Mozilla, MontaVista, ARM, and others collaborate on a new/old device

A group of open-source friendly companies are getting together to build a device that even a mother likely won't love.

I was surprised to see that a collection of seven companies - including Mozilla Corp., ARM, and MontaVista - are collaborating on a web-enabled mini-PC. Why surprised?

Because companies have been throwing money at similar ideas for the past decade, and always without success.

When I was at Mitsui Comtek in 1997, we built a similar device. A few years later at Lineo, we worked on something similar (though this time purely from the software angle).

Now MontaVista, a company with which I competed back in my Lineo days, is at it again, but this time hopes that greater openness can be the differentiator:

The platform might be similar to the one used by Nokia in the N800 web tablet, but will be different from a very important point of view: ARM Inc. is creating a completely open platform that will be shared with the open-source community....

And, voila! Openness will automagically translate into a winning product. Or not.

It's possible that this is an idea whose time has finally come, but my hunch is that it's a solution in search of a problem. ARM's stated hope that this Linux-based platform will translate into 90 million devices by 2010 is, well, hopeful. This idea - that of open-source hardware/software platforms like Chumby generating scores of new devices - has yet to bear fruit. Perhaps it will in this case, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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