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Can Linux Dominate Smartphone OS?

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the could-be-possibly dept.

125

Jeryl Kesh writes "Does Motorola's roaring success with its Linux-based 'Ming' phones in China indicate that the open-source platform is now a serious contender against Symbian and Windows Mobile in the handheld device software platform arena? The world No. 2 mobile phone maker, which debuted the Ming smartphone in March this year in China, shipped more than one million Linux-based units in China alone last quarter, according to research firm Canalys. However with Nokia refusing to adopt Linux, Symbian remains by far the top mobile device OS, according to Canalys, with a 67 percent share, well ahead of second-place Windows Mobile, with 15 percent of the market. Eirik Chambe-Eng, the co-founder of one of the most popular mobile Linux platforms, Norway-based TrollTech, has also reportedly predicted a 'revolution' in the use of open-source software on phones and handheld devices. His contention was that Linux gives handset manufacturers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) 'complete control,' and in turn keeps Microsoft and Symbian at bay."

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Windows Mobile? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15816884)

I thought Microsoft had long since canceled their Windows Mobile stuff?

Does anyone still use Windows Mobile based devices?

Re:Windows Mobile? (1)

plumby (179557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816910)

I use my Windows Mobile based SPV 600 phone all the time. It's pretty much perfect for keeping my work diary on.

Re:Windows Mobile? (4, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816942)

Where have you been? Windows Mobile is still around. Microsoft never cancelled it...

Here's a market share study by Gartner [linuxdevices.com] for worldwide shipments. Note that it counts windows smartphones only and not PDA phones. (Smartphones do not have the touch screen; instead, they have a numeric keypad like a normal phone.)

Microsoft's recent earings call [msmobiles.com] indicates that their market share is increasing -- the article quotes a 90% increase. These statistics don't seem to include Linux based phones.

There's been more selection from Symbian phones in the past, but right now there's more Windows Mobile devices available in the USA. Symbian has also been in the market longer.

This article [windowsfordevices.com] states that Microsoft has a 17% market share and some analyst expects their market share to grow.

Note that almost all Linux phones are shipped in Asia -- I have never seen a Linux phone for sale in the United States, but plenty of Windows phones and a few Symbian ones. The number of Symbian devices available retail from cellular providers seems to be declining here.

I personally use a Symbian phone.

Re:Windows Mobile? (1)

linj (891019) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817262)

Note that almost all Linux phones are shipped in Asia -- I have never seen a Linux phone for sale in the United States, but plenty of Windows phones and a few Symbian ones.


The Motorola Ming ships outside of Asia as the Motorola A1200. You might've seen that around.

Re:Windows Mobile? (2, Interesting)

nxtw (866177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817393)

The Motorola Ming ships outside of Asia as the Motorola A1200. You might've seen that around.


According to everything I've read via Google, the phone is primarily for Asian markets.

"This Linux PDA-phone for Asia" [phonescoop.com]

The A1200 is expected to launch in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in mid-February, with US availability sometime after that. [linuxdevices.com]

As far as I can tell, this US availability has yet to surface and this phone is only available imported and is not actively sold/carried by any US provider.

Does that translate to customer savings? (1, Interesting)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816887)

Thats all good so long as this translates to customer savings.... does it?

http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]

Re:Does that translate to customer savings? (2, Insightful)

syntaxglitch (889367) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817091)

In the US, at least, the cost of mobile phones is massively subsidized by cellular providers offering phones for far below value in exchange for a contract for some length of cellular service. Therefore, the actual price of mobile phones here is all but irrelevant and there's no market pressure to reduce prices.

Re:Does that translate to customer savings? (2, Insightful)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817511)

Just because the consumer doesn't see the actual cost of the phone as a distinct line item doesn't make it irrelevant. The provider still factors it into their calculations of how much to rip you off ^H^H^H charge you per month.

Re:Does that translate to customer savings? (1)

diersing (679767) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817093)

Why would it? Most enterprising business will use the chance to cut licensing costs to boast the bottom line and increase profit margins. Eco101

Re:Does that translate to customer savings? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817290)

They're not interested if it saves you money, they're interested if it saves them money.

They weigh up all the costs of the various parts, the cost of integration of theose parts and the cost of testing them...

Linux is an OS, yes...but you need a lot more than an OS to make an integrated suite of apps that work seamlessly on a phone. I'd estimate that linux would probably make up less than 30% of the size of the rom in a phone, which may not be such a saving in costs.

Phones also have to be delivered within a specific market window in order to make a profit. If you can't rely on people supplying parts of your software to make that target window then you are in a very risky situation and you will lose millions. This sin't like the PC market where hardware and software features are fairly independent of each other and you can 'mix and match', they are tightly integrated.

You then have the balance of the cost of the hardware to run the software. If linux requires an extra 10 dollars worth of RAM to run at a decent speed, even if all the software was free, you'd still be burning more money. If it wasn't very power-efficient then you're talking a lot more money for the battery.

You also have the cost of testing. You need to test all the software as a system. As the filesystems are different (no fast access to spinning discs, for instance), you are going to find huge ammounts of boundary conditions that no-one normally finds, and probably no-one is interested in fixing (as it doesn't affect their beowulf cluster ;). If you release a phone that has crap SW quality, then you'll be stuffed. People generally don't treat dodgy consumer devices with as much forgiveness as the do PCs.

It's far more complex than 'linux is free so it's cheaper', or 'linux is open source so it's more reliable'.

Nokia has issues (0, Troll)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816895)

Nokia has yet to announce plans to develop mobile devices based on Linux, although it has introduced "selected open-source elements" such as JavaScript, to its S60 phone.

JavaScript? Woot-Woot, I'm excited. Aren't you? Blah.

Re:Nokia has issues (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15816994)

As I read this /. issue on my Nokia 770 running Linux I tend to disagree on some points made in this news item.
Yes the Nokia 770 is not a GSM phone but It's a device capable of running many applications (like http://www.gizmoproject.com/ [gizmoproject.com] and http://www.google.com/talk/ [google.com] ). The software is based on debian and the http://maemo.org/ [maemo.org] platform.

Re:Nokia has issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817233)

I was really hoping for maybe VB Script :(

Re:Nokia has issues (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817358)

Nokia has yet to announce plans to develop mobile devices based on Linux,...

Can't imagine where that comes from. I'm using linux on my Nokia 770 every day.

