Friday, June 16, 2006

Open Source and the Mobile Market (InfoWorld post)

This is a recent post that appeared on the InfoWorld blog "Open Sources by Dave Rosenberg and Matt Asay".
--- cut here --- cut here --- cut here --- cut here ---
We recently had the pleasure of hearing Dave rant about his mobile phone and BlackBerry death-spiral. Fortunately, he won't have to start rubbing sticks together to send out smoke signals any time soon - I promise.

RIM is starting to target the consumer space by inking deals with operators. The latest: Cingular in the U.S. In theory, this should make email easily integrated with cell phones... and RIM does have a pretty good email solution. Problem is, RIM's solution -- and their business model -- has depended on their proprietary hardware. They are stretching a device built just for the enterprise to adapt it to consumers. So far, only lowering the cost... That is not the way to do it. Consumers need a different type of device. Do you believe my father will ever use a QWERTY phone? I do not think so. However, he uses SMS today. And he receives emails on his desktop. One life, two separate worlds (mobile and web). I does not have to be that way. Good news: it is already changing.

How are RIM going to make their business work with all the phones from dozens of vendors in the consumer market? How do they extend functionality and interoperability to address this myriad of devices with proprietary software? They're smart enough to know that email is the killer app for mobile... reaching the mass market handsets (like your Razr) with email (or SmartSMS ;-) has nothing to do with being smart and everything to do with open source and open standards.

Open source software can do more for the mobile market than any other market it's disrupted to date. Why? Because there are 750 million phones in the world that are compatible with an open standard for PIM and, soon, mobile email (it is called SyncML). And because the only way to test all those phones (with the variations of software builds and network operators) is to harness the power of an open source community. The lousy customer service you were getting from the operators? Open source communities provide better support than that because of natural incentives for cooperation -- look how fast Linux fixes happen and the Linux device drivers history.

The trick is making sure operators "get" the idea of open source software as a real business value both on the cost and revenue side. It's not a religion or philosophy. We have some work to do but I know Dave can hang in there. Hold on -- we're nearly there. With open source and open standard your mobile life will change (and it will be finally integrated with your web life).