Nokia enters the BSD camp

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.


BSD LogoAmid 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.

Topic: Nokia

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  • The golden rule

    He who writes, chooses the license.

    I absolutely applaud Apple and Nokia releasing their works under the BSD license.

    Do keep in mind that this doesn't prevent others from taking those works and incorporating them with GPL-licensed stuff, though, since the BSD license places no obligation on licensees to release modifications under the BSD.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Nokia DEAD by 2009

    Does Nokia see the impending disaster that the WiMAX steamroller will bring to telecoms? I predict that "cell" (as in phones) technology will be DEAD and GONE by 2009. VoIP over WiMAX handhelds will offer FREE (or fixed cost) telephony WITHOUT dropouts, roaming, etc. HE-LOW, ANYBODY HOME? Must be out back in the sauna . . . ;)
    Roger Ramjet
    • Not likely

      Let me ask this: Does Nokia like to be in the stranglehold of telecoms? Well, I don't think so. If there is a way out, it is welcome news to Nokia.

      On the other hand, do telecoms like to let go of their networks. Well, no. Cell phones as we know it today will stay around for decades.

      WiMAX will take decades to have coverage that will impact the existing infrastructure. That gives the operators enough time to get into the elimination game, by eating small providers one by one. At the end, the operators are still here because they have the resources and infrastructure to run this kind of business. Any new company is unlikely ever to come on top.

      What is the verdict then. Well, not a whole lot changes in short term, or even in the long term. WiMAX is not a ground shattering technology - we already have wireless networks.
      • The New Paradigm

        WiMAX will be the pre-eminent wireless technology in about 2 years. The landfills will be unable to keep up with the amount of people tossing their old 802.11b crap.

        WiMAX IS a ground-shattering technology! Long range (WiFi isn't) and broadband speeds (Cell tech isn't) combined together with meshing technology (kind of like peer-to-peer networking. NO NEED for cell "towers" or "deployments". If you have 2 WiMAX computers, you have a network. If you have hundreds, you have an INTERNET.

        Jorma Ollila is chairman of the board, chief executive officer and chairman of the group executive board of Nokia Corporation, Finland. Mr. Ollila joined Nokia in 1985 and has been chairman and CEO since 1999 and a member of Nokia's board of directors since 1995. Prior to joining Nokia, he held a number of positions with Citibank Oy and Citibank NA from 1978-1985. Mr. Ollila joined Ford's Board in 2000.

        Looks like the Nokia chairman has another job to fall back on . . .
        Roger Ramjet
    • Nokia reinvents itself allthetime,don't go thinking theyre one horse pony

      whatever that means.

      Nokia is named after a small village in finland where they started. They started making rubber boots for the Russian Army, made paper, and of course cellphones, base stations (the things cellphones talk to) and so on.

      Moral is, they change market to survive.
      They aren't a Microsoft, Xerox or other one product corporation.
      • Interesting point... (and a few other things)

        I actually never knew that about Nokia. Also, the saying is "one trick pony," which is essentially just saying that the entity (person/company/etc.) is only really capable of doing one thing (or providing one product/service).

        In any case, I have to say that I've found Nokia phones to be incredibly durable. I've seen them fall and have their casing come apart, or even take a spill into salsa, and still work perfectly fine (with the appropriate re-assembly and/or cleaning).

        Certainly, they have made some questionable design decisions (one example of which has actually had websites dedicated to it), but they seem to have a general understanding of what the customer wants and how to deliver it. So I tend to agree that they shouldn't have too much trouble adapting to whatever changes may occur over time.
        Third of Five
    • Still need a handset

      If you're going to talk over WiMAX, are you going to need a handset? Why wouldn't Nokia be the one making that handset?

      Nokia is a hardware company that happens to need software (versus a software company that needs hardware).
      • Possibly

        I guess so. Nokia needs to make a push for WiMAX NOW - THEN they can get in the steamroller's drivers seat . . .
        Roger Ramjet
  • What?

    a) How is Safari released under BSD? KHTML uses the LGPL, and so that is what Apple has to use for WebCore.

    b) What do you mean Apple "had" to make nice with KHTML? According to article you linked to, which I think is accurate, Apple chose to cooperate more closely with KHTML because they were getting bad PR, which was mostly due to people misinterpreting statements made by the KHTML folks.

    c) IF Nokia was using BSD-licensed code (which they aren't), as you claim, they wouldn't have "gotten themselves into" anything -- they could just use the code, no strings attached. Since in fact they are using LGPL code, they have gotten themselves into a situation no more restrictive than they did by using Linux. Frankly, I would be more worried about partnering with a company run by Steve Jobs than I would be about using LGPL code.
    worm eater
  • Go Nok!

    Reverend MacFellow
  • the license isn't the OS!

    the BSD license has nothing to do with the OS! the daemon is the BSD-kernel mascot, just as Linux's penguin. but the licenses don't have mascots.

    the article seems confused about OSS licenses (which are all fundamentally interchangable, compared to commercial ones) and individual OSS software projects. for most projects, the choice of license is nearly arbitrary, since they all allow shared development, and THAT is the whole point.

    in other words, Nokia is not making any sort of statement, newsworthy or not. putting a BSD-licensed browser on top of a GPL-licensed kernel is utterly mundane.
  • Legal Defensive Maneuver

    Who was the guy slapping vendors with lawsuits for not fulfilling their obligations under GPL? Sounds like BSD is a valid legal defensive maneuver.