I would say yes (2, Insightful)

GmAz (916505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816907)

I would have to say yes. Being open source, any manfacturer could use it on their phone. And considering that phones aren't really OS dependant...why wouldn't they go to linux. I don't buy my phone based on what software is on it, I want a phone that is loud, easy to use and has long battery life.

Re:I would say yes (3, Interesting)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817034)

Any manufacturer can use it, but there would be more smart people able to hack it. Phone manufacturers probably find this a good thing, but phone companies probably don't. They'd rather have devices that are only capable of doing what they commissioned them to do.

T-mobile is a prime example of this, and probably the worst. There are some well known vulnerabilities in their network which apparently allow (or perhaps used to if they've fixed this) dishonest users to access the internet no matter what service they're supposed to get if they've hacked their phones. They're depending on the phones themselves for authentication because they know that not many people are going to be hacking their phones right now.

Linux would make that *a lot* easier to do, wouldn't it?

Re:I would say yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817138)

Wow...

Suddenly I wish I hadn't gone with Cingular. :D

Say, do you have an example of how that's done?

I hope so. (3, Interesting)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816919)

I need to buy a more modern phone, my old motorola is limping along on three legs now but I refuse to buy a phone that is based on MS or Symbian. I do NOT trust either of them, at all.
I DO trust Linux.

Re:I hope so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817096)

You fool. Is it the Linux source code you trust or the binaries? Why
do you trust code that has been tinkered with to get to 'work' on a phone?
The Linux you will get on the phone will be nothing like desktop Linux.

Re:I hope so. (1)

guisar (69737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817332)

Well, my Treo 600 is Palm based and works great. I too would like a Linux based phone but Palm OS will have to do until (if?) Treo comes out with a Linux based platform. I thought the new Motorola phones are scheduled to be Linux based.

On a related note I did recently purchase a Linux based PMP- the Cowan A2. If only it had a phone and PDA features it would be perfect. Yes it's big but the battery lasts FOREVER and I find the tiny RAZR and below phones just too small to conveniently use. I like a big screen and a full keyboard. The phone options with those features are just too limited.

Re:I hope so. (2, Insightful)

c.gerritsen (960884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819792)

I refuse to buy a phone that is based on MS or Symbian. I do NOT trust either of them, at all. I DO trust Linux.

What makes you trust a phone with Linux more than one with Windows or Symbian?

Are you planning on reloading the software on your phone? If you get, say, a T-Mobile phone running Linux, T-Mobile could have made whatever modifications they wanted to to the operating system.

I don't see why you should trust it more when it is easier for the wireless company to do whatever they want with your phone. Then again, they may be doing the same with phones with Windows or Symbian.

Windows Mobile? 2nd place? My ass... (3, Interesting)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816930)

Last I checked Windows Mobile almost doesn't exist in comparison to the installed base of Balckberry and Palm OS Treos (yes I know theres a WM version of Treo, but everyone know it's crap). I smell fud.

Windows mobile is a joke (4, Informative)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817299)

I've dealt with a lot of the new 200-500 mhz generation of embedded devices coming out. Smart phones, game systems, PDA's, control systems, etc, etc. Both programming for and using. By far, the worst I've dealt with has been Windows mobile. It's a joke. My work pocket PC "smartphone" freezes up 3-4 times a month (completely unacceptable for that sort of thing). My personal cell phone with a specialized OS has never frozen in 2 years. I've never even loaded 3rd party apps on my smartphone. Windows mobile's interface is horrible and inconsistant. Nothing is ever kept in a logical place. Basically, it feels to me like they took a full version of windows and stripped it. On the other hand, when I use embedded devices with a true specialized OS it feels like it was built from the ground up correctly.

I won't get into the Blackberry, Symbian, Linux debate. They each have their merits. However, all three are leaps and bounds ahead of Windows Mobile. It's the biggest piece of garbage embedded OS I've ever seen.

Re:Windows mobile is a joke (2, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817380)

I wish I only had to reboot my ppc-6700 3 or 4 times a month. I'm looking at more like 6-8. The other day it hung, and I didn't know it. But it was completely locked up-- no calls or emails or anything for around an hour. Then I noticed, rebooted and it was o.k. for a couple more days.
 
Then of course there is the whole - going into flight mode all by itself issue, which doesn't require a reset, but leaves you without connectivity to anything outside.

Re:Windows mobile is a joke (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818848)

I have to reboot my phone every morning to get the Outlook email transfer to automate. While I wish I didn't have to do this it's just become the equivalent of turning it on.

Re:Windows mobile is a joke (1)

S3D (745318) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817658)

By far, the worst I've dealt with has been Windows mobile. It's a joke. My work pocket PC "smartphone" freezes up 3-4 times a month (completely unacceptable for that sort of thing).
You call it bad ? My Symbian OS Nokia 6600 rebooting itself twice a day sometimes, but no less then twice a week. At lest with Win Mobile you can reflash OS yourself for most of the models (no such luck for Symbian), and don't have to deal with Developer Cerificates and Symbian Signing process if you are programming using some basic capabilities, like camera API.

Re:Windows Mobile? 2nd place? My ass... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15818360)

Last I checked Windows Mobile almost doesn't exist in comparison to the installed base of Balckberry and Palm OS Treos (yes I know theres a WM version of Treo, but everyone know it's crap).

WTF does Windows Mobile being crap have to do with market share? Doesn't Windows have something like 90% of the desktop marketshare? Do you have have any sources to disprove the 15% marketshare noted by the article?

I smell fud.

You smelt it, you dealt it.

Linux is so versatile! (1, Insightful)

HugePedlar (900427) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816931)

Is there anything that won't run Linux? PCs, Linksys Routers, PDAs, and now cheesy supervillains [wikipedia.org] . What next?

Smart? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15816944)

Why do thay call phones which need time to boot(!) and which need virus killer to function properly "smart"?

Thank god I still have one of those "stupid" 5110's from Nokia.

Re:Smart? (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817202)

Because you are able to do a lot more with them, like write and view documents, go to webpages, load up a map. They are smarter than your ordinary phone. With these extra functions , also comes problems (just like everything in life) like more bugs and viruses (sometimes, not so with j2me)

If you are happy with you phone, excellent! There is no reason for you to upgrade (unless they suddenly discontinue letting your phone access the network, which happened here in the UK a couple of months ago).

