Is democracy any useful in mobile open source software?

A few days ago, when I was commenting on vision mobile I started thinking out to blog some thoughts about open source projects governance in mobile industry.

The question could be, more or less:

Is democracy any useful in mobile open source software?

despite being dated quite much back in the past the paradigm of democracy (openness and sharing in the decision process) have been controversial in terms of achieved results.
Sun’s JCP contributed to mobile software industry development in early years but, quite suddenly, shown limits and general slowness. Sun has been repeatedly claimed to be trying to control the java innovation process. But why also completely open source JVM projects like phoneME collected so far a little success?
And also, the open source choice of Motorola didn’t gave us the MIDP 3 in time.

LIMO initiative has been indubitably successful since produced dozens of actual phones, coming from different vendors, and moved the business interest back on linux on mobile platforms after pioneer initiatives like sharp zaurus saga.
Anyway LIMO lacked of guidance and vision and very early reached the significant but limited level of innovation that could ever grant, since most of the participants were probably afraid of disclosing too many requirements and design concepts to each other.

Android project was just another open source linux platform facing the industry in 2005 when, Sergei and Larry put their careful and business visionary hands on it.

Now that we have at least 10 products announced in 2009 it’s quite sure that Android will sort out a significant level of ¬†success.

Google leadership in Android project is indubitable: the OS concept is widely modelled around google business, google media exposure has been total for the G1 (do you remember the guys with rollerblades at the presentation?) and generally Google left little or no freedom to HTC and T-Mobile in productizing the G1 since, being the first product, it must embody the “GooglePhone” concept.

I’m beginning to think that Google dominance over Android concepts (despite the overall very high code and concept disclosure level) is being the actual success factor for the project. It seems to me that most of the mobile industry¬†manufacturers acknowledged Google to have appealing ideas and left BigG to deeply “guide” the design.
Furthermore, BigG core business is not competing with handset manufacturers business at least until they don’t think about becoming all rounders, focusing on services and softwares instead of focusing on the devices.

Symbian Foundation project is even more democratic respect to Android but this doesn’t seem to contribute much on the hype. Furthermore, being the initiative inspired by a relevant competitor, seems that the other manufacturers involved in the project are slowing down interest and contribution.

I’m quite sure that former Symbian Inc. shareholders have been extremely happy to sell Nokia their shares since , without the foundation move, Symbian in itself as a company was going to face relevant revenues decreasing due to the enhanced competition on the OS market.

To me, It’s like they’re saying: “well, now that you’ve all the shares… Symbian it’s your problem”

My suggestion to Nokia to grant some success to Symbian Foundation initiative would be to:

  • focus on operators instead of manufacturers: increasing operator partnership models and optimizing SF for the operators requirements. Nokia should spend some time thinking jointly with them about a Win-Win business model and about how to guarantee operators a relevant freedom in customizing and adapting Symbian to their requirements and value-add services.
  • rethink it’s service offering to be less competitive with operators offering or, at least, promote and disclose operator brandization and revenue sharing programs on Nokia services (like OVI or Xpress Music proposition)

I had the chance to exchange some ideas on a very relevant post made by Michael Mace on Mobile Opportunity about Symbian situation, commented also by (and on) David Wood’s blog. Take a look.


About meedabyte

Strategist, Consultant and Collaborative Pathfinder

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