Finnish site Taskumuro has published an article called “The story of Nokia MeeGo”. I totally recommend to read it. For all that I can tell, the content is valid. Now I was not working for MeeGo, but the story shows how everybody working for Nokia at the time got to see relevant parts of how things went wrong. So either I know these to be true from witnessing them myself or they are totally plausible to have happened as told due to what I have heard second-hand.

Multiple people were interviewed independently, so the data is unlikely to be invalid. I tried to sum it up:

  • There was in-house competition between Symbian and Maemo. N810 (touch-screen tablet with slide-out QWERTY) was supposed to be a phone, but it was stripped from phone functionality so that Symbian-based communicator would have chance.
    This took place 2007 so the device would have been obvious iPhone contender.
  • N900 original plan was to just add phone capabilities to the N810, but it eventually changed to a completely new device. (This is first time new work was started instead of using the old functioning base)
  • Maemo 6, codenamed Harmattan, was started. Its UI would be completely rewritten in Qt. (Second time new work was started instad of using the old)
  • February 2010 Nokia and Inter joined forces. Maemo and Moblin merged to MeeGo. At least in paper. Moblin was specifically designed for Intel x86 architecture Atom processors.
  • Nokia had made a (cost-saving) strategy decision to get both CPU and modem as a chipset from outside supplier. MeeGo would use Intel Atom, Harmattan would use Texas Instruments OMAP. That was a dead-end since in 2008 Texas Instruments announced that they would stop investing in smartphones’ baseband modems. The alternatives were Qualcomm and Intel, of which Nokia ended up opting for Intel.
  • “MeeGo Harmattan” (used in Nokia N9) was not a real MeeGo and was not meant to be one. Nokia had started developing the Maemo 6 operating system already in 2008, and was quite far in the development before Nokia and Intel decided to merge Maemo and Moblin into MeeGo. Nokia decided to continue developing Maemo 6, codename Harmattan, and to make it as compatible with MeeGo as possible. Harmattan was supposed to act as a bridge between Maemo and MeeGo, which was being developed in cooperation with Intel.
  • Maemo 6 User Interface was presented 2009, before Nokia and Intel joined forces. It was abandoned late 2009 by people who became the directors of the user interface design. Development of a new concept began (third time new work was started instad of using the old).
  • First Harmattan product (aimed for 1st half of 2010) was cancelled in the end of 2009 due to delays.
  • New UI concept was meant to be usable by July 2010. In the spring of 2010 suspicion started to arise that it wouldn’t be competitive enough. In the August of 2010 the third UI for Harmattan began development (fourth time new work was started instad of using the old).
  • N950 (originally planned to be first MeeGo product) was cancelled as it was deemed obsolete at time it would hit the shelves. Focus turned to N9, which finally made it to the shops at late 2011.
  • MeeGo organization was led from an ivory tower. Towards the end the individual developers had no say in, or even worse no knowledge about, the decisions and changes that took place in the background. The technology was developed in various teams, which did not communicate with each other. No one made sure that the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
  • Resources went to a huge waste. There was no single person making the product level decisions in the projects. Many subcontractors and whole teams were hired without even knowing what they could do. The organization quickly grew enormous.
  • Decision concerning Intel was described as a disaster (however Qualcomm probably had not prioritized MeeGo very high). Intel did not have sufficient plans for supporting CDMA-networks, which are widely used in the United States. Nokia and Intel had also invested heavily in the development of the fourth generation network technology WiMAX, which eventually lost battle to LTE that has made it the technology of choice for network operators when building their 4G networks. Intel didn’t have proper plan or schedule for LTE support. (Even today, 2.5 years later, Intel is not offering integrated LTE support in their latest Medfield Atom SoC, but has announced that the chips would be available in 2013.)
  • Combination of Symbian and MeeGo was not seen sufficient for a succesful long term strategy. the United States AT&T would have agreed to sell N9, although hardware vice it was considered outdated compared to its Android rivals. Apparently another version of N9 was in development for Verizon, codenamed RM-716. Even if N9 would have been released in North America in 2011, Nokia could not have had a successor with LTE support to offer for a long time in the fast paced smartphone market.
  • Ironically, N9 was finished successfully because everybody knew it was a dead-end. All the internal politics, bureaucracy and arm-wrestling was gone and team was smaller and able to do fast decisions.

So for those who wonder why Nokia did not “flood the market with N9 and Meego phones”:

  • Devices based on the TI SoC used in the N9 could have been brought to the market at a tight schedule, but an ecosystem to compete with Apple and Google would have had to be built around it without LTE support and without the support from North American operators.
  • MeeGo didn’t suffice for other manufacturers either. Nokia was the market leader and others thought that Nokia had too much power in the MeeGo project. At the end of 2010 negotiations were held with Samsung, LG, and Sony Ericsson, but none of them decided to cooperate with Nokia to develop the MeeGo ecosystem and the big European operators retreated from the investments simultaneously.
  • As a result of the Intel cooperation there was no mid-priced chipset that could have competed against the cheaper Android phones, and Symbian was no longer able to do so.
  • In the war of the ecosystems, Nokia was left without LTE support and proper support from other manufacturers and operators. It would have been an impossible task for Nokia.

Please go read full article. This article has:

(I wish we would get more similar articles. My job would be easier.)