Re:Smart? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818588)

If I can find a phone that'll detect the presence of a wireless network and establish a SIP connection to my asterisk server when I'm in the range of ones, I could make VOIP calls while in range of a wifi network and save my cellular minutes. That's also allow me to use the same handset when I'm at home and when I'm out and about. Once I've found the right phone, I'm going to see if I can switch my cell number to a random unlisted number which only I know and route all calls through my asterisk server at home. It'll try ringing the SIP and Zap FXS channels simultaneously. If no one picks up it'll route the call to my cell number. If no one picks up there it'll finally drop them into voice mail.

Sure I could do most of that with an older phone too, but the one-handset-everywhere is just the sort of nifty that makes playing with technology so much fun to begin with! I'm currently looking at the Nokia E70 as a phone with just the right features for what I want to do. I hope to get my hands on one in the next week or so.

Does the os on a phone even matter? (4, Insightful)

DrXym (126579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816952)

I don't know about anyone else, but I really, really do not care what OS my phone uses, just as long as it works as advertised. It should be navigable, have good sound quality, good battery life, have shortcuts, good predictive texting and other features. In other words it should just work.

If there is some kind of Linux at the bottom of it - great, but running Linux is not much of a selling point if the UI is junk. I have an ADSL modem & wireless router which uses Linux. Fortunately it's an excellent bit of kit because I would curse it everyday no matter what OS was underneath if it wasn't.

Re:Does the os on a phone even matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817037)

It matters when you can write and install your own applications on the phone. Linux will suffer from
fragmentation (just like in the desktop distros), which means a Linux-phone app may not run on all
Linux-phones. This is why Symbian was created.

Re:Does the os on a phone even matter? (2, Insightful)

DrXym (126579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817647)

I can write and install my own applications anyway, using something called Java. Practically every phone offers it these days, supporting the CLDC & MIDP configurations. For example, look at all the emulators [sun.com] available. Obviously Java is not the fastest platform for but its perfectly sufficient to write games and small utilities that run over a wide range of devices.

Now obviously you could do the same with natively compiled code if all phones used the same hardware but they don't. So I'm not sure how using Linux is any guarantee against fragmentation. There are lots of embedded Linux solutions that run on lots of embedded processors with lots of embedded GUIs. Unless every Linux based phone maker happened to pick (and licence) the exact solution used by Motorola, there is no possibility that apps would run on one system to the next.

Re:Does the os on a phone even matter? (1)

zlogic (892404) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819514)

Linux can be hacked.
For example my SonyEricsson T610 has links to their WAP site nearly everywhere in the menus and that drives me mad - because I'm always one click away from spending money on a WAP site I don't want.
If I could hack my phone I'd remove this crap immediately.

Re:Does the os on a phone even matter? (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819627)

Linux (the kernel) is just one part of the puzzle. There is nothing to say that Motorola or whoever has to open up their user interface or anything else that sits on top of it. I'd be surprised if they had in fact.

I care (1)

m874t232 (973431) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819630)

Things I want to do on my phone include:
  • instant messaging, chat, IRC
  • mail (including secure mail)
  • VoIP
  • ssh
  • calendaring
  • todo lists
  • mind mapping, note taking

Closed platforms make it hard to do these things, often try to tie me to their own proprietary desktop offerings, and try to hold my data hostage.

Re:Does the os on a phone even matter? (1)

jsebrech (525647) | more than 8 years ago | (#15820047)

If there is some kind of Linux at the bottom of it - great, but running Linux is not much of a selling point if the UI is junk.

Bingo. For a phone the primary factor is usability. If the phone doesn't do what you want, when you want, in a way your grandma could figure out, it often ends up being a really expensive paperweight.

The way I see it a linux phone will succeed when it has two things: a consistent and easy to use UI that works just fine out of the box (no tweaking necessary), and strong affordable third-party application support, with those third-party apps having the same easy to use style of UI as the built-in stuff. For that to happen you need a dictatorship. Cooperative projects can't deliver that. And since OSS is all about cooperation, I sincerely doubt that if a linux phone succeeds it will have an OSS user interface.

No (1)

therealking (223121) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816970)

Any other markets you want to know if Linux will soon dominate? I'd be glad to offer my opinion, which is about as good as your own opinion.

Minging Tone (1)

giafly (926567) | more than 8 years ago | (#15816984)

Finally I know what to call those irritating loops of so-called music.

Re:Minging Tone (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817225)

Minging Tone... is that some flash gordon ring tone or something? Haven't heard that before.

Re:Minging Tone (1)

Keith Russell (4440) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817495)

The meeting had dragged on for over two hours. Everybody was getting cross-eyed as the CFO continued to ramble on about currency fluctuations and their effects on the Windsor plant. Suddenly, Bill from Accounting felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he felt his mobile vibrate, because he had forgotten to mute the ringtone. It was already too late...

"Shipments crossing the Ambassador Bridge by truck -- " Flash! Aahhhh! Saviour of the universe! [Brian May guitar riff]

Re:Minging Tone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817560)

Minging is a (fairly recent) British slang word commonly used by our 'yoof'.

e.g.

Minging : ugly, dirty, unwholesome, vile

Minger : a person with some or all of the the above traits

to Ming : to stink

I most certainly hope so (2, Insightful)

LKM (227954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817004)

Having used almost all currently available cell phone OSes (Palm OS on a Treo, Symbian on a P800, Mobile Windows on friends' phones and some weird choices like Ogo), I can say with some authority that they all suck. Well, "suck" may be a bit strong a word, but each of them has both huge shortcomings and lots of small areas where they simply don't pay enough attention to details.

What smart phones really need is for Apple to fix them. This probably won't happen, so the next best thing is a Linux based OS which allows us programmers to fix what the big companies don't seem to be capable of fixing.

Re:I most certainly hope so (1)

ElGuapoGolf (600734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817066)

What smart phones really need is for Apple to fix them.

Every time I use my symbian phone to make a call, check my email, or play some genesis games I always think, wow this would be so much better if I made an iCall, checked my iMail, and played some iGenesis! And if they could raise the free RAM needed from 10MB to 80MB, it'd be just like an apple desktop.

Meh, the world will pass on the iPhone.

Re:I most certainly hope so (1)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817111)

What if the phone was more newton like? You jumped to OS X and iTunes.. they don't even use OS X on the iPod and those work great. I think somebody's been playing with a "Jump to conclusions" board.

I don't even like linux that much and I'd rather have a phone run linux. An ipod/phone might be interesting though. (not the cingular crap)

Re:I most certainly hope so (1)

ElGuapoGolf (600734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817293)

What if the phone was more newton like? You jumped to OS X and iTunes.. they don't even use OS X on the iPod and those work great. I think somebody's been playing with a "Jump to conclusions" board.

