Open Warfare at OsCon

Posted by Sam Churchill on

You’re nothing but a deck of cards!
Alice in Wonderland

Whether you call it a cellphone, a “Palmtop”, smartphone, or a converged device — pocket-sized computing devices took center stage at the first-ever O’Reilly Open Mobile Exchange held this week at Oscon 2008, in Portland, Oregon.

With more than 3 billion cellular users world-wide, “open” handheld devices promise to smash the stranglehold of proprietary systems — even invade the domain of desktop computers. In 2008 more users will access the internet via a mobile phone than PCs or laptops. The excitement and creativity was palpable. Open source mobile platforms have been introduced by The Limo Foundation, The Open Handset Alliance, Symbian and Open Moko. Topic of the day: global domination.

Who will smash and grab the brass ring? Each platform has its proponents. Program chair Surj Patel and Raven Zachary of The 451 Group (far left), introduced speakers such as Jim Zemli, executive director of the Linux Foundation who discussed “The State of Mobile Linux” at OSCON. The consensus: it’s good.

Speakers included Jason Grigsby, co-founder of Cloud Four, Raven Zachary of The 451 Group, Benoit Schillings, Chief Technologist of Trolltech (a Nokia company), Chris DiBona, (Google’s Android Project), Prakash Narayan of Sun Microsystems, Stefano Maffulli of Funambol (a mobile advertising company), Jenny Minor a software engineer for Vernier’s LabQuest instrument and David “Lefty” Schlesinger of the Limo Foundation.

LiMo, developed by the LiMo Foundation (founded by a group of cellular handset makers and network operators), has a modular plug-in architecture, and supports DRM. Verizon, Orange and others are on this train. The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) forum has now joined forces with LiMo. They’ll battle the Open Handset Alliance, Symbian and that other handset you may have heard about.

Apple’s proprietary system may be locked down, but it’s the very definition of good design and marketing. The iPhone’s Location-Aware Apps a case in point.

David “Lefty” Schlesinger of the Limo Foundation, gave a short course on the importance of open mobile. It’s all in the numbers. The growth of smartphones is expected to explode. As they become data-enabled and transactional, developers will be empowered like never before.

Google’s Open Handset Alliance prohibits members from restricting functionality, unlike the LiMo Foundation. Verizon, for example, disables certain Bluetooth profiles, Java, MP3 ringtones and other features that may be a competitive threat.

Stefano Maffulli of Funambol (below) is less convinced about LiMo’s chances. He’s betting Symbian’s new open architecture will beat the LiMo platform. Last month Nokia bought the rest of Symbian and freed it. Made it open. Funambol thinks Symbian makes more sense for their location-based advertising and push email product.

According to statistics published in February 2007, Symbian OS had a 67% share of the smart mobile device market, with Microsoft having 13% and RIM having 10%. A pretty good lead right out of the box.

Symbian is in more than 200 million phones, across 235 models, with tens of thousands of third-party applications already available.

There are 1.5 billion TV sets in the world. 900 million personal computers, desktops and laptops. The internet had 1.3 billion users at the end of 2007. But mobile subscribers topped 3.3 billion.

In the open world, small is big.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 10:04 pm .

Leave a Reply