Open Source conquers a new adept as Nokia decides on Symbian’s future

    How can you maximize the probability of excelling with your idea? How likely is that, in the long run, you will be the only one to always make the best decisions, execute them to perfection, and realize the way the future is going to shape up? Because that is what closed source is about: jealously guarding your program’s code, stopping your best employees from ever getting help or discussing the inner workings of what they are writing with anybody. That likelihood is close to zero, and that approach is not the best way to succeed.

    There is an area that has long realized this, and it is that of computer security. The ‘security through obscurity‘ approach has been long abandoned: there is nobody who would trust today an algorithm that wasn’t tried out a tested by others. Only by opening up the algorithms to close scrutiny it is possible to trust it, as it will be universally recognized as uncracked, if not uncrackable.

    A similar approach is being adopted in the field of operating systems, where Linux was one of the first to make this popular for personal computers. Mobile phones have long appeared to resist this tendency towards openness, given also their vertically integrated approach from spectrum licensing to handset sales. But recently, with the efforts of Google on both spectrum allocation, and of operating system development, things have changed dramatically.

    Yesterday Nokia, the worlds largest mobile phone handset manufacturer, announced that they are buying the entirety of Symbian, the company controlling the operating system that runs on Nokia phones, and putting it in open source. This is a great move, one that enables Nokia to embrace a community oriented approach that is necessary today.

    So it seems that there are two main camps in the mobile phone operating system markets, who will be fighting it out in the future for the chance of becoming the engine for the next few billion devices. On one hand the proprietary approaches of Microsoft, and Apple. On the other hand the open approaches of Google, and Nokia. It can’t but benefit us all, as these compete to make ever more powerful, and easier to use mobile phones we will all live with!


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