A rough guide to mobile open source

A rough guide to mobile open source

Summary: Android is not the only open platform. Here's a quick guide to the mobile, open-source landscape

TOPICS: Networking

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  • On Tuesday, Google is expected to finally introduce its mobile, open-source Android platform to the world.

    Android has attracted widespread interest and support, but it's not alone: Android joins LiMo, Maemo, Symbian and Openmoko in a proliferating set of alternatives to proprietary mobile platforms. The alliances behind each of these, their capabilities, potentials and downsides can be confusing. Here's ZDNet.co.uk's short guide to who's doing what, why and how.

    What is Android?
    Android is a full mobile stack, from operating system up to applications, developed by the Google-led Open Handset Alliance. Although the first Android handset comes from HTC, many manufacturers could release devices based on the system.

    What are the pros?
    Google's reputation among consumers is enough to pique the interest of a lot of developers, a situation enhanced by the company's deep pockets and its willingness to reward those who come up with what Google thinks will be prized applications.

    T-Mobile's co-operation may also make for a good start, as the operator has a fairly broad reach around the world. Also in Android's favour are Google's many other web-based initiatives, such as the Chrome browser and Google Apps, which are likely to find their way onto handsets in interesting ways via Android.

    What are the cons?
    Getting other operators on board may be tricky. Google does not have much experience in the mobile industry, and its many projects may cause operators to suspect Google wants to take application-based revenue away from them.

    Another issue might be Google's use of the Dalvik virtual machine, which is not fully compatible with other Java engines. This could make it more difficult for developers to port their applications over to Android.

    The fact that Android is not yet proven in the marketplace could also dissuade time-poor developers from addressing the platform.

    Next: LiMo.

  • What is the LiMo Platform?
    The LiMo (Linux Mobile) Foundation is a consortium of players in the mobile industry, ranging from software developers to operators and manufacturers.

    The consortium has come up with its own, Linux-based middleware platform, which LiMo has slowly and quietly started building into consumer-level handsets, such as the Motorola Motorokr EM30 (pictured above).

    What are the pros?
    Because LiMo's platform is essentially middleware, it aims to ensure compatibility across the industry, without taking away operators' ability to put their own, proprietary applications on top. This has led to great acceptance in the operator community, which is, in effect, the driving force behind LiMo.

    Again, because LiMo is middleware, it can run on top of various operating systems, making it an attractive option for developers.

    What are the cons?
    As a rather slow-and-steady initiative, LiMo has not excited the public much. The greater public awareness of rivals like Android and the iPhone could steer developers in those directions.

    Also, LiMo has yet to make an impact on the higher-end, more enterprise-friendly handset market. There have been rumblings that this might happen but, for now, LiMo is strictly geared towards phones in the consumer sector.

    Next: Symbian.

Topic: Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Mistake

    "Another issue might be Google's use of the Dalvik virtual machine, which is not fully compatible with other JavaScript engines."

    This should be "...Java engines."
  • Right you are

    David Meyer