I don't even like linux that much and I'd rather have a phone run linux. An ipod/phone might be interesting though. (not the cingular crap)
Apple dropped the Newton. And I owned a Newton (MP 130). I loved my Newton. And it's dead. Gone. It was a bitch to network when it was alive and viable. It'd take so much work just to get it back up and able to work in today's networked environment, it's just not worth it. Where's the good email client? Where's the web browser (Newt's Cape isn't going to cut it, as good as it is)? And for god's sake, where's the J2ME runtime? Because if you don't have J2ME, the carriers can't sell you games, and that just won't fly.

And the cingular crap is mostly Apple's dump. They didn't want a phone that could compete with the iPod, so they crippled the iTunes phone. An iPhone? Nah. Symbian just works, and it works well.

Re:I most certainly hope so (1)

AaronBrethorst (860210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818500)

What if the phone was more newton like?

Eat up, Martha! [wikipedia.org] In all seriousness, though, I loved the Newton, and was sad to see it go. I use Windows Mobile on my phone today, and am perfectly happy with it, although I think it may be a little daunting to some. Being able to program it using Visual Studio more than makes up for that, though.

Re:I most certainly hope so (1)

bfree (113420) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817683)

If Access/PalmSource get people to build devices based on their upcoming Linux based OS you may have your next best thing. A Linux based device, with gstreamer and a palmos api to build applications against. A full suite of Palm apps on launch and most likely a rapid development of ports of Free apps after release. But then again it might be rubbish/locked down or unused by any manufacturers.

Nokia Adopted Linux (2, Interesting)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817011)

"However with Nokia refusing to adopt Linux..."

?? I smell FUD. They may not have gotten around to using Linux in their cell phones (yet), but as a company Nokia has definitely adopted [slashdot.org] and supports [nokia.com] Linux.

Oh really? (1)

szo (7842) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818609)

Point me please then to the PcSuite linux binary! Didn't think so.

Re:Oh really? (1)

21mhz (443080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819656)

Please enlighten as to what PcSuite is and why is it a defining point in Nokia's support for Linux.

That's a definite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817041)

Maybe.

What? You asked!

Meamo anyone? (4, Interesting)

enjo13 (444114) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817043)

Nokia certainly hasn't 'refused' to adopt linux. They are, after all, responsible for a huge initiative in mobile computing with maemo (http://www.maemo.org). They have a linux device (the 770) in the market today. It may not be a phone, but it shows a commitment on Nokia's part to pursuing Linux.

Nokia has also been quite involved with OpenSource, particularly with their KHTML based browser that ships on S60 phones.

The point being, Nokia actually seems like a prime candidate for a Linux device. I would be SHOCKED if they didn't have one in the works right now. I would certainly expect them to have one in the market before the end of 2007. Every indicator points in that direction.

Re:Meamo anyone? (1)

Dienyddio (161154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817199)

The 770 is a stunning Linux device, hell i'm using it to compose this response. Add in the recent release 2 of the internet tablet OS (available now from http://maemo.org/ [maemo.org] ) and it is very hard to justify the 'Nokia doesn't do Linux' statement. This software release even does VOIP with google talk.

Yes, Nokia does Linux and is a hell of a lot more open with the platform in comparison to its competitors.

Re:Meamo anyone? (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817247)

Unfortunately, Nokia has a huge stake in Symbian. This means that they will make a decision on what OS to use, not merely on its merits, but on what is best for them in this situation.

Ironically enough, this is probably one of the reasons Motorola is using Linux, because if they went with Symbian, they would be aiding the enemy.

Nokia + Symbian (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817277)

It would surprise me if they hadn't at least measured Linux up for mobile phone use but in view of the fact that Symbian is owned by Nokia along with Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens IIRC Nokia is probably not in a hurry to adopt it as standard for all their phones. Linux is the top choicle for smaller companies who either cannot afford to license Windows Mobile or Symbian or more likely because Linux gives them more control and thus enables them to get a foothold on the market with good hardware integration of the embedded OS and innovatively designed user interface and software. That along with an innovatively designed device/casing/keyboard is what matters most to customers. There is a growing perception in the business world that only Windows Mobile can be truly integrated with Windows/Exchange etc.. and that using phones running Symbian, Linux &Co will be only cause problems. I just hope Microsoft doesn't manage to netscape these competitors and get a 90% share of the mobile OS market as well, it will kill off every last spark of innovation if they do.

Linux demand is growing (5, Informative)

gillbates (106458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817087)

My company markets reference designs for handheld devices (typically cell phones, media players, etc..) to OEMs. Our customer demand for Linux has increased dramatically in the past year. We've doubled the size of our group, and we still can't hire engineers with Linux experience fast enough.

Yes, we do WinCE development too. But, the WinCE group not only has at least twice as many engineers, they are also behind the Linux group in terms of features. When it comes to rapid development, there's simply nothing better than Linux, because most of the work has already been done. This allows us to concentrate on adding features that differentiate us from the competition, rather than on merely getting something working.

But WinCE also places substantial roadblocks to rapid development. A routine build of WinCE takes 20 minutes; a clean build takes more than an hour. By comparison, our average Linux build time is about 30 seconds, with a clean build taking about 15 or 20 minutes. But it gets worse for WinCE:

  1. The FAT32 filesystem is a major liability for embedded devices. Because of the fact that the disk head must seek back and forth from the filesystem table to the actual data, the effective data bitrate decreases with time. This means that WinCE has a maximum practical encoding time of about 1 hour; after that, the filesystem driver just can't keep up. We don't have this problem when using ext3 under Linux.
  2. WinCE doesn't have a native terminal; you have to recompile and reload the whole OS and application image in order to test a change of even a single line of code. Worse, you can't interactively debug the board because you have no way to send something to standard input.
  3. The WinCE API is relatively new compared with that of Linux/UNIX. Our customers do not need to buy expensive documentation packages from Microsoft in order to work with our embedded Linux solutions; their engineers already know the Linux API, and can begin work immediately. When one considers the fact that the average consumer electronics device has a saleable lifetime of 3 to 6 months, development lag time becomes a critical factor.

Quite frankly, I'm glad to see the demand for Linux growing. However, I'm also putting in quite a bit of overtime because of it, so it is sort of a mixed blessing.

