Open source mobile phones still struggling

A recent editorial posted on PC Magazine offers insight into why open source mobile phones will continue to struggle against proprietary services from the likes of Apple, Research In Motion, Nokia, and other manufacturers.

As much as I support the open source movement — both on mobile phones and PCs — I have to agree with the PC Magazine editorial.  It has become increasingly more noticeable that wireless providers want to be able to work directly with phone manufacturers and software makers, though Google Android may finally prove to be the lone success among open source mobile technologies.

I’ve written about the LiMo Foundation in the past, and although it has support of several major handset manufacturers, it still has been unsuccessful in the United States.

tux-vs-msnIt’s true Android is an OS based off of Linux, but since its third-party apps rely on Java, along with Google overseeing the Android SDK that is distributed to developers, outside influences can still dictate how the OS matures.  For example, Google also has developer challenges and APIs that provide direct access to Google services — further integrating its services in the mobile space.


The editorial also notes the reason why wireless carriers don’t want to have to deal with geeks.  “Geeks use up a lot of network resources, try to find ways around rules, and create problems for tech support.  Every time a carrier has flirted with geeks, it has backed away,” author Sascha Segan wrote.

Despite all of these problems with geeks and open source, both wireless providers and manufacturers will continue to try and dabble with open source technologies.  At the very least, expect open source programs — such as Opera — to continue to gain popularity in the mobile space, even if it will be some time before open source operating systems are able to gain significant traction.