Nokia enters the BSD camp

Summary:Amid all the hoopla about Nokia tying up with Apple and open source, developing a version of the Safari browser for its Series 60 cell phones, what has not been mentioned is its impact on the continuing BSD vs. GPL debate.

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Amid all the hoopla about Nokia tying up with Apple and open source, developing a version of the Safari browser for its Series 60 cell phones, what has not been mentioned is its impact on the continuing BSD vs. GPL debate.

Apple's own open source work is strictly under the BSD (whose logo is this little devil to the left), which unlike the GPL allows for proprietary extensions and, thus, product sales.  Nokia's entry into the open source realm is being done on the same terms as Apple, that is, under the BSD.

Advocates for the BSD argue that it's actually more "open" than the GPL, in that it doesn't create obligations to share code enhancements made to the common pile. Advocates of the GPL respond that this becomes a form of theft, a way to turn the shared work of others into your own proprietary product. We can go down this rabbit hole all day.

The point is that Nokia, the largest maker of phones, has apparently decided to share Apple's open source approach, which will eventually leave Opera in the cold. Nokia is not, however, getting in bed with Apple. When it comes to iTunes, Nokia still sees itself, and the carriers it serves, as competitors to iTunes.

Nokia is moving in this direction because it doesn't have a top-rated smart phone but it expects data to represent nearly one-quarter of carrier revenues by 2009. It has seen how Apple has moved open source creativity into its proprietary world through the BSD, and expects the same magic to rub off on it.

Nokia N770But will it? Apple recently had to make nice with KDE developers in order to push Safari with KHTML out the door. Is Nokia ready for those kinds of compromises, for negotiations with open source project managers that threaten to slow or stop its own product roll-outs unless they conclude successfully? Does Nokia, in other words, know what it has gotten itself into?

Given that Nokia has already released a handheld Linux device, the N770 (right), which has gotten good reviews, most people assume it has.

Me? I'm not so certain. What I am certain of is that the BSD-GPL battle in open source licensing will continue to rage, and the BSD side of the argument now has a stronger list of allies.

Topics: Nokia

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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