Thursday, March 13, 2008

Honeymoon with open software is over, says Nokia

There has been much buzz about open software used for operating systems in mobile phones, and the expected arrival of the Google Android during the second half of this year will add to the excitement.

But despite the excitement, sales of mobile phones using open software such as Linux fell last year.

Nokia, the global leader in mobile phones, continues to refuse to give up its own operating systems in favor of open source ones. In fresh evidence of Nokia's refusal to go open, a senior company official told a meeting of open-source engineers in San Francisco that proprietary systems still held sway at the Finnish company.“The honeymoon with open source is over," Ari Jaaksi (right in the picture), director of open source operations at Nokia, said in an interview.

In a speech earlier at the OSiM conference on Wednesday in San Francisco, Mr. Jaaksi told a suspicious audience that there would be "some nasty points" in his presentation about the relative merits of "open" and proprietary software.

Mr. Jaaksi's main point was that the quality of software based on open source is not high enough for the rigors of the mobile world. There are special problems with security and usability, he noted, counseling software developers to understand how makers of mobile phones relate to telecom companies. “Customers will not accept anything but the best”, he said. “They do not tolerate the same behaviour you expect from your PC.”

Nokia introduced a device called the "Internet Tablet" in the summer of 2005. The company is about to launch a third generation of the device, which operates on open-source Linux. There were glitches in the software and Mr. Jaaksi admits Nokia made a few mistakes that led to some “horror stories.”He said Nokia has to learn more about dealing with the developers in the open software community.

He thinks that the company will work more closely in the future with coders, hackers and developers.“One hundred percent open source is not our goal," Mr. Jaaksi said. "But if we have good open source" available to Nokia, then the company will use it, he said, because "it will not be economical for us to develop it ourselves.”

Nokia have been criticised for being overly secretive when dealing with people from the outside, and Jaaksi said that there are issues such as licensing that are difficult to solve. For instance, there is “a 5000 word agreement to understand” before you sign.

Other manufacturers, with Motorola in the lead, are much more active in open source and at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona recently sixteen new Linux operated models from different companies were introduced.

On Wednesday, Morgan Gillis, who is executive director of the Limo Foundation, an alliance of forty mobile phone manufacturers and application companies, projected a great future for open source on mobile phones. Limo is trying to replace proprietary software for mobile phones.

In San Francisco, Mr. Gillis showed market research that predicts Linux-operated mobile phones will number 300 million worldwide in five years.

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