Linked by tessmonsta on Tue 16th Mar 2010 08:55 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source Today's mobile space is owned by the likes of Nokia, RIM, Apple, and Google. While some of these corporations have embraced some open source components, a full FLOSS solution has yet to gain traction. Why? Blogger Bradley M. Kuhn posts thoughtful analysis of the current state of Open Source in the mobile space.
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I think that open source is a mixed bag.

Open source philosophy is pure genius. Anyone caring about hobby developers should open-source its code, in my opinion. I'm working on a little OS right now (will let you know if one day it's able to do a bit more than switching processes and allocating hardware resources), and having a huge load of documentation and low-level code around is just fantastic.

The idea of software development to which anyone may contribute is also great. The fast evolution of Linux and FOSS in the latter years shows that more than anything else. Gimp, VLC, Blender, Inkscape,, Code::Blocks, Firefox... They're more or less innovative, but they're all serious and very powerful software, and I'm glad I have them around.

But this approach has its drawbacks, too. Look at the mess of audio APIs in linux. Look at multimedia infrastructure globally while you're at it. And let's not look at the X11 and graphical toolkits mess.

Open source works great when a project is working on software made to address a specific problem, with a well-defined design and feature plan. It looks less good when people try to put that software together and make a complete desktop environment. Inconsistency and effort duplication occurs in the best case. Stability issues in the worst.

I think that open-source OSs needs some central management. The implementation of most parts of the OS can be made by the community, but design goals and feature requirements for each of those parts should be at least partly stated by a relatively small group of people which may meet around a large table every month and discuss it for 4 hours. Yes, that's the way proprietary software works, except once you get the scope statement, you can implement it the way you like.

Let's say you've got an OS that's fine at browsing the web, but now some guys want to play HTML5 videos on it. Modifying the web browser, the multimedia framework, or the UI alone is not possible, some cooperation is needed.

-The proprietary way of doing things is when you own anything from the browser to the kernel. You take some times to design things, modify the browser, modify the multimedia API of your system, modify the UI management part, and are able to read HTML5 videos.
-The Linux way of doing things is that somewhere in the wild, a guy in a garage introduces a brand new browser that, thanks to a multimedia framework developed by two Polish guys which doesn't support a single codec yet, may embed videos. If you're lucky, some people get excited about it, and a new browser and multimedia framework are added to the huge pack of those available on Linux. After months of duplicated work, it's finally usable.
-In my opinion, the best option is that the OS manufacturers think about it, and find out how software should be designed in order to allow HTML5 playback. Let's say it's about multimedia player embedding capability in the UI widgets. They describe on their wiki how the UI widgets should be modified to allow these embedding capabilities, then kindly notify the people working on the UI widgets that they've got some stuff for them (or do it themselves). They then notify the browser makers that the UI meets now all requirements for HTML5 playback.

This requires good public relation skills and cooperation between system managers and applications developers. But IMO, without minimum central management and standardization like that, FOSS cannot meet the interface consistency and reliability requirements of modern software.

Edited 2010-03-16 17:39 UTC

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