Linux On The Move Once More - InformationWeek

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6/27/2008
10:53 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Linux On The Move Once More

Want a phone OS? Soon enough you'll have your choice of Nokia/Symbian, Google/Android, Microsoft/Windows Mobile, Apple/iPhone ... and now a merger between Linux mobile standards groups. There's something for everyone here.

Want a phone OS? Soon enough you'll have your choice of Nokia/Symbian, Google/Android, Microsoft/Windows Mobile, Apple/iPhone ... and now a merger between Linux mobile standards groups. There's something for everyone here.

Up until very recently there were two major groups promoting Linux as a mobile platform: the Linux Phone Standards Forum and the Linux Mobile Foundation. The former's rolling itself into the latter, and should have handsets on the market remarkably soon. Great news for those rooting for Linux as an agile competitor to the rest of the market's efforts.

I just looked back up at the list of names I wrote at the top of this piece, and realized they represent a spread of approaches to mobile computing that covers just about every possible development model. Linux, as open as it gets; Nokia, closed and proprietary, but with time perhaps no longer either one of those things; Google/Android, open source, albeit sponsored chiefly by a single entity; Windows, proprietary, but almost universally recognized and supported; the iPhone, proprietary and originally fairly closed but now gradually becoming more accessible. Just about every gradation of open vs. proprietary is reflected in this spread.

I think that's a great thing, actually, if only because it makes for a universal proving ground. If you have proprietary / closed solutions competing on the same footing as open ones in this space, you get that many more ways for open solutions to prove themselves as worthy competitors. (I've been having similar thoughts about the low-end notebook market as well -- like phones, it's a place where Linux can prove itself outside the context of the desktop.)

What's going to matter most isn't just the development model, though, but what the development model yields. I'd really rather not see a recapitulation of the mistakes of the past -- like Motorola's horrendously slow Razr menus. Here's hoping "open" becomes that much more a household synonym for "quality" in the phone market.

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