rumoured to be on the cards for Gingerbread.

So, a slightly underwhelming update, particularly given the months of hype. There is light on the horizon, however, with Google giving a brief demonstration of Honeycomb which looks like it will have all the features that should have been in Gingerbread. Including a significant UI redesign and video chat support.

The UI is particularly important. New APIs have been added to allow an application to be split into multiple views, according to Android frontman Andy Rubin, Google’s Vice President of Engineering. This allows a single application to look different for a smartphone than a tablet. The traditional Android buttons are also reported to be missing, while icons look more like a traditional PC desktop. Customisation options will also be included, marking a significant move away from the Apple model.

Even more importantly, Honeycomb is designed to properly support tablets, which is vital for Google with the flood of Android tablets expected in 2011. To bring the point home Rubin showed off a new monster tablet being developed by Motorola with Gingerbread already working on it. 

The tablet is rumoured to be called Stingray and is expected to come with a dual-core 3D processor, an Nvidia graphics card, 16GB of onboard storage, a 10-inch touchscreen, and may even offer LTE support.

The fact that Google is showing off Honeycomb when Gingerbread isn’t even out on the majority of devices suggests that its release will come in early 2011. Many people are expecting the Motorola Stingray tablet to launch in the first quarter, so that may be a good guideline for Honeycomb.

It seems to us that many of these features were planned for Gingerbread in the first place, but Google ran into delays and had to push them into a later release.

They were already well into development and may only need tweaking and polishing, particularly if Google is willing to make promises on features and show off the UI makeover as early as now.

Microsoft strong-armed into adding WP7 homebrew

The developers behind the ChevronWP7 jailbreaking tool have discontinued it after striking a deal with Microsoft to integrate homebrewing options directly into the operating system itself.

The ChevronWP7 developers, which include Rafael Rivera, Chris Walsh and Long Zheng, were contacted by Brandon Watson, Director of Developer Experience for Windows Phone 7 at Microsoft about the possibility of bringing some of the jailbreak features into the main OS.

The developers decided to discontinue the tool in order to “fast-track” discussions with Microsoft on how homebrewing can become a pivotal aspect of Windows Phone 7.

It was only last week that Windows Phone 7 was jailbroken with the ChevronWP7 unlocking tool, less than a month after the operating system’s initial release. 

With Microsoft now offering “to open the Windows Phone 7 platform for broader access to developers and users”, it appears that the walled garden approach it was previously taking may be losing ground.

The unlocking has allowed a number of opportunities for development within the homebrewing community, including a new Windows Phone 7 custom ringtone manager that the ChevronWP7 team have been working on.

It remains to be seen what kinds of homebrewing options will be added to the OS and if ChevronWP7 will resurface again. With some reports indicating a major update to Windows Phone 7 in January 2011, some of those features may come sooner than expected.

Symbian's open source days over

Former rubber boot maker, Nokia has hit its Open Sauce plans for Symbian over the head with a shovel and buried it in a shallow grave miles away from where it is likely to be found by someone walking their dog.

Over at the Symbian Developer Wiki it has been written that the websites are shutting down and the Symbian Foundation will be transitioning to a licensing body.

“In practise this will mean a reduction in the day-to-day operations of the Foundation by the end of the year”.

The websites will be shutting down on 17th December, although the source code, kits, wiki, bug database, reference documentation & Symbian Ideas will be available in some form, most likely on a DVD or USB hard drive upon request to the Symbian Foundation.

Source repositories will cease to be available when the developer.symbian.org site (and its Japanese and Chinese equivalents) shuts so we guess if you want anything you will have to ask the Foundation.

It is not certain why Nokia has bothered taking Symbian in-house. It has already indicated it is going to Meego in the future and other smart phone makers are leaving it like rats who have just felt their ship hit an iceburg and heard the first strains of Céline Dion breaking out on deck.

The problem is that MeeGo is not ready to go and it might not be more than vapourware until June 2011.

Nokia will want to release a few more products until then, but probably does not want to see Symbian competing with the new operating system. It wants it to die and it can’t do that while Open Sauce developers are improving it. 

Bespoke OS blip caused chaos in the air

A pilot proved that a human touch is always needed after a Qantas Airbus’s computer system suffered a major blip – monitors were littered with error messages while it failed to detect exactly what was happening.

