Open-source mobility ecosystem
At my present job for T-Systems, I try to be aware of all the mobile solutions that are available in the market, so I can be able to make an informed recommendation to our customers about their options, potential benefits and each solution’s strenghts and weaknesses. As I also have a personal interest in open source, I also try to look for available open source mobile-related solutions.
Before moving further, I would like to make clear that I am thinking of mobility solutions in a broad sense. By that I mean all applications that are involved in helping us use technology in a seamless way while on the move.
Like in many other areas, during the last years several open source solutions have appeared that try to “solve” mobile users needs. Also, like with many other areas, many of them started with someone trying to “scratch” a very simple “mobile itch”. And of course we also have bigger open source players that made the move to the mobile arena, trying to extend their solutions to this new scenario.
Of course, not all of the solutions that we can find have the same maturity level, and some of them are only limited to hackers or at least technically skilled users.
I know it may seem a bit early to talk about an open source mobile applications ecosystem, because sometimes it is not easy or even possible to integrate open source applications that are related to the mobile lifestyle. But even though, we also have to understand that mobile technologies are constantly evolving and that the life cicle of such technologies is becoming shorter every day.
Therefore, I believe that if we consider all these factors and if we compare the available open source mobile solutions with the proprietary ones, then we can talk about an ecosystem that evolves and grows as any ecosystem does. Of course that it still has a long way to go, but I think that is making very big steps.
Once I started getting to know more about the available open source mobile-related solutions, I tried to connect them in my mind and then was when the image of an ecosystem came. I have also tried to classify them in order to see similarities and to be able to compare them, as I would normally do with any other solution that I analize. For that task, I’ve made two diagrams that have helped me a lot in that way.
Below is a list of solutions by category (please notice that this list is a “work in progress” and will vary):
- FMC (Fixed-Mobile Convergence): Divitas (based on Asterisk), BluePosition
- SMS: Kannel
- MMS: Mbuni
- Mobile application middleware: Funambol (it includes mobile email, OTA (Over-The-Air) mobile device management, Data synchronization and Mobile application development support)
- Mobile application development: OpenBaseMóvil, ITAnyplace, OpenMobileIS
- Multi-channel (includes mobile devices) web application development: MyMobileWeb, MSF (Mobile Server Faces), Hawhaw (for PHP development), Volantis Mobility Server
- Mobile IM: Mobber, Bombus, Mabber (partly open source)
- Mobile OS/Development platforms: Android, Qtopia, Maemo, GPE2, Familiar Linux, Ubuntu Mobile
- Open hardware: OpenMoko, SquidBee
- Bluetooth marketing (placecasting): Consola
- VoIP: WengoPhone Mobile
- Portable databases: db4objects, SQLite, Perst Lite
- Multi-channel CMS: TikiWiki
- Context-aware mobile framework: Mupe
In this list we can see that there are applications that can satisfy most of the mobile users needs, and most of them can also be integrated in the same ecosystem. In this regard, I think that one of the strengths of this open source ecosystem is that the solutions that gain more user adoption usually rely on standards, there is much more knowledge sharing within the open source communities, there is also much more experimentation (because the cost of failure is much lower) and finally there is much more code reuse.
So, for all these reasons I think it is interesting to consider these options before deciding to adopt a mobile solution. I will try to analyze each of the applications in more depth in successive posts. Feel free to send any comment or other applications that can fit within this list.