Android Progress Upsetting to the Old Gaurd

Free Software 11 Comments »

David and Goliath

Recently Engadget reported that Steve Ballmer were taking shots at Google’s Android platform during his UK media tour. He said that it looked very “version 1″ and that it only has 1 handset maker and 1 provider, while Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS is supported on 55 manufacturer’s devices over 175 networks. He also aparently called Microsoft a David compared to Google’s goliath. That’s actually quite a big complement to the Android product, even if it wasn’t meant so. Ballmer said that because the software is version 1, and looks and feels that way, other handset manufacturers won’t be interested in it.

Android Adoption

Motorola, currently ranking 3rd in terms of global market share in handset makers, have announced that they are seeking to hire 300 developers to work inside Motorola developing on Android. That’s quite a big announcement, and a big bet for Motorola considering that their market share has been slipping in recent years. Motorola’s current high-end phones are already running a Linux kernel, so hopefully there will be a new range of consumer phones from them soon that are much more open than their older ones.

Android is not Microsoft’s only threat

Nokia, who is currently the world’s biggest handset manufacturer, has acquired the Symbian operating system (which currently runs on most of the high-end Nokia handsets) and have announced that they will be releasing the code under a free license. Not only will Nokia be selling Symbian as an open source operating system on their phones, but they are also develop a platform called Maemo which is a Linux system they sell with their tablet phones.

Samsung, currently second in terms of global market share, and LG who is currently 4th have also made big bets on Linux using the Access Linux Platform on 18 different phones.

Maybe Steve has a point?

When I first read the about Ballmer making the David and Goliath anology, I thought that it was just a little melodramatic, but with the 4 biggest handset manufacturers showing such a large interest in Linux and Free Software, I would be worried too if I were him. Google has a big opportunity here to make Android more attractive to more handset manufacturers, I hope they don’t mess it up.

And the iPhone?

The iPhone is a good piece of hardware, and even though the software is proprietary, it’s quite good too. A big limiting factor for the iPhone is that its software only runs on Apple hardware, while many of the next-generation systems can run on pretty much anything. This compares to the situation in the 80’s where you could only buy Apple software with Apple computers, and Microsoft operating systems with just about any other x86 PC hardware you could find.

Exciting times ahead

I lost track of my original thoughts in this post, but the next few years in the handset arena will be interesting and will continue to define how we use technology in our day-to-day lives. There will probably be many shake-ups in the years to come, and the industry will probably not be recognisable when we compare it today. I’m glad that the platforms that are used in the phones will become more standardised and use more and more open platforms. It’s a shame that in 2008, users still can’t just send contact details by sms withought having to wonder if the person on the other side will be able to open it. I think that in 5 years from now, we’ll be able to sync our devices and make them talk to each other in ways that simply wouldn’t have been possible with the old proprietary systems that we used to use.

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Corporate Irony – Dinosaurs Will Die

Free Software, Music, Project Mayhem 3 Comments »

Telkom “transforms to attack”

Motorola boss doesn’t do e-mail

  • According to this Engadget article, the CEO of Motorola, Greg Brown, is so out of touch with technology that he doesn’t use his computer for communication. His secretary actually prints out his e-mails and brings it to him! That’s terrible for someone who is supposed to lead a communications company.

Sony BMG are mass-scale software pirates

  • Saving the best for last, Sony BMG is probably one of the most proprietary companies on the planet, aggressively enforcing their copyright wherever possible. It turns out they are large scale software pirates themselves. This article points out that the BSA found that Sony BMG had a piracy rate of 47%! Scumbags. I guess this is one of those times where I get to shout “THAT’S WHAT THEY GET!” (thanks Nofx)
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Sun Acquiring Innotek (Virtualbox)

Free Software, Project Mayhem 2 Comments »

From Tectonic, I read that Sun Microsystems is in the process of acquiring Innotek, makers of Virtualbox. Virtualbox is a relatively new free virtualisation suite that compares well to many of the proprietary virtualisation suites. This comes just a month after they bought MySQL for a cool US$1bn. Virtualbox is also packaged for Ubuntu, you can get it by installing the virtualbox-ose package.

Is it just me? Or are companies now acquiring other companies at a much larger rate than usual? It seems that the landscape of the free software and the proprietary software industries are getting quite shaked up by these acquisitions. Motorola may be selling their cellphone division soon, and Google is working hard on the Android platform, I’ve been speculating internally whether Google would buy them out (or even whether they’ll have enough money to do so). Google’s focus is on the software side, but I think it would give them a healthy boost to acquire a big market share out of the box. Then again, that’s a bit off-topic for this post, I think 2008 will prove to be an interesting year for the information industry with all these acquisitions that have taken place, and those still looming.

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Microsoft signs another Linux distributor

Free Software 7 Comments »

For those who haven’t quite caught up, last year Microsoft signed a broad-collaboration deal with Novell that included a patent covenant. Since then, Xandros, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and now also Linspire, another Linux development and support company.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they target the cellular handset manufacturers as well. Both Nokia and Motorola have a lot invested in Linux as a platform, and they have existing agreements with Microsoft, so they would be easy targets.

Today, Aaron Toponce, and Richard Johnson (both Ubuntu members), urged Mark Shuttleworth (founder of Ubuntu), to make a public statement about where Ubuntu and Canonical stands with regards to Microsofts new partnerships.

In a recent interview, Mark was asked whether he would sign such an agreement, and his response was:

“No, absolutely not. But the time will come when the folks at Microsoft who have a clear vision for the company as a participant in this community, rather than as a hostile antagonist, will win. At that point I’d love to work with Microsoft. It’s not an evil empire. It’s just a company that is efficiently grounded in the 1980s. New leadership and new thinking might make it a more effective partner for us.”

By that, I understand that Mark has already stated that there won’t be a Microsoft-Ubuntu cross-patent deal. Mark has also previously expressed that he is against software patents. It does sound like he’s quite keen to be doing work with Microsoft though, and I don’t think that’s necassarily a bad thing, as long as Ubuntu doesn’t give Microsoft more FUD mud, I think I’ll be fine with that.

However, what IF Ubuntu would sign a patent covenant with Microsoft? Would I still advocate Ubuntu? I honestly can’t say. I certainly won’t like it, and I admit that I would also feel more comfortable if Canonical would make a statement on where they stand on this. I have lots of trust in the Ubuntu project though, and I’m very confident that the right choices will be made.

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