This article was written by Nathan Willis, a freelance journalist who writes about Linux and open source technologies. It was originally published by - and comes courtesy of - http://www.smart-developer.com/.
The MeeGo project  launched in February of 2010, when it was widely described as the “merger” of two existing consumer-oriented Linux distributions: Intel's Moblin, which targeted low-resource netbooks, and Nokia's Maemo, which was designed for smartphones. Nokia's recent decision to back-burner its own MeeGo smartphone strategy has left many to speculate on the future of the MeeGo project; however, MeeGo's modular design means it isn't limited to just smartphones and netbooks.
MeeGo is a highly compliance driven Linux project designed to produce a base platform for all sorts of embedded Linux products while remaining as close as possible to compatibility with “standard” desktop Linux distributions. Central to MeeGo's design is its separation of the core OS from the “user experience” (UX) component; the handset and netbook UXs are just two possibilities.
Handsets, tablets, netbooks, set-top devices – any device “running MeeGo” will be API- and ABI-compatible with any other MeeGo device of the same generation. The goal is to give device OEMs a stable platform to build on and, just as importantly, to open the door for Linux applications to run on a wide assortment of unconventional computing devices. Why should users have a different set of apps to run on their Internet-connected TV and smartphone? And if you are an app developer, why should you have to develop for two different middleware stacks when they're both Linux under the hood?
For the first six months of MeeGo's existence, the developers had little to show for this vision of a universal platform because the only two companies doing visible UX work were Intel and Nokia, developing their respective netbook and handset UXs. The grander vision started to come into focus in late 2010, when the next MeeGo target platform started to emerge: in-vehicle infotainment (IVI).
If the word “infotainment” makes you shudder, don't worry: I'm just talking about car computers. But the term reveals one of the major challenges of IVI as a computing UX: People anticipate a variety of unrelated, sometimes conflicting services in one operating system. Most people are familiar with the “big two” applications in front-seat, driver-facing IVI dash units – audio players and navigation – but MeeGo IVI has a broader scope, including rear-seat entertainment and integration with other vehicle services, like engine sensors, backup cameras, and roadside assistance services. Carmakers are already integrating these services (and more) into their vehicles. MeeGo's creators hope to speed up product development and lower costs by using one Linux-based platform to run all of the components that support IVI.
IVI (Figure 1) is a very different beast from MeeGo's netbook and smartphone UXs. The IVI UX was built from scratch, rather than transitioning from an existing project like Maemo or Moblin. But IVI also does not have a single hardware vendor setting its roadmap and driving its development, and that creates a big opportunity for the open source community.