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The Open Source Mobile OS Battle Continues

With Google opening the open-source flood-gates with the Android OS, it was only a matter of time until others followed suit. With Linux Mobile (LiMo) and the possibility of a new open-source Symbian OS, it should be interesting to see which one comes out on top with both users and developers.
With Google opening the open-source flood-gates with the Android OS, it was only a matter of time until others followed suit. With Linux Mobile (LiMo) and the possibility of a new open-source Symbian OS, it should be interesting to see which one comes out on top with both users and developers.There was an interesting article written on LinuxDevices that outlined the repercussions of the upcoming re-release of the Symbian S60 platform as open-source, and what it means to the industry. The Symbian OS has shipped with over 200 million devices across 235 different models from all the top 5 OEM's and has a development community over 4 million strong. With it being by far the most widely used mobile OS, what does this mean for the future of Symbian-based handsets, and open-source mobile as a whole?

According to Andreas Constantinou, research director at Vision Mobile, an open source version of the Symbian OS could have one distinct advantage over Linux-based systems; "The Symbian Foundation's platform will be backwards compatible with Symbian OS 9, S60 3rd Edition. This backwards compatibility warranty isn't offered by either Android (which may suffer from fragmentation by design) or by LiMo (which effectively standardizes middleware and kernel, less so the application environment)."

Microsoft will most likely join the bandwagon as well with an open source version of Windows Mobile, or at least offer a large chunk of the more important parts as open source to heed development and compete with Linux and Symbian. Constantinou commented; "Windows Mobile is the only licensable OS for mid/high-end phones which doesn't have a consortium-based contribution model and an open-source-like license (apart from selected parts of the Windows CE source code which are under varying Shared Source licenses). I would expect Microsoft to react in the next quarter by open sourcing more of Windows Mobile."

Another key component in the battle is the fact that unlike LiMo, the Symbian Foundation will be controlled by a single player- Nokia. This governance model is effectively similar to the Open Handset Alliance, which is controlled by Google, and the WebKit browser core development, which is owned by Apple (although the underlying mechanisms are quite different in each case.) This may have a significant impact on the direction any of which may go in the future. Only time will tell which one emerges on top.

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