Re:Linux demand is growing (2, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817265)

The FAT32 filesystem is a major liability for embedded devices. Because of the fact that the disk head must seek back and forth from the filesystem table to the actual data, the effective data bitrate decreases with time. This means that WinCE has a maximum practical encoding time of about 1 hour; after that, the filesystem driver just can't keep up. We don't have this problem when using ext3 under Linux.

I think you've been drastically misinformed here. Head seeking between the drive's metadata and the drive data itself should be largely irrelevant when it comes to throughput, because disk cacheing will cause the metadata to be updated at infrequent intervals. If you really are having a problem, then try increasing the WinCE cache size. ext3 has exactly the same issues when it comes to updating metadata. (You may wish to try running FAT32 on Linux as a comparison.)

WinCE doesn't have a native terminal; you have to recompile and reload the whole OS and application image in order to test a change of even a single line of code. Worse, you can't interactively debug the board because you have no way to send something to standard input.

Do you feel lucky with "wince console"? [rainer-keuchel.de] And no, you don't have to recompile everything on every minor change --- just update the modified applications.

Really, it sounds like your WinCE system integrations people don't know their job. In particular, your build times look very disturbing. 20 minutes for a relink? What toolchain are you using? Admittedly, I don't know what kind of material you get from Microsoft, and so don't know what's involved when doing a relink, but something sounds very wrong.

Re:Linux demand is growing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817438)

It sounds like they are rebuilding the WHOLE wince image every time. That can take awhile. They need to work more modular like windows can do. They need to rethink the way they are debugging things. If they are fiddling with a DLL they need to debug it in a different way then what they are doing now. For the stuff I do I can turn a dll in under 30 seconds on my CE boxes. With a serial connection it is a bit slower. However I am using ethernet.

Also no output to console? There are TONS of diag tools to do this sort of thing in CE. If they do not exist make some.

From what it sounds like they are debugging it in a very simple way with log files. I have never needed a console in CE. The only reason I would want one is for debug output, dumping files, or moving them around. With activesync sure its bugged but it does work. Sounds like their hardware team, integration team, build team, dev team all need to get in the same room and yell at each other for a few hours.

Re:Linux demand is growing (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819979)

Granted, I'm not doing CE development, but on the occasions I've helped them debug some drivers, I distinctly remember taking coffee breaks in the time it took to reboot and reload the OS. And yes, this was over ethernet. The incremental compiles take about 20 minutes due the system dependencies. I'm pretty sure they're rebuilding the kernel, or parts thereof, as opposed to just rebuilding applications. And no, apparently the development tools provided by Microsoft don't have a standard input. They do have console out, but that doesn't help all that much. And they crash frequently.

Re:Linux demand is growing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15818238)

Why not use JFF2 - it's even better for embedded

World of good (1)

kernel_pat (964314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817124)

This is the first step for linux getting the major foothold it needs in the market, when people find out the interface they're using is linux, they might not consider linux to be the hard to use peice of shit they thought it was. I know a lot of people who think that all distros of linux are CLI only, which is rather worrying until I re-educate with the back of my hand.

Re:World of good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817546)

The interface isn't linux. It isn't even open source. Sounds like someone needs to educate you with the back of their hand.

"Smartphone"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817147)

Having to install a VIRUS KILLER on a frickin' mobile phone doesn't make me feel smart!

it's the UI, stupid (1)

kisrael (134664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817189)

I think sometimes Linux fans start to worry more about what's under the covers and less about the actual UI experience.

I haven't used WinCE derived stuff much, but Palm had a lead for years in the department.

I just wish there was some kind of toolkit for letting me roll my own UI (I had some very definate ideas about what an optimal TODO UI would look like for me [kisrael.com] )-- and without resorting to Java. It's funny, for a language that was originally meant to make life cooler for mobile devices, it provides some of the worst, loading-screen heavy craptastic UI I've seen on a portable device.

One thing though: (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817197)

Have we seen Linux-based cellphones being offered from cellphone companies operating in the USA? I don't read about such phones from Sprint/Nextel, Verizon, Cingular, T Mobile, Metro PCS, and so on....

two points (2, Insightful)

nostriluu (138310) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817231)

First, I wish all the people who don't want a "smart" phone would just be quiet. We know. Go buy a basic phone. It's not like there aren't any. All smartphone postings should include this disclaimer.

Second, I'm wondering really how open the linux is that's installed on these phones. If proprietary interfaces and device drivers are used, it might as well be running symbian|windows|whatever. Could you develop an app for these phones as easily as you could for gnome/kde/etc, and release it 100% open source for use by others?

Re:two points (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817345)

Go buy a basic phone. It's not like there aren't any.

Actually, there really aren't, here in the US. Even the cheapest phone the service providers are willing to sell you has (for example) a color screen, at least.

Re:two points (1)

nostriluu (138310) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817377)

You're in luck then, you can buy an old phone off ebay.

Re:two points (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817746)

True, but it won't work on the newer-technology networks, and the service providers may or may not allow it to be activated.

Symbian Signed making symbian Open Source harder (5, Interesting)

gagravarr (148765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817281)

Currently, there's loads of open source programs available for the symbian phones, especially series 60. With your choice of C++, Python or Java, it's easy to get started with writing code. Lots of apps drives consumer demand.

More recently, Nokia stopped supporting Linux for developing applications (previously there was decent support for Java, and help with C++). This makes it much much harder to develop S60 apps on Linux, so a load of potential developers won't bother.

The big issue now is symbian signed. With S60 version 3 onward, they've seriously locked down the platform. If your code isn't signed, it won't run on most devices, and even where it will, it won't be allowed to do interesting things (write to filesystem, talk to network etc). If you want to get your code signed, you have to have an expensive verisign certificate, and pay a bunch of cash to have your app reviewed.

In one fell swoop, almost all open source programs have stopped working on S60 version 3, and won't work again. All the developers are really pissed, and no-one's willing to talk about it from symbian (try emailing them about it, and they just mutter about python). All of a sudden, your new S60 phone is half useless, as you can't get any decent apps for it.

Not the brightest move ever.....

Symbian Signed: Not as smart as you think (2, Informative)

Cholten (253069) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817464)

Actually Symbian are committed to Open Source as a way of getting more people to develop on their platform (and hence get more phones into the mid-range market).

For details about how to get freeware apps signed (for nothing) have a look here [symbiansigned.com] .

