Can software lead us to a world of mobile open source?
I mention this because the folks at Funambol have announced a program called Phone Sniper, offering $25 to test phones' compatibility with its open source development platform, a process it says takes an hour. Funambol says it has members in 212 countries.
Funambol is looking for device innovation. This is what happens in WiFi. Any device that meets federal power and interference requirements is allowed to define the terms of service. As a result today's 802.11n gear is 10 times faster than the 802.11b gear sold at the start of the century.
In contrast most licensed mobile networks practice only network innovation. The network operator determines what equipment will run on the network, and what services will be offered.
Verizon Wireless, for instance, not only insists on certifying each phone on its network, but controls every online service offered, including its marketing, taking a hefty portion of every transaction. It's growing (it's the only part of the company that is growing) but the U.S. industry is stagnating, falling further and further behind the rest of the world.
The answer is simple. Open up more unlicensed frequencies, a lot more. That's the open source answer. But given the proprietary carriers' hold on Washington, that is not going to happen. Unless you demand it.