Open source revolution hits mobile world

20 Oct 2008

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The blaze trailed by Google and Nokia in choosing an open source model for their mobile platforms in the past year has introduced extra pressure on software vendors to adopt an open source strategy if they want to thrive in the mobile world.

Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum said that independent software vendors (ISVs) need to evolve to meet new customer expectations.

“ISVs need to be familiar with open source environments to be able to respond to demands to integrate customers’ solutions into those environments. In addition, OEMs and operators will start to expect similar levels of transparency and collaboration on key areas of interest for them.

“As a result, ISVs will need to evolve their business practices to meet these new expectations, in some cases embracing an open source business model,” Leach said.

“Adopting an open source strategy can involve as little as deciding to use an open source component, through treating open source as a supplier, to deciding to adopt an open source licence for the entire product. In both instances, the risks associated with the use of open source need to be managed.”

Leach said adopting an open source licence for an entire product development for a company that does not derive its main revenues from software royalty involves less risk.

“Google, for example, make its money through advertising, not selling software; Sun Microsystems makes most of its money through selling servers, not software; equally, Nokia’s business is based on hardware sales. So open sourcing products for these companies poses fewer issues and does not require completely re-engineering their businesses.”

He said that for a pure software vendor that derives all of its revenues from software licensing, the move towards a complete open source strategy has a greater amount of risk associated with it.

Vendors looking to pursue this strategy will need to consider which aspects of the product offering will derive income, whether through value-added services, high-value features and licence protection.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Google’s Android open source operating system helped set a trend for open source mobile platforms

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com