Why Nokia’s MeeGo Phone Won’t Use An Intel CPU

MeeGo characters
Characters from the MeeGo Project – meego.com

I don’t normally get into rumors but there’s one floating around on the Internet that’s got me really wound up. The claim is that Nokia will launch its first MeeGo handset at the Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona with an Intel Atom processor. The story grew out of a one line mention in a brief item on the Finnish tech site Prosessori. (In Finnish, Google translation).

I don’t buy it. I could see Nokia announcing an Intel MeeGo tablet next month but not a phone. I firmly believe that Nokia’s first Meego Phone will use ARM based silicon, not Intel. Heres why:

  • The Smartphone version of Intel’s Atom processor, codenamed “Medfield” hasn’t even shipped yet. It’s been delayed a couple of times already and the most optimistic estimates have it arriving in mid-2011 (marketing speak for not before the end of June) with at least one analyst saying it may not be ready until 2012. ARM CPUs, including fast dual-core designs are available now. Nokia can’t afford any more delays in shipping MeeGo
  • Nokia has extensive experience working with ARM. For many years every Nokia phone built has used an ARM processor. The company undoubtedly has a huge library of ARM code for integrating with all the custom silicon for the cellular radio, camera, etc. that they have designed
  • Nokia’s MeeGo Hardware Adaptation Team owns the ARM port of MeeGo which they have been working on for nearly a year. MeeGo for Atom development is handled by a separate Intel team. Why would Nokia throw away their ARM work, which is reportedly further along then the Intel handset code, for something they don’t control?
  • Switching CPU architectures would mean throwing out a hardware design that Nokia has presumably been working on for a year or more and may already be in production and starting over from scratch, a process that typically takes 18 months or more.

Of course I could be wrong. I’m not a Nokia or Intel insider.  I suppose it’s possible that Intel, desperate to get back into the mobile chip game, is offering Nokia one hell of a deal to switch to their architecture. A deal so good that the Finnish company is willing accept the delays and loss of control. Something like Intel underwriting all the costs of adapting Intel MeeGo to Nokia’s requirements and guaranteeing timely delivery of Medfield in sufficient quantities at a very favorable price.

Comments are open. Do you believe that Nokia is switching to Intel power for MeeGo? Let us know what you think.

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