Nokia takes Symbian open source. What will this mean for mobile Linux?

Nokia has acquired the rights to Symbian and will open source it. What does this mean for mobile Linux?

In one of the biggest news stories of the year, Nokia has acquired all of the rights to the Symbian operating system (OS) and open sourced it under the Eclipse license. In one fell swoop, the need for mobile Linux just became far less obvious.

With 60 percent of the mobile market, Symbian has long been the dominant mobile OS. While Nokia has recently been dabbling with Linux , this move presumably will shift its efforts back to Symbian.

Indeed, Nokia's move may actually completely refactor the mobile industry's rising affection for Linux. As Glyn Moody suggests, developers already know Symbian and are likely to redouble their efforts there instead of moving to rival platforms like Google's Android and other mobile Linux platforms.

Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. It's not Linux, per se, that is important to mobile. It's open source. Whether through an open-source Symbian or open-source Linux, the benefits to developers is the same: Transparency, flexibility, and community.

Having said that, I would assume that we'll still see a fair amount of activity around mobile Linux, if for no other reason than that there are huge benefits that accrue to using the same OS for one's mobile development as for servers and desktops. Mobile Linux may be easier for enterprises to digest as they roll out Linux on the desktop and Linux on servers. Symbian is only used in the mobile market and so offers less advantage in this way.

Even so, Nokia's bold move should bring considerable competition to the mobile market, leaving one major market left for open source to conquer: The desktop.

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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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