Nokia Building Linux-Based OS for Feature Phones

Nokia (NYS: NOK) is reportedly developing a new mobile operating system designed to power low-end feature phones, complementing its forthcoming suite of smartphones running Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) Windows Phone.

Citing sources familiar with the project, The Wall Street Journal reports the Linux-based operating system is codenamed "Meltemi," so named for the Greek word for summer winds that blow across the Aegean Sea. Mary McDowell, Nokia's executive vice president of mobile phones, is spearheading the initiative. A Nokia spokesperson declined comment.

Feature phones accounted for about 47 percent of Nokia device sales during the second quarter of 2011. Earlier this year, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop pledged to boost the company's feature phone ambitions, targeting consumers in emerging markets -- however, low-cost, feature-rich smartphones running Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android operating system are becoming increasingly commonplace, calling into question the longevity of the feature phone concept.

Nokia most recently focused its software development efforts on MeeGo, the open-source platform combining its former Maemo platform with Intel's former Moblin initiative. But Nokia effectively abandoned its MeeGo push in February when it inked a broad strategic partnership with Microsoft that positions Windows Phone as Nokia's primary smartphone platform moving forward. This week Nokia began shipping its sole MeeGo device, the N9 smartphone.

Also this week, Intel announced it will halt its own MeeGo development efforts to throw its support behind Tizen, the new Linux-based cross-architecture device software platform led by the Linux Foundation and LiMo Foundation. Targeting multiple device categories including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks and in-vehicle infotainment systems, Tizen combines open-source technologies with a standards-based HTML5 and Wholesale Applications Community web development environment, enabling the creation of device-independent, cross-platform mobile applications.

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