Nokia Preparing New “Meltemi” OS For Low-End Phones

It’s no secret that Nokia has put their faith in Windows Phone 7 to carry their future smartphones, but they haven’t forgotten the millions of customers who count on them for their lower-end handsets. A new report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that Nokia is hard at work on a Linux-based OS codenamed “Meltemi.”

This isn’t the first time the Meltemi name has made the rounds: after announcing drastic personnel cuts this past April, Nokia mentioned that the Meltemi project would serve as something of a lifeboat for some of the company’s displaced MeeGo developers.

Unlike Samsung’s Bada or the newly announced Tizen platform, Meltemi isn’t meant to be a catch-all OS whose influence will spread beyond phones. Very little is known about the Meltemi project at this point, other than the fact that it’s meant to give their more basic devices a kick in the pants. Still, that hasn’t stopped the speculation machine from drawing connections.

Nokia, for example, was rumored to be working on a touch-friendly version of their ubiquitous S40 operating system. If Meltemi turned out to be an extension of that project, it could conceivably give users the best of both worlds: a familar look and useful new functionality like more robust apps and services.

While some other companies have begun to focus more on their high-end offerings, Nokia owes quite a bit to their legion of feature phone users. During this past quarter, those handsets accounted for nearly half of the company’s total device-and-service sales. While there’s always a tendency to get wrapped up in the newest, shiniest, fastest devices around here, I think it’s about time that all of Nokia’s low-end phone users get to benefit from an experience that’s closer to what we smartphone folk have enjoyed for years.