Nokia urges Linux developers to learn business

Nokia urges Linux developers to learn business

Summary: The handset manufacturer's head of software says open-source developers need to play along with current industry themes such as DRM, IPR and SIM locks


Open-source developers targeting the mobile space need to learn business rules including digital rights management, Nokia's software chief has claimed.

Speaking at the Handsets World conference in Berlin on Tuesday, Dr Ari Jaaksi told delegates that the open-source community needed to be 'educated' in the way the mobile industry currently works, because the industry has not yet moved beyond old business models.

"We want to educate open-source developers," said Jaaksi, who is Nokia's vice president of software and heads up the Finnish handset manufacturer's open-source operations. "There are certain business rules [developers] need to obey, such as DRM, IPR [intellectual property rights], SIM locks and subsidised business models."

Jaaksi admitted that concepts like these "go against the open-source philosophy", but said they were necessary components of the current mobile industry. "Why do we need closed vehicles? We do," he said. "Some of these things harm the industry but they're here [as things stand]. These are touchy, emotional issues, but this dialogue is very much needed. As an industry, we plan to use open-source technologies, but we are not yet ready to play by the rules; but this needs to work the other way round too."

Nokia's primary play in the open-source sphere thus far has been Maemo, the Linux-based operating system that runs on its N800-series tablet devices. These devices are popular among developers in the Maemo developer community but, being something of a testbed, have not yet seen much traction in the mass market.

In his speech, Jaaksi detailed some of the lessons Nokia had learned in its work with the Maemo developer community, primarily the need to avoid 'forking' code: "Don't make your own version," he said. "The original mistake we made was to take the code to our labs, change it and then release it at the last minute. The community had already gone in a different direction than [us], and no-one was pushing it other than [us]. Everybody wants to make their own version and keep it too close to their chest, but that leads to fragmentation."

The manufacturer has one other significant investment in open source, however: the software maker Trolltech, Nokia's purchase of which finally went through in the last few days. Trolltech makes Qt, a graphical toolkit that is used in the KDE Linux desktop environment and in much commercial software, and is an apparently non-participatory member in the LiMo Foundation.

LiMo is an industry consortium that is creating a common middleware layer to help Linux-based software make it onto handsets from a variety of manufacturers. However, neither LiMo nor Maemo use Qt or KDE, opting instead for the GTK+ toolkit and a Gnome-based desktop environment. This has led to a level of industry speculation that Nokia may withdraw Trolltech from LiMo, to use it for other purposes. Nokia stated, when it announced it was to buy Trolltech, that the purchase was to help it move into the applications market.

Speaking to after his presentation, Jaaksi said Nokia was "only now" able to start thinking about what to do with LiMo. He said he felt Nokia had "a huge responsibility from a desktop and user interface point of view to see how we play our cards", and expressed a keenness to see KDE and Gnome brought "closer".

Jaaksi added that he believed Symbian, the proprietary operating system in which Nokia has a major share, would still "in years to come [be] the best platform on which to create smartphones".

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones

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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  • Translation

    Dr Jaaksi appears to have said:

    "That Open Source stuff is very nice except for being Open Source. Get rid of those pesky Open Source licences and Nokia will be much happier"


    "We'll take all your stuff for ourselves, now p*ss off and stop bothering us"


    "Nokia will take Open Source and turn it into Proprietary software and you pesky Open Source people better get used to that"

    Well, we've now answered the outstanding question as to whether Nokia are a safe pair of hands to take over Trolltech...

    Isn't Jaaksi and old fashioned English word for arse? As in the phrase "sitting on ones Jaaksi"?
  • Don't you mean ...

    "Shove it up your Jaaksi"?
  • Business practice

    Is Jaaksi suggesting the he will seek to ignore/disregard/disrespect the GPL licence?

    As to the forking of Maemo, sounds like a big communication failure or serious difference of opinion.

    Reading this news item, I'm slightly puzzled as to why Nokia purchased Trollech.
    The Former Moley
  • Jaaksi forgets one thing

    Mr. Jaaksi forgets one important thing: open-source developers aren't working for Nokia. Sure Nokia has business rules. So does General Motors. And Nokia's business rules are exactly as relevant to an open-source developer as GM's business rules are to a consultant writing a point-of-sale system for 7-11 (small one-stop market/convenience store), ie. not at all. Mr. Jaaksi sounds a lot like GM finding they have a problem adapting 7-11's POS system for their car dealerships and complaining that the consultant who wrote it really should have learned GM's business rules and made sure 7-11's POS system conformed to them so GM would have an easier time of it.
  • JaAksi

    The Scandinavian concept of JaAksi has a rough translation to the our aphorism "To have one's cake and eat it too."

    The gentleman in question seems to forget that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The code he is busily making money from was written, at least in part, by people who took no remuneration from it. They wrote it in order to add it to the "Common Property" currently licensed out under the GPL and relatives. The development tools and libraries themselves were developed in a similar way for the same end.

    The reason it is economically preferable for him is that it is free to use. So Jaaksi takes that free gift and then bleats about the fact that it comes with strings attached. Call them costs, pay up and move on.

    GPL and friends are not really on the same wavelength as concepts like Digital Rights Management, at least as they are currently constituted; both because the concept is anathema and that the practicalities of writing Open Source DRM systems make it quite a feat. Remember, if you can read the source, you can read the almost inevitable embedded keys.

    Oh and making patronising noises about how the Open Source community really needs to grow up and face the realities of the comms market and then in same breath admitting that they are behind the times ?? What's that about ??!
    Andrew Meredith