Open Source Mobile: the (open source) Future of Mobile

The Future of Mobile took place yesterday in London. Among speakers Luca Passani (AdMob) and Andrea Trasatti (dotMobi) of the WURFL fame, and Dave Burke (google), to talk about Android.

The event, organised by Carsonified Systems, now looking for someone to lead the Mobile event, was mostly aimed at developers and designers. Brian Fling – an apple-enthusiast – was the host of the event. The great key-note speaker Tony Fish asserted that “Digital Footprint is not identity”, with a fast and furious presentation that really impressed me.

Luca talked about WURFL and WALL news, in terms of architecture and functionalities. The point on the new WALL NG was made with screenshots: Luca rebuilt the first page of Ebay UK for mobile and showed how the user experience was great on high-end devices, while degrading gracefully on older phones. He also spoke about the upcoming web application designed to simplify the contribution process, today mail-based.
He raised the well known Vodafone issue – regarding the fact Vodafone is stripping out the essential device identification information that mobile phones send – receiving the applause of the audience. On the topic he remarked that W3C was not playing the “policeman role”, eventually arguing with a W3C representative attending the event.

Andrea Trasatti explained the dotMobi strategy, and it came out that his open source attitude is not part of his new job at dotMobi. I took my chance to ask his opinion about Volantis going open source, and he told me that all these open source efforts (W3C included) are welcome. On a commercial tone, he believes that the dotMobi device database is going to make the difference, since open source projects like WURFL could fail to keep an updated database.

But Volantis is the first (commercial) mover in this arena, and I believe that at the end of the day if their community is taking off, dotMobi might change its strategy.

David Burke, defined as “frighteningly good looking“, got straight to the point showing the audience how easy it is to deploy a simple application with Android. He was really effective, as clearly results also from Mike Butcher’s live blogging.

Talking about the Android technlogical club, David answered a set of questions about licensing and lock-down hypothesis the Android FAQ way, eventually failing to convince Mike:

One questioner asked if Google would be subject to anti-trust allegations given that a lot of Google applications will come default with the handsets, but Burke gave the impression that this would be unlikely as handset makers could “swap out applications.” We’ll see I guess.

So what’s the upshot of all this? In terms of content perhaps not a great deal. If one were to be cynical, one would say that this was mainly about a Google guy appearing in London (which has a big mobile community) at a conference aimed at mobile developers, and was in hiring mode…

As a matter of fact the technological club behind the Open Handset Alliance seems unwilling to disclose the platform until they have eventually got their first mobile equipments on the shelf. For that we have to wait one year. A result that could be obtained also with a “deffered” GPLv2/v3. Apparently the club likes the apache license more, a risky bet considering OEM’s hystorical attitude to proprietarize the “commons”. See the “successful” Symbian fragmentation.

I really hope Google makes it work, but lock-down strategies are enabled by not copyleft licenses, and this market has greatly proven to be unable to share any sort of standard, despite everyone yesterday spoke about that. And yes, I agree, “the Future of Mobile is not in the hands of Planet Mobile anymore“!

Technorati Tags: Android, FOM, AndreaTrasatti, LucaPassani, WURFL, Volantis, Open Source Strategy