Will Nokia Put Moblin In The Middle?

Last Updated Jul 1, 2009 1:32 PM EDT

Nokia is rumored to be planning to introduce a netbook in 2010 running on Google's Android operating system. I wonder how that would sit with Intel, with whom Nokia just got in bed. Do they have an open marriage?

Phil Goldstein fingers Lazard Capital Markets analyst Daniel Amir as the source of this rumor and notes that while "the handset maker has been rumored for months to be getting into the netbook game... details have been scarce." Also according to Amir, Nokia will sell the netbooks through wireless carriers, which would be a great opportunity for whichever carrier has the imagination to fish outside its traditional territorial waters -- and as I've written earlier, Verizon has already shown a propensity for making this kind of deal.

It also makes sense for Nokia to pick an open-source operating system -- as its acquisition of Symbian, which makes the operating system underlying its smartphones, committed the company to an open source philosophy -- because that broadens the potential number of apps that Nokia would be able to offer end users. But why use Android for a netbook, rather than Intel's Moblin? Analyst Jay Lyman at the451 Group speculates that the companies will announce a "collaboration and integration of Moblin with [Android] and the Open Handset Alliance, of which Intel is a member;" in other words, it may use both.

According to Lyman, Intel is working to ensure that Moblin becomes a kind of sandwich operating system, sitting between the hardware and more specialized operating systems.

I see all of this headed to a place where Moblin rests below a variety of other software that is more specialized to the particular device, whether it is a smartphone, a netbook a tablet PC or something else.
Intel's acquisition of Wind River, which my colleague Erik Sherman discussed earlier this month, factors into this, as Wind River gives Intel the technology and know-how to diversify into a wider range of devices than it had been heretofore able. Nokia would be straying a little beyond its natural borders, but having been outflanked by Apple in the U.S. and threatened by Research in Motion everywhere, it's going to do everything in its power to have at least a share of the lead as this new category emerges.
  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek, InternetNews.com, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator, Pseudo.com, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's WWD.com. Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.