Of the technology trends showing remarkable resistence to change, naming multibillion-dollar institutions with baby-talk words is among the most curious. Yahoo! is more fun to say than is International Business Machines.
We've already passed through a diaper reference (Napster), dozens of monsters (the actual Monster.com and a host of –zillas), and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), which may be a concept from math (misspelled) but sounds like baby drool. We are -- and by we I speak, with all due modesty, for all humanity -- only somewhat past this. The various jokes about how to conjugate "tweet" (subjunctive: twelt) suggest we only put up with the word "Twitter" because the service is really useful. By comparison, Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) appears to be a masterpiece of intentional blandness.
With that in mind, it's notable how deeply sober minds at soberly named Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and, surprisingly, a post Microsoft-deal Nokia continue to place such faith in little MeeGo, the open-source tablet system that could. Can it?
Within two weeks of a Mobile World Congress full of excitement over various Android-driven tablets, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) just has to bring Steve Jobs onstage for 45 minutes, and it’s as if Barcelona never happened. Intel’s counter-argument in part rides on MeeGo, a wide open platform that is pretty much the anti-Apple.
Two weeks after Barcelona, the field's set: There's Apple in its castle, Google in its spaceship -- piloted by that cute little Android -- and MeeGo out in the field, grimly plowing away.
Apple's strategy for winning the tablet war has been a dual effort in which it: 1) corners the market on key parts and drives up supply prices on the competition; and 2) continues the usual Apple scheme of avoiding dissent, throwing its own parties at which it talks about how much everyone else's ideas suck. If we accept for a moment that this will continue working as well as it has since 2005 or so -- Apple claims to have 40 million tablets as a goal for 2011, which suggests it's working pretty well -- then Google's Android may indeed be the weaker player here.
So, what of MeeGo's anonymous, angry serfs?
Intel appears to be betting on igniting a revolution. If you arm the serfs, with really tiny, fast, radically power-saving chipsets in this case, they'll eventually storm the castle. It worked with servers, goes the argument.
It's a big bet, saddled with an indecisive partner in Nokia, two massive rivals, and an inane name (last tried by a lame sitcom). But things that sound foolish said out loud have tended, of late, to surprise.