Free software is not just a trend of IT but a need in modern days. End users demand transparency, decentralization and safety for their desktop operating systems, which Linux is able to provide. Linux has succeeded to some extent though it’s long term goals is gaining a 2 digit market share sometime in the near future and gaining support from 3rd party software vendors. Another notable market are the mobile users. Through time, since the mobile phone became a dominant tech accessory, Smart Phones were introduced, as a mini mobile operating system able to cover anyone’s computing needs when on the move. Today the following propetiary mobile OS are the most dominant: Symbian OS, Windows Mobile/CE, iPhone MacOS, Blackberry and some other that have a smaller market share. The iPhone as a newcomer has managed to stir the mobile industry because of its innovative interface and menu. The biggest downside of the iPhone though noted by most users and me is the persistence of its manufacturer (Apple) to lock and confine the end users almost to death. Locked network, no official support for 3rd party software, locked Bluetooth services, only sync with itunes and numerous other irritating and confining features. Symbian and Windows Mobile devices though are not so locked to a Software and Hardware level. Most policies of the major players in the mobile industry seem to follow to a different extent each time this restricting policy.
Till now no truly open and free complete operating system exists in a widely accepted and commercial level on the mobile platform. 2008 though is the year of change in this industry. Google, a silicon valley software giant, never lacks to show innovation and insight. It has been sponsoring and investing on Google Android, a Linux based mobile OS which aims to be 100% open and free. It is this time speaking in its end developing stage and will be introduced through various mobile devices in the end of 2008. Google Android has been so frequently talked about like any other mobile OS that has before it has been out yet. To my view this OS should exist for some years now because the rest of of smart phone platforms have already matured and are widely adopted.
Nokia, the biggest mobile phone manufacturer also shocked me with some good news. It decided to buy all of Symbian shares and form the Symbian Foundation, completely opening all of Symbian’s code. Offcourse nokia had some good reasons for doing this strategic move, though the whole process may take till 2010. To my view these reasons are the following:
Symbian OS has somehow come behind in innovation (still no support for touchscreens) and is clearly started to be threatened by the newcomer, the iphone. Also Nokia knows very well that Google Android is likely to dominate the market, proving a complete and cutting edge open mobile OS. So they say if you cant fight them just cooperate with them, or in this case adopt the same approach and philosophy. Symbian is likely to gain back from the mature and highly experienced Linux community or in this case the forecoming Open Symbian community. Opensource has proven to have a much better dynamic from any other model of software and never fails to show great innovations. Linux is a great example, with the only difference that Symbian OS has the largest userbase in the world. The scale of the opensource dynamics will clearly benefit Nokia, which will probably make Symbian gain it’s lost pace with innovation. It will cost less, making any Nokia phones cheaper to buy in comparison to any other smartphone surcharged with the cost of software ownership. The fact that Symbian will become open will not affect the existing 3rd party software developers, but in contrast will benefit them a lot, making their work more easy.
Today the mobile market has not felt the impact of the forecoming opensource OS’s, though the future beholds a dominance of free software. Desktop Linux may lack to hold a decent market share because Windows had predominated the desktop market and the switch is really hard because of the lack of software support. Also Microsoft’s strategy is to have Windows preinstalled in every Desktop or Laptop computer so it automatically builds its userbase. So talking in mind these 2 factors, the new open mobile OS’s Symbian has no need to worry about them because it has the biggest market share and will be preinstalled in most phones.
The above hypothesis which is likely to become reality in the following years is a step closer to fullifilling the need of any society to work with and use decentralized, free products that work in a transparent way, removing all the restraints concerning its use. Technology ought to made in such a way so it works FOR you and NOT against you, making this intellectual product belong to you, everyone and nobody at the same time