RIM: No open-source phone for you

BlackBerry maker isn't getting into open source, but that doesn't mean that others in the mobile industry aren't. A ready-made community makes open source ripe to play a key role.

While Google is storming into the mobile market with its open-source Android platform, Research In Motion has declared that open-sourcing its own software would be "a pretty big leap," as reported in EE Times:

"We do have an open-source management team that is investigating this," said Cassidy Gentle, a senior RIM software developer. "I would expect some of our Eclipse or Mobile Tools for Java could be made available on an open-source basis, but as for our APIs or other software--that's a pretty big leap," Gentle said.

It's perhaps not surprising that RIM would stick to its proprietary guns while they're still firing, but it is news that the company has an open-source management team. What does it do?

Meanwhile, other executives, including CNET blogger Dave Rosenberg , see open source playing a key role in the mobile market. Part of the reason lies in the ready-made community: every developer has a phone and, as is demonstrated by Funambol's success in mobile, many are willing to participate:

  • Active Funambol installations growing more than 50 percent year-over-year, and downloads have grown 30 percent since the start of 2008 alone;
  • Three million downloads, with huge uptake in China after translating the Funambol Forge into Chinese;
  • 1,500 new developers registered in the last month alone

Funambol has been accelerating its community efforts with a cool new localization program called Lion Sniper. It's a way to make Funambol's mobile-sync software even more relevant for disparate geographies.

RIM, of course, has only a few models, and Apple has even fewer. Do these companies need open source to power their businesses? Perhaps not. But most of the world doesn't use a BlackBerry or iPhone, which leaves plenty of room for Google, Funambol, and others to make mobile fertile ground for open source.

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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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