Smartphones, the Next Great Open Source Battleground

The players are lining up to grab their share of the huge smartphone / mobile market, the surprise is that so many of them are open source

The biggest prize in the technology sector today is the battle over which smartphone OS will you use. There are major players lined up to do battle for this multi-billion dollar market. The surprise is that multiple open source entrants are poised to dominate.

Remember when we say smartphone OS, it is not just your phone anymore. Everything from netbooks, tablets and mini-computers that have a phone built in will be run by these smartphone operating systems. Table top boxes for TVs, smart TVs and even your automobile could run this software as well. The smart money (no pun intended) says that this is a huge payday. Controlling the OS that these machines run, will also allow you to monetize the apps that run on them as well.

Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Research in Motion (RIM), Google, Intel, Samsung, Nokia and others are all throwing their hats into the ring. Usually there is an open source alternative in this type of scenario. In the smartphone wars, there are several open source contenders, each being pushed by a major player.

Google's Android system has picked up a lot of press and momentum. There are any number of phones available running it, including Google's own Nexus One. Though some quibble over how much of 'Droid is actually open, it clearly is perceived as an open source OS. Google also has another open source OS lurking, Chromium. Built around the Chrome browser, Google's plans around this are a little murky. An OS for a cloud based future? How it plays with Android is not all together clear.

A while back I reported that Symbian OS is now open sourced too. The undisputed phone leader, running on something like 300 million phones, Symbian has the market muscle to be a player. It is also backed by Nokia.

Now Nokia is teaming with Intel on yet another open source smartphone and smartdevice OS, MeeGo. "Intel’s Mobiln and Nokia’s Maemo are combined together to create a software platform that will support multiple hardware architectures across the broadest range of device segments, including pocket mobile computers, netbooks, tablets, mediaphones, connected TVs and in-vehicle infotainment systems.” With Intel and Nokia behind it, you have to give MeeGo a second look. What to me was really interesting though is that they choose to make MeeGo open source.

Whether or not MeeGo emerges a winner in the battle here is almost immaterial. The fact that no less than Intel and Nokia recognize that to compete in this ultra-competitive market place an open source operating system offered the best chance is pretty remarkable.

In fact with Android, Symbian and now MeeGo all open and available, will any new entrants into the smartphone wars have to open up to compete?

Lets not get ahead of ourselves here. Remember that Windows Mobile and Apple's iPhone are the anti-thesis of open source. For that matter so is RIM's Blackberry and Palm's Pre. They have some market share between them too. Be that as it may though, the fact that there are multiple open source operating systems vying for leadership in this all important category is a testament to how far the open source software movement has come.

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