Nokia unveils first MeeGo smartphone

Nokia N9, AP
Image caption The N9 is the first MeeGo phone Nokia will produce but it could prove hard to sell.

Nokia has unveiled a smartphone based around a technology that it has already started to sideline.

The N9 handset uses the MeeGo operating system even though Nokia has cut the staff and cash it put into the initiative.

The mobile phone has a polycarbonate body and is controlled entirely via its touchscreen.

Industry watchers said that its launch was "pointless" and would be hard to sell to consumers.

'Pointless' launch

Nokia started developing MeeGo in early 2010 and the project was supposed to combine the work it and Intel had done on using Linux open source software on handsets.

MeeGo was intended to be the core platform on which many future Nokia phones, tablets and other consumer devices would be built.

However, this strategy changed in February 2011 following Nokia's decision to back Windows Phone 7 for its future smart phones. This led to the resignation of Alberto Torres who was in charge of MeeGo development at the firm.

The sidelining of MeeGo is thought to have been instrumental in the decision of Rich Green, Nokia's chief technology officer, to go on indefinite leave. Recent layoffs at the firm also saw many MeeGo developers leave Nokia.

Nokia has not said when the N9 handset will go on sale.

"It seems pointless to launch a phone like the N9 on a platform that has been cut by management," said RBS analyst Didier Scemama in a research note.

Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, said: "The strength of rival ecosystems leaves little room for MeeGo powered devices."

"It's difficult to see the N9 being anything more than a niche device," he said. "The N9 will be a tough sell."

Despite once reigning supreme in smartphone sales, Nokia's market share has declined as rivals Apple, Google, RIM and Microsoft rack up sales.

The N9 was launched at an event in Singapore at which Nokia boss Stephen Elop repeated that Microsoft's phone software was now its key focus. Nokia was on target to release one Windows phone in 2011 and produce them "in volume" in 2012.

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