Monday, May 18, 2009

Do we really need another OSS mobile stack?

There is one reason Linux has been successful as a mainstream server OS: RedHat. It is not the company behind it that made it good, it is the fact that one company made the Linux enterprise distribution. There are few more distros, but one is mainstream. The rest is noise.

The market does not like noise, it likes mainstream. Early adopters are a nice bunch of people, but they are not that many... You need the Early Majority and the Late Majority to step in, to make something mainstream. Crossing the chasm happens when there is a clear leader.

Now look at Mobile Linux today. It is a mess. And I am upset about it because I am one of the big supporters of mobile open source, as you might have noticed. And if I am confused, imagine the rest of the world...

We have Android (open source dictatorship), LiMo (open source oligarchy) and Symbian (open source to be). Then you have Maemo (a Nokia effort for the tablets, which somehow clashes with the acquisition of Trolltech) and Moblin (an Intel effort for MIDs, Mobile Internet Devices, which seems not be going anywhere).

Too many initiatives?

Nope, now we have a new one. Nokia and Intel (wow) announced oFono today. I do not think it is an OS, probably more of a stack. But it is meant to do all the things an OS does on a mobile device (telephony, for once).

The description of the project is a geek dream and a journalist nightmare: is a place to bring developers together around designing an infrastructure for building mobile telephony (GSM/UMTS) applications. is licensed under GPLv2, and it includes a high-level D-Bus API for use by telephony applications of any license. also includes a low-level plug-in API for integrating with open source as well as third party telephony stacks, cellular modems and storage back-ends. The plug-in API functionality is modeled on public standards, in particular 3GPP TS 27.007 "AT command set for User Equipment (UE)."
I mean, the answer to "what is oFono?" is "A plug-in API functionality modeled on 3GPP TS 27.007"... Aahhh, now it is clear ;-)

Anyway, it is just another confusing effort in the mobile open source space. I do understand this is a hot market and everyone is jumping on it, but I think we are trying to do too much and it is not helping anyone.

Or maybe I should just look at it and celebrate yet another success of mobile open source, which attracts the bigger players, committed to make it the mobile platform of the future.

If I just could understand what they do, maybe I could make up my mind...