The Airbus A380 is designed to be flown by a computer with minimal human interaction but the expertise of pilots was needed when their cockpit displays filled with alerts, and were replaced by screen after screen of warnings that had to be clicked through indvidually following an engine explosion on a flight earlier this month.

Aviation computing experts told TechEye that the multiple failure indications were caused by wires being cut by flying debris from the broken engine. They added that some kind of monitoring of the wires themselves would have been needed in order to prevent this from happening, something the OS didn’t have.

The pilots of the plane received  a total of 54 alerts on all eight of the Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor displays, which are designed to help pilots deal with emergencies.

One warned that a ram air turbine – a backup power supply – was about to deploy, although this didn’t happen.

The problem with the blip was that by giving too much and at times false information, after an incident there is a danger pilots may spend their time dealing with a deluge of error messages.  Thankfully for the passengers there were five experienced pilots on-board the flight – but they had to spend 50 minutes clicking through warnings, prioritising the most serious.

We wanted to know which bespoke operating system Qantas and Airbus used as standard. It’s a simple question, you’d think, but both were reluctant to talk. Qantas refused to say anything at all while Airbus told us: “First of all, you need to know that all our on-board systems are tested to be certified. None of the aircraft flying controls are based on COTS (Commercial Of The Shelf) applications.”

The European Aviation Safety Authority wouldn’t talk either. The topic’s ‘private’ because the software choices are for the airlines to make. The CCA were a bit more helpful in saying: “we assume it’s a bespoke system, carried and updated across from older models but we can’t say which one it is, we don’t know.”

We were given a nod at last. The bespoke OS used is Green Hills Software’s INTEGRITY-178B operating system, which is also used in military vehicles. A representative at Green Hills confirmed this: “We provide the INTEGRITY-178B operating system to our customers for the Airbus A380”.  

“We supplied Honeywell, who provide the flight controls for the aircraft, with our software. Our software is the OS for the craft, it does what other OSs in PCs do. For example other companies provide the applications, and we’d be the Microsoft equivalent – the spanners and hammer in the software part of the plane.”

Because the OS is a realtime system, Green Hills is the main provider.

Francesco Cesarini, founder and chief strategy officer at Erlang Solutions, told TechEye: “Green Hills Separation Kernel offers security at a level that is simply not achievable with mainstream OSes. It should also be said that INTEGRITY-178B is a Real-Time Operating System. This means that it was designed to behave predictably in situations where it is absolutely vital that the system responds correctly and in a timely manner.

He shed some light on Green Hill’s claims that its OS wasn’t entirely at fault for the failures: “As a general rule, it is not possible to exhaustively test sufficiently complex systems in order to completely rule out failures. Also, in order to verify a system exhaustively, you have to foresee every combination of events that it will be exposed to. In the case of an operating system, this includes all possible ways in which an application running on top of it may misbehave.” 

“The software at fault is hardly the operating system itself, but probably more likely the fault management system – not just the software, but the constructs in place to deliver sensible indications to the software.”

“When monitoring a system, the software itself often cannot tell the difference between a dead subsystem and one to which the wires have been cut. In order for it to understand that the multiple failure indications were in fact caused by wires being cut by flying debris from the broken engine, some kind of monitoring of the wires themselves would have been needed, and a dependency model stating that broken wires would lead to those failure indications.”

However, there are difficulties with using a bespoke OS. “One challenge is that Linux is grabbing much of the Real Time OS (RTOS) market share by offering increasing capability for applications that have low-latency requirements and modest demands on hard real-time.

“While it is not suitable for mission- critical applications, such as aircraft control systems, it removes much of the “easy pickings” for the RTOS vendors, and thus much of the profitability.”

The engine explosion happened about six minutes after the plane took off from Singapore Changi Airport heading for Sydney. The pilots landed the plane safely in Singapore, with 433 passengers and 26 crew on board.

Rolls Royce admitted earlier this month that dodgy parts played a major role in the engine failure. But flight controllers, component and other bits of kit under the bonnet have been criticised before. In March of this year, Motorola and Intel were accused of supplying defective components to another Airbus crash, which tragically resulted in the loss of life for 216 passengers and 12 crew.