Re:Symbian Signed: Not as smart as you think (1)

gagravarr (148765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817690)

For details about how to get freeware apps signed (for nothing) have a look here.
Hmm, I couldn't find that when I was looking just a few weeks ago. They also didn't tell me anything about it when I emailed to ask them what's up with opensource and signing. Muppets!

Re:Symbian Signed: Not as smart as you think (1)

S3D (745318) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817764)

For details about how to get freeware apps signed (for nothing) have a look here.
Even for freeware you still need developer certificates from Verisign, which is more then 200 USD/year, or you will be able only develop with emulator (which is not very useful).

Re:Symbian Signed: Not as smart as you think (1)

ecki (115356) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819641)

Not true either. You can get developer certificates from Symbian directly, and they allow signing of application packages for installation on actual hardware. It's as easy as registering, downloading the certificate request tool, filling in some certificate details and you're good to go. As an alternative, you can use self signing.

Re:Symbian Signed making symbian Open Source harde (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817534)

I can't see how you can lock down security without some insecure apps failing on the new platform (even if it's not their fault they were insecure). And I don't see how Symbian Signed could have been any more lightweight and still be useful. Seems like a good balance of openness and security to me.

Anyway, the good news is that Symbian have done the right thing and concentrated the disruption (including the compiler ABI change) in one place (Symbian OS v9.1) so the migration only has to be done once.

Won't run on most devices??? (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817586)

The big issue now is symbian signed. With S60 version 3 onward, they've seriously locked down the platform. If your code isn't signed, it won't run on most devices, and even where it will, it won't be allowed to do interesting things (write to filesystem, talk to network etc). If you want to get your code signed, you have to have an expensive verisign certificate, and pay a bunch of cash to have your app reviewed.

I was able to install Putty for Symbian OS [sourceforge.net] and other self signed software on my Nokia E series phone running S60V3. I had to turn off the signature checking in App. Manager to enable installation of self signed apps. This is set to 'Signed only' by default which does keep out malware but is still kind of annoying but Putty works as close to what was advertised as one can expect from Beta software.

Re:Won't run on most devices??? (1)

gagravarr (148765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817659)

I think you must be on a friendly network. I believe quite a few networks won't let you turn off that restriction, and more can be expected to do so in the future.

Re:Won't run on most devices??? (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818587)

I think you must be on a friendly network. I believe quite a few networks won't let you turn off that restriction, and more can be expected to do so in the future.

Does this only apply if you download an unsigned app directly to the phone over an unfriendly network or do all unsigned apps in general refuse to install on a Symbian OS V.3. phone hooked up unfriendly network? What I did was I downloaded the app to a PC and then uploaded the *.sisx file to the phone via bluetooth and installed it manually by clicking on it in the file manager.

Re:Won't run on most devices??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15819940)

Yeah, but self-signed/unsigned apps are not given access to any restricted OS capabilities. Does putty work for you over GPRS for example? It doesn't on my brand-new E70 (but is fine over wifi), in fact it wedges the UI so bad it needs a reboot).

We paid for the hardware, but it won't do what we want, only what Verisign tells it to. Symbian calls it "platform security" but it's just another form of tivoization IMHO.

Needless to say the E70 is going back (a shame really, as it's such a nice device otherwise), to be replaced by a 770 and the cheapest "dumb" bluetooth phone I can find.

Re:Won't run on most devices??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15820131)

Have you looked at the windows mobile platform? Admittedly, it's microsoft, but I think it's one of the few areas they actually managed to build something halfway decent. The capability and usability generally is there, and the signing is not too cumbersome.

Re:Symbian Signed making symbian Open Source harde (1)

octopus72 (936841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817587)

They were probably pressured by mobile operators to restrict their platform, being death scared of VoIP and IM on 3G networks which have a potential to become massive if everyone with a symbian phone suddenly gets right application (possibly with ability to use encrypted tunneling via custom server and similar stuff).

Teh evil system should be cracked. It's the future, and they can't stop it.

Re:Symbian Signed making symbian Open Source harde (1)

Torne (78524) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817792)

Many free apps that stopped working on Series 60 3.0 stopped working because the APIs they use have been changed; Symbian 9.1 (upon which S60 3.0 is based) was used as the opportunity to remove a lot of deprecated functionality, and fix many design problems. Doing all the compatibility breaks at once hopefully saves breaking things a few at a time over all the subsequent releases (the Windows approach, no? *grin*).

There is some reasonable provision for freeware and OSS software under Platform Security, as other posters have pointed out. The problem seems mostly to be a matter of perception at the moment; the information as to what is and is not possible is not perhaps as obvious as it could be, and OSS developers haven't had enough time to deal with the changes yet, since 9.1-derived phones are relatively new to the actual consumer market.

Nokia are increasingly using S60 as a marketing tactic, and this will gain them nothing if 'this phone uses S60' doesn't mean 'this phone can run loads of apps you can find easily online'. This is going to mean supporting free (and Free) software, even if there's been a bit of a bumpy start perhaps :)

Re:Symbian Signed making symbian Open Source harde (1)

ecki (115356) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818203)

... and even where it will, it won't be allowed to do interesting things (write to filesystem, talk to network etc). If you want to get your code signed, you have to have an expensive verisign certificate, and pay a bunch of cash to have your app reviewed.

FUD. You can use self-signing [s60.com] and still make use of most features - file system access and opening network connections included.

Complete Control (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817351)

is contention was that Linux gives handset manufacturers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) "complete control"

I would imagine that it also empowers the users, as many of the licenses would require the cellphone providers to supply their code if they've used GPL components. Consequently, the phone-service providers probably wouldn't be very happy with this as it makes it easier to bypass their $2/ringtone and assorted other lockdowns and crippling of the phones they provide. Speaking of which, wherabouts do the cellphone makers provide their source for OS-using apps?

Loopholes (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818458)

Not really. You can use a binary closed source driver and not have to supply the source for it. If you're picking up a component of your system from another company, you might not even have the source for it yourself.

You can also build your initial program loading firmware to refuse to run a kernel that's not signed with your company's crypto key. Then even if you provide all source to the device, no one else will be able to build a kernel image that will run on the device.

These measures might be circumvented by a dedicated hacker, but Joe Average User isn't likely to take his cellphone apart and replace a firmware chip just so he can run a different kernel on it.

No it wont dominate, why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817437)

No good developer story. Nuff said.

Long list of Linux smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817444)

If you want to see the wide range of Linux mobile phones that have been introduced, check out this list [linuxmobilephones.com] .

