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iPhone envy to fuel open-source development?

Open source pops up wherever there is opportunity for disruption. Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO of mobile push e-mail service Funambol, makes some predictions.

Despite concerns that people would forgo dietary staples like bread and milk before giving up their mobile phones, we can definitely expect to see companies and consumers cutting mobile expenses as they look for ways to reduce overall budgets and spending.

The slowing economy has yet to be felt by Apple, with the company announcing that it sold 6.9 million iPhones this quarter (compared with 1.1 million in the third quarter of 2007). With Apple as a clear leader in mobile innovation, will other mobile vendors be able to keep up as budgets are tightened?

Open-source mobile e-mail and platform provider Funambol, issued a paper yesterday outlining eight reasons why open-source push e-mail and mobile sync will triumph in a downturn. Not surprisingly, Funambol predicts that mobile customers will want more value for less.

Why pay $30 a month for a BlackBerry push e-mail service if there's an equally good open-source alternative available for $10 a month? Even better for the tight pocketbook, Funambol recently launched a free version of its open-source mobile push e-mail service funded by mobile microbanner ads.

I spoke with Funambol CEO Fabrizio Capobianco about other changes he predicts we'll see in the next 6 to 12 months. He says open source will definitely thrive, but not just for the reason everyone expects--cost. He believes that open source will thrive because customers prefer the staying power and flexibility that an open mobile-developer community provides.

It seems that Google would agree: the T-Mobile G1 phone, which shipped today, will benefit largely from the Android open-source development community.

Capobianco added that Funambol's Forge community grew to house an additional 1,500 mobile developers in the last month alone, thanks to a new surge of interest in open mobile development, fueled by iPhone envy and the T-Mobile G1 phone.

Funambol runs on 1.5 billion mobile phones, smartphones included. Capobianco predicts that the fastest and most efficient way for mobile operators, services providers, portals, and device makers to build their own MobileMe or App Store ecosystem will be through open-source development.

The question remains, can these guys get their act together in time to stay in the game?