Qualcomm joins open source movement at head of parade

Combining open source and proprietary technology in the way Qualcomm wants to do, while legitimate, does threaten to maintain the vendor lock-in that open source is meant to fight. Just because you draw a picture does not mean the pig is really flying.

Qualcomm, which has long had a major position in mobile chip sets and standards, has joined the open source movement with an eye to leading it. (Picture from Whenpigsfly.info.)

The company formed a new unit called Qualcomm Innovation Center (QuIC), under a senior vice president, and it joined the board of directors of the Symbian Foundation.

The idea behind the QuIC is to push open source, including systems like Chrome, Webkit and Android as well as Symbian, the company said.

Qualcomm is doing this to support its Snapdragon chip set, a CPU and graphics chip package designed for low power and handheld devices, most based on Linux. These include what Qualcomm calls "smartbooks," netbook-phone hybrids on which Chinese manufacturers like Acer, Asus and HTC are already working.

The move should also be seen in light of recent moves by Intel to support mobile open source. Matt Asay writes that "pigs are beginning to fly" and he's right.

But where are they heading?

The efforts of Qualcomm surrounding Snapdragon seem to prove that the "waiting for Godot" story of "desktop Linux" may finally get an appearance by its title character appearing on the stage in the form of a telephone-laptop hybrid.

But open source advocates should also take a jaundiced view of this, not just because it has been delayed for years. As Matt notes, combining open source and proprietary technology in the way Qualcomm wants to do, while legitimate, does threaten to maintain the vendor lock-in that open source is meant to fight.

Just because you draw a picture does not mean the pig is really flying.

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