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I'll Show You My Mobile Linux Platform if You Show Me Yours

By Jason Z. Cohen
Jan 9, 2008 5:06 AM PT

A couple of developments in the mobile applications space have my head spinning. First, the LiMo Foundation announced it has increased its membership by adding six new members. Then, Yahoo introduced its mobile developer platform at CES, taking pains to point out that its apps will be compatible with pretty much any mobile platform -- including Android.

I'll Show You My Mobile Linux Platform if You Show Me Yours

When Android was first coming out of its shell, I had a talk with Morgan Gillis, the LiMo Foundation's executive director. He was supportive of the idea but cautious at the same time. He and others in the mobile Linux community were concerned that the end result might be confusion.

I'm starting to see that now. What Google has created is a platform that's Linux-based, but it isn't exactly Linux. It's pretty much open, but it's still Google's version of open.

The other shoe everyone is waiting for is this: What's in it for Google?

Confusion Ensues

Is Google simply being benevolent and disrupting the status quo? Not likely. If its goal was simply to encourage open source mobile application development, why didn't it just join LiMo or LiPS or some other mobile Linux consortium? Why did it have to start its own, the Open Handset Alliance?

Now here comes Yahoo, and before you know it, everyone who's anyone has a mobile SDK, and now you've got a crowded and confused field.

The business of establishing standards is ugly stuff, complete with politicking and dirty tricks and all that. Just look at Microsoft's effort to get OOXML approved by the ISO.

Consider the alternative, however. The alternative is no standard at all -- or at least no recognized body that establishes the standard. What you end up with is the equivalent of VHS vs. Betamax or HD DVD vs. Blu-ray: a knock-down, drag-out slugfest that ends with two bloodied competitors and a confused populace that isn't sure it got the best deal.

I'm not sure which is worse.

I'll Have the Crow, Please

In my last post, I mentioned that the creators of BusyBox have been busy -- along with the Software Freedom Law Center -- bringing lawsuits against those companies who used their code without then making it available to users of the end product.

One of the provisions of the settlements has been that the violators pay an undisclosed amount of money to the creators of BusyBox, and I speculated that maybe it was a new business model for open source software.

Now, it turns out that the money isn't going to the developers after all. Rob Landley, one of the developers of BusyBox, e-mailed to set the record straight:

"Neither Erik Andersen nor myself has received a dime from any of the settlements. We told the SFLC to keep the money. (Maybe that'll change in future, but so far...) We had a 'hall of shame' up for years before suing anybody. We got actual lawyers to sue people because neither asking violators nicely nor putting them up for public ridicule actually worked."

I stand corrected, and while I'm at it, let's give the BusyBox guys a little credit for putting the money where it belongs: the effort to further free and open source software.

Click here to e-mail Jason Z. Cohen.


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How much are you willing to pay for a new smartphone?
I'll pay $1.5K or more for the latest iPhone or Galaxy flagship phone.
I want the latest model, but I can't see paying more than $1K for a phone.
I'm content to buy a slightly older model in the $500 - $750 range.
I don't need an iPhone or Galaxy. I can find a really good phone for $350 or less.
Phone prices are ridiculous. I won't pay more than $100.
I don't have or want a smartphone.
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