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The open card in the mobile gameJay Lyman, July 26, 2011 @ 12:41 pm ET
I wrote last year about the way Google’s Android mobile operating system was serving as a more open alternative to Apple’s iOS, but not so open that it didn’t leave opportunity for an even more open alternative.
Given that we continue to see software patent-based attacks on Android, as well as swirling FUD around coverage of the attacks and never ending suits and settlements and courtroom developments, it is clear it will be a long time before any of this legal business is ever close to settled, unless ended by settlements first, which is likely.
However, I’m more interested in the technology in the meantime. I also think it’s interesting to see, if not a ‘more open’ alternative emerging, at least another, ‘somewhat open’ option in the tablet market, this being HP’s WebOS. It’s interesting that WebOS evolved from Palm, which HP acquired in March 2010 for $1.4 billion. Though Apple’s iPad is still the clear leader in tablets, it is interesting to see continuing signs that what happened in smartphones (where iPhone led and Android quickly caught up and then passed iOS) may be happening in tablets. There is also still the possibility that tablets may play out like netbooks, with wild popularity followed by a fade in favor of more traditional PCs for traditional PC needs. It is interesting to note that Google’s Eric Schmidt recently commented on the continued utility of PCs, which will remain key to professionals, consumers, and also developers, largely because of the tactical keyboard. What is most likely is continued convergence, and it will be interesting to see what ties emerge between WebOS and PCs as computer hardware giant HP rolls out the OS in tablets and smartphones.
We also see other signs that new, open entrants may be mixing things up in the mobile and converged device market, such as word of a possible Android and iOS competitor from Mozilla. There is yet another project that is already a factor in netbooks, other mobile devices and the burgeoning IT market of automobile information and entertainment systems, MeeGo, which is also open source. Even Research in Motion’s Playbook is based on the QNX operating system, for which source code was made available by its previous owner to make it more like the open source Linux OS, which was attracting developers and interesting customers.
We believed there was a fairly prominent place for open source software, open source operating systems and general openness in mobile software when we wrote our report, Mobility Matters three years ago, but we would have never guessed that the openness of this software would be so significant in two respects: defense from patent and other intellectual property attacks; the market power of open source, which draws in not only developers, but manufacturers and other third-parties. We’ve seen the speed and strength at which a project and community such as Android can grow. Will we now begin to see other alternatives that are even more open emerge as top choices among developers, hardware companies, wireless players and consumers? Never before have those alternatives really existed in the mobile software world, so it’s good at least to see the possibility is there.
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