Sun's experience making Java open source offers lessons for Nokia.
What matters most with any open device initiative--including the choice by Nokia and others to make Symbian open source in the coming years--is what kind of community is involved and how the members are expected to contribute. That's the lens through which to look at this move.
One thing to note right away is that we're not talking about one platform being opened up, but several--pieces from S60, UIQ, and MOAP(S) platforms rolled up with Symbian's mobile operating system. Small wonder we won't see anything solid until 2009. Sun had enough hassles taking Java open source in the past few years, for instance, to prove there's no proprietary-to-open magic wand.
That would explain the choice of licensing. Nokia will use the Eclipse Public License, which lets those who submit code keep those submissions proprietary, unlike the license used for Linux. That right there sends a message as to what crowd the "new" Symbian is meant to attract. This move is to reassure business partners that no one company controls the code, not foremost to spur features and fixes.
A community that's more corporate-centric than developer-centric is going to stay that way. Nokia is doing this primarily as a pre-emptive strike against Google and Microsoft, which threaten from both open source and proprietary directions. So if there's a community here, it's one of industry partners, and not guys at keyboards.
Join InformationWeek’s Lorna Garey and Mike Healey, president of Yeoman Technology Group, an engineering and research firm focused on maximizing technology investments, to discuss the right way to go digital.