Its news may have been overshadowed by this morning's Nokia announcement, but Volantis
has taken its mobile development platform open source. is offering free downloads of its development platform and will make it open source.
Still, Volantis CEO Mark Watson emphasized to ZDNet, his and Nokia's aims are completely different.
While Nokia's new Trolltech unit makes software for developing new mobile phones, Volantis is in the business of making them pay, enabling the connection of applications to mobile networks.
Fact is your mobile phone doesn't really connect to the Internet. Carriers have long treated their data services as walled gardens, insisting on approval of all applications and a cut of the revenue.
A gateway like that of Volantis eases the way toward getting money-making applications online.
Recently, for instance, Vodafone put a transcoder on the gateway in its network, "which intercepted all the transport and rewrote the headers," Watson said.
"They've relaxed that – you can go to them and get onto a white list. But it's not open, you have to register."
And if you want to sell something online, you really need someone like Volantis working with you, staying on top of both carriers and mobile phone platforms.
"If you want to sell stuff, and transfer the credit card, you have to go through the networks' billing system. If you want to sell on AT&T you have to integrate with Qpass."
By releasing the Volantis Mobility Server as a GPLv3 download, Watson said, the company hopes to eliminate price as a barrier to developing mobile applications.
Watson warned, however, that carrier networks are already being strained by the iPhone.
"Not only is more Internet data being shipped to you, it also has to travel through the carrier. You get a sudden surge of that and you get a big surge through the operator."
But as AT&T and O2 get used to that, and lower their gateways to accommodate it, there will be more opportunity for other Internet applications.
"For every potential web application in the PC world, there is going to be a mobile equivalent," Watson said in announcing the GPL version of his product.
"There's no way that Volantis, on its own, can hope to build out all those applications. The only answer is to set the software, and the developer community, and for that matter the mobile Internet, free.”
So how will Volantis profit? By selling services and consulting linking its platform to the mobile world.
"The belief everything will converge is a chimera," he insisted. "It's unlikely to happen. The fragmentation of the market isn't just due to the software, but the consumer."
So long as people are replacing their phones every year, you're going to need help connecting them to mobile networks. And even if Volantis gives away its software, there is a lot of money to be made helping folks make those connections.