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Will mobile open source learn from closed?Jay Lyman, September 24, 2008 @ 12:55 pm ET
I’ve been talking to mobile OS, mobile middleware and mobile application vendors over the last few weeks as part of my research for another CAOS special report on open source in the mobile market. At the same time, the news has been full of headlines about the first Google Android phone, the outlook for an open-sourced Symbian and of course, Apple’s iPhone.
The timing seems interesting to me, as Google attempts to leverage a mobile Linux OS and open source to garner its usual developer strength, and Apple works to control its mobile OS and the applications that may or may not run on it.
No question Android is aimed primarily at extending Google’s own applications to mobile devices. I’ve also covered some of the issues with Google’s Chrome browser and overall open source strategy. However, compared to Apple, which has increasingly been the focus of skepticism from FOSS supporters, Google seems to be much more open, both in the sense of code and to the idea of third-party development. Google and Android are also getting some help from members of the Open Handset Alliance (HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and others). Despite a previous lack of mobile operator on board, T-Mobile has of course stepped up to sell services for the first Android phone, HTC’s G1. Google’s partnership with Amazon for Android support in its music store and a more open Android Market are also significant for Apple and the market.
If Google and OHA are not learning from Apple’s moves, both good and bad, there are others who may be able to take advantage of a more open approach. In fact, the two with perhaps the most to learn, Nokia’s open sourced Symbian and the larger LiMO consortium, are most likely to compete with one another given their strength and presence in markets outside of North America — mainly Asia and Europe. Interesting developments here include the recent inclusion of Open Kernel Labs and its embedded hypervisor technology in the Symbian Partner Network. As for LiMO, the mobile Linux consortium that includes membership from a number of hardware, software and mobile operator players, just announced a Panasonic phone that is the 23rd LiMO-compliant handset in the market.
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