Saturday, December 22, 2007

A video

A few months back, I was interviewed by Nicola Mattina in Rome. Although it looks like I am sleeping between questions (the jet-lag, I just landed from California ;-) it might be a shortcut to understand the Funambol and mobile open source story.

Funambol and Android

There is a question that people keep asking me: how do you position Funambol and Android? I always try to give my best answer ("Android is a mobile phone operating system, Funambol is a mobile application server, both are open source, and they are a killer combination for mobile which will change the world"), but probably Hal thought it was not good enough ;-) Therefore, he wrote a position paper about it, entitled "How Google Android Stimulates the Mass Market for Mobile Email and how Funambol Mobile Open Source Monetizes It".

From the press release:
The paper discusses how Android will spur adoption of mobile email by large numbers of people and how Android and Funambol can transform the market.

The report also poses and answers major questions for the mobile industry such as:
-- How will mass market mobile email be enabled by Android and Funambol?
-- What do the new market dynamics mean to prices and control within the industry?
-- How do mobile service providers make money in this new environment?
-- Who are the new telecom winners and losers?

The position paper covers the following topics:
-- Mass market mobile email trends and user requirements
-- The mobile email value chain and the end game for mobile email
-- What is Google Android
-- and what is it not?
-- What are Google's aspirations for mobile and for mobile email in particular?
-- How can mobile operators and service providers benefit from S.O.S.
-- standards, open source and synchronization
To download the position paper, visit It is definitely worth a read over the holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007 - the year of data plans

I am starting to see the end of 2007 and it is time for some looking back. In my opinion, 2007 has been the most amazing year in mobile history. Bodes well for 2008 ;-)

I landed in Europe a few days back and, as every year, I started looking around for a data plan. I own a prepaid Italian SIM card (from Wind), the same I owned for years. Every single Christmas for the last five years, I looked around for a data plan that could make sense for me. I have an unlimited data plan in the US (with Verizon) and I am addicted to data, push email and the like (and chocolate, but you can find good one from Switzerland here...).

Last year, I scrambled for a full month. I looked at every carrier, finding 3 as the most data-friendly one. Wind had nothing. I tried to buy a 3 data card. I had to go to a store five times. I ended up empty handed. Using my GPRS "embedded" data plan with moderation, only in emergencies (and paying good euros for every sync).

This year, everything has changed. I went on the Wind site, they had three data plans for my prepaid phone... A 8 euros/month for 500MB. A 20 euros/month for 2.5GB. A 30 euros/month for 5GB. I went for the 8 euros, clicked on a link and boom, 8 euros disappeared on my SIM and I have a data plan. If I do not do anything, next month they will take another 8 euros automatically. Or I can opt out with an SMS message.

This is fantastic. 150MB will easily suffice, even on my iPhone. Everyone can afford it (looking at how much we paid for dinner last night...). And it was so easy.

Since I am a curious person, I tried to look at TIM. Same thing. The Maxxi data plans is 20 euros for 500MB. You can add it to a prepaid card.

Looking at the US, the same applies. Prices dropped with the iPhone to $20/month or below, on every carrier (Verizon excluded, where do they live, on the moon?).

2007 has been the year of the data plans. Data plans are a requirement for the mobile 2.0 to take off. We are ready. 2008 is going to be the year of mobile applications. I have been waiting for years for this moment. It was about time :-)

Friday, December 07, 2007

The open source police coming to mobile

It was just a matter of time. Today the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) filed a copyright lawsuit against Verizon, alleging they infringed on the GPL and should have distributed the source code.

In their words:

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today announced that it has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Verizon Communications, Inc. on behalf of its clients, two principal developers of BusyBox, alleging violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL). BusyBox is a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems and is open source software licensed under GPL version 2.

Verizon is the provider of a fiber-optic Internet and television service called FiOS. Verizon distributes Actiontec MI424WR wireless routers to FiOS customers. This router contains BusyBox, and under the terms of the GPL, Verizon is obligated to provide the source code of BusyBox to recipients of the device. According to the lawsuit, Verizon continues to distribute BusyBox illegally without source code, despite having been contacted by SFLC.

This is the fourth GPL enforcement lawsuit filed by SFLC on behalf of the BusyBox developers. The first one, against Monsoon Multimedia, was settled out of court in October, with Monsoon agreeing to remedy its prior violation, ensure future compliance, and financially compensate the plaintiffs. Mark has written a nice post about the Monsoon case and the lessons for FOSS management. I am sure all the other lawsuits will be a slam dunk, as the first one. Verizon will have to pay.

I have been waiting for this to happen for a while. Eben Moglen and the SFLC are simply enforcing a license (or a lack of it, if you are out of compliance with the GPL...) that many have simply used to their advantage - without any respect for the hard work of the developers. Remember, GPL is not free, you have to give back the code. Or you can get sued.

BTW, for those panicking out there, there is another option provided by commercial open source companies built on the dual licensing concept. Pay and license the code. Get indemnification, support and a throat to choke (that would be me, when it comes to Funambol ;-)

Quid pro quo: you have to give back something. You do not want to give back the code? Give us cash instead. We'll put it back to build an even better open source product.

Long life to the open source police. If you are a Funambol user and you are violating our GPL/HPL/AGPL license (we know you are out there...), it might happen to you sooner or later. Maybe sooner. We are here to help you ;-)

Monday, December 03, 2007

The mobile 2.0 revolution starts in Germany

1&1, the largest web hoster in the world, went live with a mobile email solution last week in Germany. They are using Funambol, integrated with OpenXchange. Open source on all levels...

Why is it the start of a revolution?

Because this not a carrier, though they are offering mobile email directly to their users. An ISP offering mobile messaging... The start of a big shift in this market, where you will get your email pushed to your phone directly from the company that "owns" your email. In 99.99% of the cases, that is not your mobile carrier...

1&1 is doing this in a very smart way, since they are going "around" the mobile operator but they are also adding an option to be the mobile operator. Technically, I guess they are proposing themselves also as an MVNO.

So you can get mobile email on your device if:
  1. You own a phone and a data plan. No additional charge.
  2. You want also a special data plan. They have one for 9.99 euro a month (unlimited data, that's nothing!!!!). You could also get a voice plan, if you desire.
  3. You want also a phone. They have a Windows Mobile device for 49.99 euro (heck, that's nothing as well...)
If you speak German, the image below explains option 2 and 3. Or you can also look at their website. They are starting with Windows Mobile. Go get it :-)

I feel this is really huge. An ISP offering mobile email directly (and for free ;-) Plus doubling as an MVNO, to push adoption. The world is changing...

BTW, if you are not German, 1&1 has announced they will be launching in UK, France and USA in the first half of 2008. The revolution is coming to a country close to you ;-)