More Ming/A1200 Info (1)

justinstreufert (459931) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817462)

I googled but couldn't find any detailed information about the OS on the Ming/A1200. It looks like a gorgeous device. Does anyone know:

- How awful the handwriting recognition is?
- If it is possible to load my own code on it?
- If the Bluetooth is locked down or if it has DUN support?
- If the browser is any good?
- If it multitasks (lets me switch apps without losing my place in any of them, like a Blackberry and unlike Palm)?

Thanks in advance to anyone who can point me at in-for-mation :)
Justin

Re:More Ming/A1200 Info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817679)

This might answer some of your questions..

http://howardforums.com/showthread.php?t=880078 [howardforums.com]

Not until it supports System-on-Chip ARMs (1)

Sam Haine '95 (918696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817500)

From Trolltech sees a billion Linux phones [theregister.co.uk] :

The most talked-about phone at 3GSM in February was Sony Ericsson's W950, which is a single chip smartphone with a midrange price. With one chip running the baseband radio and the applications processor, manufacturers can create some BoM savings, and take high end features to a mass market. But it needs a real-time OS, capable of handling the signalling stacks, something Symbian has but Microsoft doesn't, and probably won't for another couple of years. Does Linux?

"Trolltech is working with handset manufacturers that are building Linux handsets based on single core, so these phones are being prepared to ship - but the timing is hard to tell," says Nord. MontaVista and others, he adds are developing a real time-hardened Linux supporting single core. "There will be phones this year that use this," he says. "It can be done either by real-time extensions to the Linux kernel, such as the software developed MontaVista, or by virtualizing."

Without single chip support, Linux is left struggling in third place behind Symbian and WinMob.

Go Finland (1)

nikanj (799034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817720)

Both Linux and Nokia S60 are from Finland! Quite a feat for a country with less population than New York..

Symbian is good! (2, Informative)

giriz (966704) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817730)

I have been using a Symbian phone for the past 3 years. It's been a great phone with all the free/commercial applications available on-line. I could install either symbian based apps or java apps (which is always slow). I owned a Moto Razr and didn't like the firmware one bit. It sucked! I just threw the razr away and kept using my old symbian phone. This is why I'm afraid what Moto is going to do with Linux. Symbian gives true multitasking with a taskbar so that i can switch between applications. Does your current mobile phone do that?

It's more about platform stability (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15817747)

It's more important that it be a stable applications platform. If Linux has 90% market share, but constituted of 10 incompatible versions, then really you have 10 differen OS's and it wouldn't be fair to count market share in that way. What makes Windows Mobile and Symbian really interesting is that I can write an app and be pretty sure it will run out the box on devices I never tested with.

in smartphones, Linux is #2. is this MS-FUD? (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15817972)

from the article and tagline of this thread:
"Symbian remains by far the top mobile device OS, according to Canalys, with a 67 percent share, well ahead of second-place Windows Mobile, with 15 percent of the market."

Why the switch from comparing smartphone OS's to the state of "mobile devices"?

There is enough in the article to make it look like valid research but this is a blatant flaw IMO. Most of the article is about smartphones except where it goes and switches to comparing marketshare of mobile devices. We all know that in the mobile device market, Microsoft has recorded about $10 billion in losses to 'win' that market. It is very interesting that it is used in this article to provide a 'low blow' to the prospects of Motorola and others in the smartphone market using Linux...

From what I had heard/read( http://linuxdevices.com/news/NS8804000399.html [linuxdevices.com] ), when DoCoMo, in 2004, started using Linux( http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=19 750 [theinquirer.net] ) in its smartphones, it catapulted Linux to became the #2 mobile phone OS, behind Symbian. All the other smartphone manufacturers in the Linux camp built the numbers up even further.

So, seeing that Linux is actually the #2 smartphone OS instead of Microsoft Windows, the article should have read more like it was a foregone conclusion that Motorola's use of Linux was going to be a win for Motorola and its shareholders.

It's amazing how one little bit of misleading information can change a story if not tarnish the perception one walks away with. But this is a CLASSIC ZiffDavis trick, one prefected in the OS/2 vs Windows war of the early 1990's. Notice how the last sections/paragraph(s) of the story end in such a way to put doubt in all that was laid out for you in the beginning of the story? This is CLASSIC ZiffDavis, or should I say classic Microsoft marketing.

LoB

Windows Mobile Less Reliable Than Win95 (1)

Combatjuan (693131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818006)

My work phone is a Cingular 8125 which runs Windows Mobile 5.

Service: 4/10
Hardware: 9/10
Software: 2/10


In terms of hardware, the phone is great, but when it comes to software, I have a hard time imagining anyone doing worse. It takes a ridiculous number of 'keypresses' (it's a touch screen) to simply add someone to my address book. Even worse, however, is that the phone **crashes**. My cell phone actually will simply up and reboot, or the system will hang until I power it down. I for one cannot wait for the day when Linux phones own the market. It may not ever happen. If it does, it may not be all delicious smelling roses. But I certainly can't imagine it being _this_ bad.

-Charles

Sunk costs and future use (1)

rfc1394 (155777) | more than 8 years ago | (#15818211)

My argument here applies to all embedded software devices (cell phones, microwave ovens, TV sets, routers, etc.) and not just to cell phones but the parent article here refers to cell phones so I'll use that as the example. My comments here would still appliy to any non-computing device (a specific purpose device which is usually not programmable by the user to perform computing tasks; an iPod is a classic example) that has embedded software. Also, where I refer to Linux I mean any "Open-Source"/"Software Libre" licensed operating system released under an OSI compliant license, which essentially means either BSD minus the "advertising clause" or GPL. The comments regarding release of source code to downstream users ("you must release too") would only apply to an operating system released under GPL as BSD does not include that requirement.

Most likely, the companies that are developing cell phones (and not using Linux as their underlying OS) are ones that have been in the market for many years and were doing so back when Linux was not available as a platform for this purpose. That means they bought into an expensive toolchain (operating system, compiler, debugging tools, source code editor, repository if any, system libraries, etc.) and have sunk costs as well as developer inertia to moving to a new platform. As long as they figure in the royalties (if any) as part of that cost they can decide whether staying with that platform makes sense. They may also feel that the requirement to include source code (which might give away what they consider proprietary information about the internals of their system which might give competitors an advantage) may not be appropriate and thus prefer a licensing system that does not require them to do so. This is why some companies pay for licenses from open-source developers in order to get the "you must relase too" requirement of the GPL to be waived.

