Hands On: Intel puts on a show, but MeeGo OS still has a ways to go

Intel is currently staging a worldwide tour in order to educate application developers about their AppUp online mobile app store and create buzz about the company’s upcoming mobile operating system, MeeGo.

Last week, the Intel AppUp Application Lab: MeeGo series made a stop in Chandler, Arizona and was hosted at Gangplank, a collaborative community workspace that I frequent. I had the opportunity to take an inside look at what the company is trying to do with their app store and the OS, and take it for a test drive.

Hands On: Intel puts on a show, but MeeGo OS still has a ways to go

First of all, if you’ve not yet heard about MeeGo, you’re not alone. The OS is still in the very early stages of development. So early, in fact, that the current release is version 1.1. Intel staged the launch with a three day “MeeGo Summit” last November in Dublin, Ireland.

The OS is open source and is actually a collaborative effort between Intel and Nokia. MeeGo is built upon a Linux kernel, and is intended not just for smartphones and tablet PCs, but also with Intel Atom or ARM processor-equipped netbooks, internet-connected televisions, and in-vehicle entertainment systems.

As part of the event, which primarily focused on encouraging developers to take advantage of Intel’s AppUp program and tools to create mobile applications for the AppUp store, attendees were each awarded with a Lenovo S10-3t convertible netbook/tablet installed with the MeeGo OS so they could experience it for themselves.

My initial impressions of MeeGo are positive. The interface is designed to be easily navigated by anyone, and uses cute, little, brightly colored animated characters to soften the experience. This is clearly an operating system designed for the average consumer and not business users. It does remind me a lot of the user-friendly interface that Nokia has built a reputation for providing on mobile phones.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do much past exploring the interface. Of the couple machines that I was able to test MeeGo on, neither was able to connect to the internet well enough to complete the necessary updates to patch the built-in Chrome browser and navigate at a usable speed. I’ve since heard that others were able to accomplish the updates and get the internet working on their machines, so there may have been some sort of incompatibility with my particular wireless configuration. It was quite obvious, however, that MeeGo has quite a few bugs yet to be patched and is not quite ready for “prime time”.

To be fair, this was not a consumer-oriented event, but when you’re attempting to rally developers it is still important to provide a working product in order to get them excited about the technology. Unless you’re extremely tech savvy and have a great deal of patience, it may be best to wait until the next revision, due out in April, to test the waters of MeeGo for yourself.