Nokia makes Symbian open source

June 26, 2008 | 08:27

Tags: #android #eclipse #gpl #platform #s60 #symbian

Companies: #nokia #open-source

Yet another company has decided to put its hard-earned into the open source movement according to plans published this week.

Possibly responding to the threat of Google's Android mobile 'phone development platform, Finnish giant Nokia has announced that it is to buy the rights to the Symbian operating system for €264 million; and then give it away.

According to an article published on Ars Technica this week, Nokia is in the process of purchasing the rights to all Symbian technologies from their respective holders to add to its current half-share. While the components in question – which include the Series 60 operating system, the UIQ GUI, and the Mobile Oriented Applications Platform from NTT DoCoMo – will initially only be available to members of the Symbian Foundation, the plan is to make the whole lot open source within two years.

The technologies are to be released under the Eclipse Public Licence, designed to be a less bitter pill for businesses to follow than the hard-line copyleft licences like the GPL. A major difference between the GPL and the EPL is in the latter granting distributors the ability to segregate improvements they have made from the original code in order to license them under a more restrictive system: there's nothing to stop a distributor of EPL code making changes which are held under a proprietary licence, something which many businesses would find advantageous.

Despite not being as open source as many advocates of the 'bazaar' method of software development would like, it still boils down to free access to source code on which you can base your own improvements and projects. As has been seen with many open source projects, the many-eyes methodology can often lead to improved software and interesting – and oft-times risky – directions that wouldn't be taken by closed-source commercial software. Whether this will benefit Nokia in the long run – as some would say the surprise open-sourcing of the expensively aquired StarOffice code did for Sun Microsystems – or leave it out of pocket for no real gain is something that only time will tell.

One thing is for certain – placing the system into the public domain in this way is certain to draw hackers' attentions, and is quite likely to take some of the shine off the long-awaited Android platform.

Any hackers here looking forward to getting their hands on the Symbian source code, or is mobile development too restrictive for real innovation? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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