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Lack of open source holding back mobile industry?

Open source may finally unlock a stifled mobile Internet.

My friend and one-time colleague, Mark Watson, CEO of mobile open-source company Volantis, pens a cogent analysis of the mobile content industry, and what prevents it from becoming the gargantuan market it has long been predicted to become. Watson suggests that "fragmentation may be the very thing that is inhibiting the ability to meet market expectations for growth and proliferation of mobile content and services," and suggests that open source may offer a remedy for this problem:

...[I]t's not possible for content providers to just put a mobile web application "out there" and see the immediate uptake that they'd expect on the wider internet. Instead, they need access to the right enabling technology to reach the mass market -- development tools and runtime software that can automatically overcome fragmentation issues, without passing the burden of device knowledge to the developer.

To date, the proprietary license models surrounding such software have meant that this all-important access has been limited or even non-existent for many smaller developers and content providers. And, without ubiquitous access, the growth of the mobile internet industry as a whole has been held back. In the traditional internet environment, access has been provided through open source software models. So why couldn't the same principle be applied to mobile?

This is a perspective I hadn't considered before, but it strikes me as true. The Web has flourished in large part because it is an exceptionally open platform, one built upon open source and open standards. The mobile Web? It is precisely the opposite: walled garden, closed standards, and closed source.

Suddenly, open source provides an answer. As vendors like Nokia look to open source to build the mobile Web, we may finally get the open, thriving mobile Web we've been pontificating about for far too long.


Disclosure: I am an advisor to Volantis.