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Nokia's 'Meltemi' a new Linux-based OS for low-end phones?

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Nokia may be jumping right back into developing a mobile operating system, according to a report at the Wall Street Journal. "People familiar with the matter" say the OS will be based on Linux and designed to work on low-end phones. Either the OS itself or the project surrounding it is code-named "Meltemi."

Although Nokia committed itself to Windows Phone for smartphones, its feature phone strategy has remained murky. While it's possible that Nokia could use Windows Phone (or a low-end variant of it) on low-end phones, for various reasons we're guessing that's not an ideal solution in the short-to-medium term. That leaves Symbian, and more specifically S40, as the main contender. If you've been following Nokia and Symbian for any length of time, you know that Nokia has no intention of using Symbian any longer than it has to.

Today's news suggests that Nokia may be planning on dropping Symbian as the core OS for its feature phones, which brings us back to that code-name. "Meltemi" has popped up only a few times before, most notably from the lips of CEO Stephen Elop, who referenced the project while talking about low end phones:

In mobile phones – it’s very much about "Sonic", it’s very much about full touch activity that’s going on, it’s about the work we have to do around Series 40 to ensure it continues to help us in the future. It’s the "Clipper" program and the underlying "Meltemi" software effort

Another reference came in a memo leaked by The Register this past April, in which Nokia told employees that "There will be opportunities within the Meltemi organization, for personnel working within the MeeGo teams."

So what precisely is going on here? We're not sure, but we can't help but remember Elop's claim during a presentation on the Nokia N9: "the user experience you see here is something that will live on." The N9 runs a variant of Meego, but the UI and apps are largely built with Nokia Qt framework. With that in mind, it's not crazy to believe that pieces of the N9's UI could find a home on Meltemi. Whether that's the plan or not, Nokia is going to need the low end market to help stay afloat while it swims away from that burning platform.