Google Vs. Symbian: 'My Linux Is More Open Than Your Linux' - InformationWeek

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2/24/2009
03:05 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Google Vs. Symbian: 'My Linux Is More Open Than Your Linux'

It looks like a war of words has broken out between Google and the Symbian Foundation over which mobile platform is truly more open. Is there really a right answer to this debate?

It looks like a war of words has broken out between Google and the Symbian Foundation over which mobile platform is truly more open. Is there really a right answer to this debate?Speaking to Silicon.com, Symbian Foundation director Lee Williams said that Google's Android platform, which is based on Linux, isn't really what Google claims. "Android is not open. It's a marketing label. It's controlled by Google." The implication is that since one company still plays such a large role in its development, Android doesn't fully embrace the idea of openness. "It [should be] up to the community to take it where it wants to go."

Google didn't sit quietly by and let Symbian bash its mobile baby. During the recent Mobile World Congress trade show, Android co-founder and Google's VP of mobile, Rich Miner, said, "If you're talking about a platform and the source code isn't completely available for that platform, I would say it's misleading to call that platform open. Because that platform can't be adapted, changed, and shaped by the people who are consuming that platform -- the handset OEMs or the carriers. I'd say that if you need to join some sort of a club in order to get access to the source code -- so membership in some consortium or some other group -- then it really truly isn't open."

Miner was, of course, poking a finger at the Symbian Foundation. Companies that join the Symbian Foundation (spearheaded by Nokia) will have access to Symbian code for free (less the cost to join the foundation, of course -- currently $1,500.). In comparison, Android's base code is free. You or I or anyone could download the complete platform right now without the need to join any sort of foundation, alliance, or organization.

The foundation's Williams also added that fracturing the flavors of Linux -- especially for mobile -- is a bad plan. He said the only reason Google's Android has support is because Google is such a large and well-known company. Google's Miner retorted that Android offers a lot more than other mobile Linux platforms and reiterated Google's belief that Android will unite mobile Linux, not further divide it.

There are likely strong arguments on both sides of this debate. In the end, what both the Symbian Foundation and the Open Handset Alliance need to do is bring capable, feature-rich platforms to market on hardware that people will want to buy. The Symbian Foundation already counts Nokia -- the world's largest supplier of mobile handsets -- as its major manufacturing partner. Whatever future version of S60 -- if it is even called S60 -- powers Nokia's handsets will be born of Symbian Foundation code.

Google and its OHA partners are still working to refine Android, though it already is in the market. HTC has backed up Google with the G1 and Magic. Other companies, such as Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola, have announced the intent to release their own Android handsets in the future.

We'll be waiting.

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