CyberTech Rambler

June 17, 2008

Jaaksi’s clarification on what he think open source should learn from the handset business (Updated)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:37 pm

Jaaksi from Nokia clarify what he meant when he said Open Source should learn from the mobile phone business. From his clarification, and from my perhaps “polarized” viewpoint, the journalist captured Jaaksi’s view point accurately, i.e., there is not much difference between the two accounts.

PJ’s (of Groklaw) view (on her comment about Jaaksi’s blog entry) that “The more he says, the worse it gets.” has some limited, very limited truth in it.

There is always going to be people of both sides who do not want to learn from each other. Jaaksi is not no one of them, and I do not count myself one of them. In our case, we have the traditional handset business on one side, and open source on the other. Both sides has things to learn from others. However, neither can expect the other to immediately ditch its business model. Both excels in their respective aspect: Nokia in bring mobile communication to the mass, and open source in collaboration to write good, solid software that find wide uses.

Anyone telling the other side to ditch their business model is not asking the other side to learn, but is preaching to the other side. Jaaksi’s latest posting sail very close to preaching, but had not yet cross the line. I can predict and most will agree that a great majority open source people own a mobile phone. A not insignificant number of them, including me, own and prefer a Nokia mobile phone. I can say most people in the open source business understand the handset market dynamics as well as Microsoft’s business model because they are part of it. Moreover, the similarity between the two is that most are actually customers of Nokia and Microsoft, not suppliers.

Presumably Nokia will like to take advantage of open source. Before I start ranting, Nokia has experience in using Linux on its phone. And yes, I would also like to see open source take advantage of Nokia and other mobile platforms. However, I will do this by emphasizing what we have in common, and learn from each other. It is no use asking open source to embrace DRM/handset lock in since this is like asking them to throw away their core belief and akin to telling Nokia to give its handset away for free. However, lets note that those DRM, handset lock in etc are details, something we have to tackle eventually, but at present, noting the particular absence of open source on mobile platform like Nokia’s handset, we can set them aside and tackle them later. Who knows, by the time we tackle it, things might have changed, particularly mindsets. Both should take steps to accommodate each other. From open source side, developing apps for mobile platform as they feel the need to do so and from Nokia, a friendly environment. Something like what Perens says is possible is one of the hundreds of possible first step.

Where open source excel is the ability to disrupt the status quo. For business, it breaks the traditional “competition only” mindset to “cooperative-competition”: cooperate to share workload on a common, mundane, no value added, necessary groundwork which are simply money sink, but compete on where one’ can really differentiate oneself from other offerings, such as better experience.

Where Jaaksi list the business built on open source software, one crucial theme emerges: It is those businesses that move closer to the open source model, not the opposite. If you really want to go into the petty quibbling of who open source developers work for, I will go into and argue that the people who seeded those projects do not work for business when they did, and you simply jump on the bandwagon when the project close to being successful. I don’t really want to do this, as I feel that both sides has everything to lose from this type of argument, and there is really nothing wrong for the behaviour that we see. However, if you force me into this lose-lose situation, I will have to make sure I lose the least.

For the handset business for example, we see Google’s forey into it via the Andriod initiative. This is definitely one way to inject open source into the handset business. I acknowledge that Google can do it because it does not have existing customers/vendors to worry about, and this is extremely likely to be the wrong step for Nokia. I would like to see Nokia innovate in other ways to take advantage of open source.

Nokia, being the leader in the handset market, can do a lot of help open source coming into the handset. Its countribution can be as big as IBM leading open source into enterprise. I ask that Jaaksi ignore those zealots in both camps that is going to criticize him whatever he do, and concentrate on improving Nokia’s relationship with Open Source. Most of us in the open source camp are there to learn. We look forward to Nokia’s innovative idea on open source.

[Update 18 Jun 2008] Perhaps Google, in advertising Android, shows why Jaaksi is interested in “educating” Open Source on the current reality of handset business. Google claims that using Android can save handset manufacturer a whopping 20 percent of the total cost. Even after factor in exaggeration by Google, that is still a significant potential saving which can put traditional proprietary source handset manufacturer in a disadvantage.

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