2010-02-21

Investing in an open mobile development platform

The mobile world is changing. It's changing faster than the database world did back when MySQL was started and grew to be one of the most widely used database in the world.

Change brings turbulence and it's difficult trying to see the big picture to find the major trends. It also means different philosophies of doing things clash and fight for survival.

There are two large debates at the moment around mobile. One is about open versus closed platforms and the other is around native applications versus web based. One of them is an important philosophical issue, the other one a more technical question of the best way to bring a good user experience to mobile.

The success of the iPhone and the App Store has meant a huge leap for both mobile applications and mobile web. But the iPhone platform is closed. The entire ecosystem is controlled by one company.

On the Internet it's (somewhat) safe to say that the philosophy of open is winning. In fact, open is at the very heart of what the Internet is. As we are moving over to a world where Internet access predominantly is from a mobile device, do we want this to be an open world or a closed one controlled by one company?

This is a very important question for the future of mobile - and the Internet at large!

There's certainly room for both native applications and web based ones in the mobile world. But is it of outmost importance that the platform that grows to be the dominant one for native applications is an open one.

This is why I am now using an Android phone (Hero from HTC).

That is also why I chose to invest in the Swedish cross platform and open source tool for mobile development: MoSync. In this company I see the same potential as the early days of MySQL.

If you are developing a mobile application that you want to work on practically all mobile phones, you should definitely check MoSync out!

10 comments:

joro said...

The funny thing about android that not many people realize is that the main applications (mail, maps, talk etc) that people use the most are actually closed source. Google even threatened an android clone maker with a Cease-and-Desist few months ago: http://gizmodo.com/5367420/google-threatens-cyanogen-android-hacker-with-cease+and+desist

Anonymous said...

I'm with joro.
I also feel it's weird that people say: use android, use gmail and all... when everything is controlled (and more than controlled...) by Google.

I've a good friend who use exclusively Linux and open source softwares. He does a lot for the open source community, for the freedom on the internet and stuff like that. And he uses gmail.

Arto said...

What do you think about the Maemo and upcoming Meego platforms? What was your main reason to choose Android?

Compared to Android, the Maemo devices are using a set of libraries (X, Gtk, etc.) much closer to those in desktops and laptops, which makes porting existing Free software apps easier. So I've been looking more towards that direction - while currently still using an old closed source Symbian S40-based phone.

Then there's of course OpenMoko, which unfortunately hasn't progressed towards being usable also by non-techies as fast as many hoped.

AJT

Monty said...

To Arto:

I bought some years ago an Nokia Internet table (version II), that uses Maemo, to replace my Palm TX. I found quickly out that even if the hardware was great, most of the built in applications on Maemo was 10 years after their time. I then did some research to see how Nokia was interacting with it's developer community and found out that they basicly didn't engage with it at all. They just expected a community to form by itself around the device (without any help or guidance), which of course didn't happen.

It was quite clear that Nokia did not want the tablet to compete in any way with their smart-phones and they (at least then) have no idea how to engage with the open source community.

I tried to talk with some people on Nokia about this and even offered to help them build a working community, but they did not show any interest to fix this. This caused me to loose trust in Nokia's ability to create a working developer community around their devices.

I also originally had high expectations with OpenMoko, but they never made it to the market.

The reason for me to choose Android is that I don't trust that Maemo will be a success and I don't like the closed mentality of Apple.

It's true that google controls some applications on the Android phone, but what is more important for me is that upgrades to the phone software is free (the phone software never gets old), there is a lot of open source applications on the phone and it's not hard to develop new applications (with open source tools). If one doesn't like the Google apps, it's even possible to replace them.

Arno said...

RAMP is also a cross-platform mobile development platform, the nice thing about it is it has NIST accredited security if you are looking to build secure apps.

http://ramp.virtualmobiletech.com/

Anonymous said...

"...but what is more important for me is that upgrades to the phone software is free (the phone software never gets old)..."

And this is the #1 problem with an open source mobile platform: fracture. In a device that is, for all intents and purposes, closed to the user, having versioning control is paramount. If you can not control what is in the device, in a mass way, then you make it extremely uncomfortable for developers to develop for the platform, if they hope to drive revenue through sales. And, let's face it, the overwhelming majority of mobile device USERS just want a phone, great media, great games, etc. Most don't care about a terminal app or GIMP clone on their phone.

iPhone has won the market because they standardized a platform, created an ecosystem for developers to profit from their work, and made it dirt simple for the user to, well, use.

I have worked in the mobile app industry for over a decade and Apple just did what all of the other handset manufacturers refused to. While the Nexus One is a nice piece of kit, I have one as well, the total experience of the iPhone makes it irrelevant.

Naats said...

They just expected a community to form by itself around the device , which of course didn't happen.

Naats said...

If you can not control what is in the device, in a mass way, then you make it extremely uncomfortable for developers to develop for the platform, if they hope to drive revenue through sales.

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Sarah Taylor said...
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