Mobile Vendors Debate the 'Open' Future - Page 2

By David Needle

July 24, 2008

Page 2 of 2

Nokia's big open source move

But Murphy was challenged on the number of downloads versus what Nokia customers and other download and just how much credit Apple should be given by David Rivas, Nokia's vice president for software strategy and business development. "Let's be honest, they've been downloading software on phones in Japan for 10 years," said Rivas.

Rivas did agree the mobile industry is undergoing a "massive transition" to more open systems and noted Nokia has been an active participant. Earlier this month the phone giant bought the remaining parts of Symbian, the mobile operating system it had invested in with others. Nokia now is making the Symbian OS open source to spark further third-party development.

Nokia's partners are excited about open source access, according to Rivas. With the open source access, Rivas said, developers have more freedom to quickly customize their offerings and make investments without worrying about a controlling company changing the rules.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is the other big player making the first and arguably seminal open mobile gamble. The company and partners launched the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) earlier this year and a variety of devices based on the OHA software stack are expected by early next year.

Miner said the partners have agreed to stay consistent with the code base and not fragment the market, although it's an open source stack. The OHA will release compliance software, also open source, so vendors can test and consumers can confirm a device is compliant.

According to Miner, anyone could use the software and tweak it in a noncompliant way, but he doesn't think companies will have much interest in doing that. He said, for example, developers in the past have "put a veneer on another UI. It doesn't quite work."

According to Miner, more than 1 million copies of the OHA software development kit have been downloaded. "We believe it will be the de facto standard for Linux-based platforms in the mobile space."

That said, the idea behind OHA is to enable a platform that can work on a wide variety of devices. Miner mentioned those with and without touch screens, different screen sizes and form factors. "This is about a platform for many different phones," he said.

The openness trend also stands to shake up pricing models. "One of the fatal mistakes I could make is to stick with traditional pricing," Verizon's Lewis said.

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