Having an Open Source Operating System for mobiles might seem a challenge for Symbian…or maybe not.You could compare it to Windows and Linux (and its distributions). Windows isn’t Open Source but got a hefty advantage over Linux, Linux is mainly used in hosting servers and research centres, and not that much in homes. We could blame this on the distributors not having done enough publicity and not making Linux easy enough. This will not be the case of Google Android, which is basically another Linux distribution. They have won the hearts of more than 40 companies such as HTC, and also many developers thanks to their 10 million Dollars prize contest.
For developers it might seem a dream come true, but I don’t think it’s that good. What many people are expecting is an Operating System that can be moulded easily but these people are forgetting what Open Source really means. It means to have a public source code. This doesn’t mean we can grab Google Android, remove unwanted code and personalize it. Unless Google actually comes out with a “NSU” type of program with self-uploadable firmwares, and also a SDK that allows full customization, this won’t be possible.
The advantage of public source codes is that you get access to every API and other code, from which you can then design any program to replace something that the OS itself already does, and that also if there isn’t any limitation, in case of virus protection, etc.
Better than nothing? I don’t think so. If Google doesn’t release a fully editable Operating System, the Android is as good as Symbian.
If you consider Nokia and S60, they are very software orientated. For example: On the Nokia N95, the accelerometer API wasn’t released, but when programmers requested it, it was made public. If you are having access to APIs and internal code from Symbian, what is the big advantage on Google Android? Of course Nokia doesn’t give away 10 million Dollars to programmers, but they are coming up with ideas, prizes, contests and good support from the extremely helpful Forum Nokia.
To some programmers it might not make a difference to have a little bit more code to play around with. But with some hardcore developers might enjoy full interactivity. In the end, the end-user is the one who counts, because most cellphone buyers aren’t programmers, and for these, they might just stick with the brand they like, and here hardware will be the most important, having a 400MHz powered HTC or a 5 megapixel N95? Will Symbian react to Google? Will developers switch to Linux platform?
You might call me biased to one side, and I am a Nokia fan, I won’t lie, but I really can’t see much coming from Google. I do want to see improvements in future mobile phones and I am excited to try out new things.
Please do discuss your views or points with me.