In switching to another platform (like linux) they also have to figure in training costs (whether or not they are willing to spend money to train people which they then figure will run to another company) and the costs in lost productivity as programmers learn how to use the new toolchain and platform, and/or new APIs for programming the new operating system. Availability of ancillary tools can also be important (is there a PC-based emulator for their phone (or embedded device) available for Linux? There may be one available, included or previously developed with the toolchain they are using.) Any time you change technologies there is a learning curve unless the new and old systems are identical, and chances are they are not. If the new system is considerably better, then the learning curve could be small and there would be an increase in productivity. If it is not better, the learning curve could be steep and there can be a significant permanent decrease or even loss of productivity.

And to put it bluntly, until Eclipse [eclipse.org] came along, the toolchain for Linux basically sucked with the possible exception of Borland's Kylix, but since most software for Linux is C/C++ and not Pascal, (and quite potentially for very small embedded devices, assembly) that doesn't help much. Having been a programmer for over 20 years, and seeing the difference with tools like Visual Basic and Turbo Pascal for Windows/Delphi, let me tell you there is a big improvement in usability and in productivity over writing Fortran using punch cards on an IBM 370 equivalent mainframe (which tells you how far the technology has changed, at least during the period I've used computers, and the changes (and improvements) are coming even faster). Using text editors alone to develop software (unless you're developing for a text-only environment) to be used in a graphical interface environment is a big pain. Especially once you've experienced the difference. In fact, even if you are developing for a text-only environment, a number of the features of these Rapid Application Development systems can be very helpful in improving the productivity of a programmer. Now, maybe the tools (other than Eclipse) available for programming under Linux have improved but I doubt it.

Having worked on developing web sites, the difference between trying to implement a content system and using a content manager system (CMS) like Wikimedia (the software running Wikipedia® [wikipedia.org] or PostNuke [postnuke.com] , and trying to create content a page at a time, is the differerence between working with or without a left arm (I'm right handed, so it's not crippling, but it is a hell of a lot harder to work without one!) Good quality tools mean a massive increase in one's productivity. And that they are available in source means you can fix them if you choose. Or try others until you find one that works for you. For example, I tried six different open source CMS systems before I found Postnuke to be the second easiest to use for a site used for general publishing [williamarobinson.com] on the World Wide Web over other systems; I would have used Wikimedia (which is the easiest) except that because of technical problems you can't use it on a site that runs banner ads in exchange for free hosting; Postnuke will. I use Wikimedia on a site I pay for [code-compiler.com] that doesn't run banner ads.

Open source software is a disruptive technology. What the availability of open-source tools do is allow those who use closed-source or proprietary "shared source" flavors (where you do get access to the source code as a licensee as long as you don't allow access to non-licensed parties) tools to get leverage for reduced or eliminated "per copy" licensing fees (royalties) on released items. Or they get source access if they might not otherwise available on a proprietary OS (a factor that can mean the difference between whether or not to use it at all.)

If the tool chain is very good, and you get the right to modify the software, and you aren't required to pay royalties on use, it is of little consequence whether your operating system is proprietary or open source, because the original cost for the software, factored into tens or hundreds of thousands or millions of units can be so close to epsilon as to be insignificant (a development package costing $100,000 (this is an example, I don't know what a cell phone or an embedded device operating system costs) plus a 10c per unit royalty (with a minimum $200,000 payment) divided over three million copies would cost $400,000 in royalties and acquisition costs but it's still only 11c per phone. Now, with something like Linux, if it's going to cost you less than $300,000 to switch (the original $100,000 is sunk but your royalties per unit are the "maintenance cost") you can use that to negotiate lower (or perhaps eliminate) royalty rates, but if the switch over might take six months added to your release schedule, the cost in lost opportunity by switching might cost $10,000,000 or more due to sales not made. Now, these numbers are just made up so you can take them with a grain of salt, but I believe the point is valid that the actual cost of the software can be meaningless even if it is expensive, if other considerations of time-to-market and lost opportunity costs are factored in.

Also, if the device is such that an end user should not be reprogramming it due to legal restrictions (radio transmitters for consumer use are one of the few examples) or for safety considerations (pacemakers and microwave ovens) then ability of the end-user to have access to the source code to reprogram the device are not serious issues. If the device is such that the developing company does not want to release source to end users (and does not simply attempt to violate an open-source license by failing to do so) then the ability to obtain a license under less open terms to them vis-a-vis their customers may be more appropriate for their use.

Another thing that Linux (or any other Open Source operating system) can offer is to force proprietary OS developers to release source to licensees, or it can give an incentive to the customer of the OS developer to switch to Linux for that reason. And that is the real benefit to users of Linux, that they have access to the source code and can modify it. The utility of that to their customers is not relevant, but it can be of (extreme) importance to them. And if embedded device operating system developers do not release source code, then their users will migrate to Linux or other open-source tools precisely because of that access. And that, I think, is much more important than whether it is even free of cost. That freedom of access is the real benefit of Open Source software.

(Richard) Stallman is right about the importance of freedom of access even if he is totally wrong on his method of presenting the issues. His methods for presenting the ideas behind what is known as open source generally "suck rancid tuna" as a phrase an associate of mine from a few years ago has coined. If you doubt Stallman's methods turn people off, ask yourself how many people use the term "Software Libre" (his phrase) as opposed to "Open Source Software", a term he does not like because it doesn't carry the exact same ideology or has a different philosophy, even though it is close.

Paul Robinson paul@paul-robinson.us [mailto]

Why Symbian rules (1)

Frightening (976489) | more than 8 years ago | (#15819600)

I hate the Symbian company. They are the model of proprietory software. If you try to get documentation from them for APIs you want to use for YOUR OWN personal phone, they will refuse even if you offer $20,000. The number is real..we were trying to access low level real-time communication APIs and they were unknown..my university made a 20000 offer and was refused. They even asked us why we wanted the APIs for. Later they replied saying $30,000 would be better. This time we refused.

Having said this, they are fantastic developers. On a crappy ARM architecture they have managed to do amazing things at incredible speeds. The reason why Linux (and certainly Windows) will never fill the gap is because you need solid reliability plus high quality development plus assurance (i.e warranty, support). The fact that windows offers "support" particularly at the corporate level, makes even knowledgable people select MS over Linux.

Let's just say community forums are not for everybody [and please note that I run FC5 Linux on all my own hardware].
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