Monday, May 20, 2013

Will Mobile be the Death of Open Source?

Remember when free, open source software was going to topple Microsoft and Apple, and Linux was going to revolutionize the world?  The Open Source Movement - yes, a genuine social movement - has often been heralded for both producing great software and for providing an alternative ideology for how and why things ought to be accomplished.  The only problem has been its inability to go mainstream.  Despite years of constantly churning out high-quality products, it has stubbornly remained solely in the realm of the programmer/hacker community and within the halls of high-tech industry. 

But this is old news.  What's becoming a far more urgent existential threat is mobile computing. 

Even long-time members and supporters of the Open Source Movement have rarely stuck to open source for mobile.  One main reason is hardware.  When you buy an iPhone you're not empowered to customize the device the same ways you'd be able to on a PC.  Mobile devices themselves have far more built-in controls which means you often have to "jailbreak" them in order to do any basic tinkering.  Another reason is service providers.  When you buy a smartphone it would lose most of its value if you didn't subscribe to a cellular carrier's plan to actually, you know, use your phone as a phone.  But the trade-off is, again, more controls being placed upon your phone's level of operability.

Open Source is certainly not dead in mobile computing (yet).  Ubuntu Touch is soon to be released and, stemming from the Linux family tree, will serve as an open source alternative for non-Apple-based smartphones and tablets.   And, of course, Google's Android is (sort of) open source as well. 

But where's the buzz?  Where's the old energy?  Any supporters of the Open Source Movement need to be concerned about the current trajectory things are going in - and do something about it.  Download, experiment, and, above all, PLAY!

Open source operating systems:
  • Ubuntu Touch
  • Firefox OS
  • Sailfish
  • MeeGo
Mobile Apps: