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How Nokia Learned To Love Openness 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the deviant-corporate-practices dept.
ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "Once Sebastian Nyström laid out the logic of moving to open source, there was very little resistance within Nokia to doing so. I think that's significant; it means that, just as the GNU GPL has been tested in various courts and found valid, so has the logic behind open source — the openness that allows software to spread further, and improve quicker, for the mutual benefit of all. That idea is also increasingly accepted by hard-headed business people: it's become self-evident that it's a better way."
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How Nokia Learned To Love Openness

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  • Openess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:02PM (#29745869) Journal

    That idea is also increasingly accepted by hard-headed business people: it's become self-evident that it's a better way.

    Of course this doesn't apply everywhere, but with things like Qt (cross-platform application and UI framework) it makes sense that everyone benefits from it. It's large things with thousands of users that do benefit from it, but if you're doing business with the the same product you cant really open it up and except still to get revenue - unless you go for the support route, but it also only works to certain types of products.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:10PM (#29745995) Homepage

    If you take other people's work and build on it and call the end result your own without
    bothering to consider the terms involved then you quite rightly deserve to be humiliated.

    It's no more than what you would get for acting like a toddler in any other context.

  • In this case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kdawgud (915237) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:15PM (#29746063)
    Well, in this case it may have made sense for Nokia. They are a hardware company, so giving away the software for free would not directly harm their income. Other industries won't be convinced so easily (i.e. companies that make money off of selling software to the masses).
  • Re:In this case (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ksempac (934247) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:22PM (#29746149)
    Mod this up. It's been known for years that IBM and others hardware companies need software to sell their machines and therefore it makes sense for them to be involved in Open Source. By reducing the cost of software to zero, they manage to get more hardware sales.
    Software companies on the other hand don't have such incentive to go Open Source, since that reduce the dollar value of their product. And therefore you see MS opposing Open Source.
    The odd one is/was...Sun, a company that never decided whether it was a hardware (servers) or software company (Java, Solaris, ...).
  • Re:Openess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer (137700) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:25PM (#29746193) Homepage

    This. Open Source is self evidently a better way for certain areas of software development and certain companies. It doesn't necessarily follow that it is self evidently a better way in general. Open source libraries make sens in a lot of the same ways that open standards make sense. They're, in fact, the next obvious growth of open standards. If we can all agree on the inputs and the outputs of the blackbox, why don't we all just use the same transparent box instead?

    Open source also makes a lot of sense when you look at "reinventing the wheel" type problems. I need an Operating System for my device. I don't really care about making money on the operating system, I want to make money on the device. Hey, look, here's this Open Source operating system that works on lots of devices, can be easily modified to work on my device, and saves me a ton of work. Open source makes sense. I can save a lot of work reinventing the wheel on a non-monetized product by using something someone else has already done and opened for me.

    Open source makes less sense when your software is your product. Microsoft is understandably reluctant to release their source code. It is not self evident that Microsoft would benefit from opening up its products. In fact, most would agrue that the opposite is self evident.

    Apple looked at the same problem that Nokia is looking at and decided that since they had an operating system in house already, it made more sense to just modify it then modifying someone else's open operating system. It's worked for them and it is not self evident that making a different choice would have worked out better.

    It is self evident that using Open Source is superior in certain situations and under certain circumstances. It is self evident that NOT using Open Source is superior in certain situations and under circumstances. It is NOT self evident that using Open Source is inherently superior. At least not to me.

  • by Tellarin (444097) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:35PM (#29746349) Homepage Journal

    "Most closed source is better" is really relative.

    Specifically if you consider money. If you don't have money to buy the "best" or if you don't need the features in the "best", than it is not so good, right?

    I agree that in more specialized fields (such as image processing) the closed source versions are usually technically better. But, especially in more basic software (OS, deamons, compilers, ...), open source software tends to be better in the long term. UI apart, of course. The usability area is something that definitively the community should focus more.

    And regarding one of your examples, I prefer using Eclipse than VS. Although not perfect, it's been improving quickly. Both for Java and C++ development.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:44PM (#29746445)
    You're confusing price and value.
  • by tick-tock-atona (1145909) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:45PM (#29746451)
    Nokia's "open" strategy will pay off big time in the long run. At the moment, their major threat is the iPhone, which inherits all of apple's strengths (RDF [techeblog.com], UI design) as well as it's weaknesses (software/hardware lockdown).

    The next-gen Nokia phone [arstechnica.com] on the other hand (successor to the N900) will get all the hardware features of the iPhone, but with the openness of a linux software stack. Want to make an app that downloads podcasts? Fine! Want to use your phone as a modem? No problem! In fact, no corporation enforcing their moral or business rules on how you use your phone, or alienation of talented developers [macworld.com]!

    Maemo and Qt being open source will ensure that the software features of the Maemo platform quickly eclipse those of the artificially limited iPhone platform. Maemo's based on Debian - so Nokia automatically gets just about every open-source software package in existence available on their platform.

    I think this is the most serious threat that the turtleneck sweater brigade have yet seen.
  • by the ReviveR (1106541) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:49PM (#29746497)

    Too little, too late. Now with Android showing the way, they realize how closed development put them behind. I enjoyed my Nokia phones, but I got frustrated with the lack of development.

    Too little? Too late?

    You mean full linux platform where you can simply type "sudo gainroot" to get root access?
    Platform to which it will be almost trivial to port a huge library of current linux apps?

    Personally I really don't like Androids "open". The under the hood it's a closed platform that gives you a Java interface that you can use for most things. No easy porting, not even full Java libraries and carriers can prevent tethering etc. While Android is "open", it's not the same thing as real linux platform in your pocket. Maemo in my mind is something completely different. Something the other manufacturers will have to start catching up.

    Nokias hardware has always been great quality, the software has just been dragging behind because Symbian platform just plain sucks. Buying QT and going linux seems like a real killer move to me. Now they just need to dump Symbian and really start spending time and money on Maemo. Hopefully rest of the linux community will gain something from Nokias enormous resources too.

  • Re:Openess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:52PM (#29746557) Homepage

    Great points. Here's my two cents.

    I bought a N800 because it was the right hardware for what I wanted to do. I needed something I could write on, something I could instant message on occasionally, and something that was light enough and small enough to have on me all the time. Some phones are good for messaging, some notebooks are good for writing, but the N800 brought it together for me.

    Having Maemo, the open source OS, come specially developed for the N800 was a super plus because it offered me a lot more flexibility. True, a lot of what's out there is the standard issue FOSS apps -- but that's the point. I've run SSH sessions from my N800 to diagnose headless server issues, for crying out loud.

    The rest of the time, I write on it, do some twitter, and keep it comfortably out of the way but close at hand. It's a brilliant device, Nokia made some great hardware choices, but they're not in the software biz. FOSS only helps make it better, and was a solid development choice.

  • Re:Openess (Score:4, Insightful)

    by replicant108 (690832) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @01:40PM (#29747171) Journal

    Apple looked at the same problem that Nokia is looking at and decided that since they had an operating system in house already, it made more sense to just modify it then modifying someone else's open operating system.

    Except that Apple's operating system is based on modifying 'someone else's open operating system'.

  • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @01:41PM (#29747187) Homepage

    Yeah, Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk, Blizzard, Bungie... All those guys are the verge of bankruptcy. No one is willing to pay for software.

    Solutions to many problems are available for free, but those solutions are not always very good. Even when they are good, they don't usually dominate the market. Linux, Apache, and Firefox are all great examples of successful Open Source products, and even they are still fighting tooth and nail for market share against very viable closed source competition. In most markets the competition isn't even close. Closed source software rules the market with some Open Source competitors of varying quality holding a distant second or third position.

    In some cases it's a real shame, because the Open Source alternative is on par with or better than its closed alternative, but even then the open version rarely dominates the market.

  • by Krneki (1192201) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @01:43PM (#29747217)
    I hope you are right, I really do.
  • by bertoelcon (1557907) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noc.le.otreb]> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @02:04PM (#29747507)

    Linux, Apache, and Firefox are all great examples of successful Open Source products, and even they are still fighting tooth and nail for market share against very viable closed source competition

    Of your examples Apache is the market leader on Web Server Software. If I remember the last time I looked it was over half.

  • Re:Openess (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer (137700) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @02:15PM (#29747651) Homepage

    You're making the same point as the guy above you, but doing a much better job. I agree that Apple makes use of (and, quite fairly, contributes back too) Open Source software in many low level areas of OS X. However it is equally true that neither OS X itself, nor the iPhone OS can be called Open Source products. They are distinct from Darwin and OpenDarwin in ways that Linux device manufacturer's operating systems are not usually distinct from "Linux".

    In a way Apple demonstrated my point very well. They are a company that has found Open Source to be very useful in some areas of the business model, and much less useful in others. It is self evident that Apple makes extensive use of Open Source. It is equally self evident that they make extensive use of closed source. Thus far this balance approach has served them very well. No Open Source projects have found real reason to complain about them as a citizen of the OS community, but they still manage to make extensive and profitable use of closed and proprietary technology.

  • by Eil (82413) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:36PM (#29750343) Homepage Journal

    They decided that their improvements to the base software (open) plus their hardware, will sell more phones than competitors.

    Exactly. They get more hobbyists to hack on their code, more community interest, applications, code contributions, testing, bug fixes, and visibility.

    Most companies are afraid to open source their code because there's this fear that competitors will either use it and sell it in their product, or will "steal" ideas from it. The reality is that NIH (not invented here) syndrome almost always assures this is not likely to happen. Nokia's major competitors are not going to replace their software stack with Symbian or Qt, for the same reasons you'll never see Microsoft building their next OS upon Darwin or Linux.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:40AM (#29754979) Journal

    Thanks for the info - this is the kind of thing I'd really be interested in seeing. A geek site giving us cutting edge news - instead it's just "Apple Apple Apple now you can get Iphone 3G, and look at a website!", telling us news about the Iphone, 3 years or so after almost every phone on the market has adopted it.

    In six months we'll have all our lightweight desktop apps running on our phones and people will finally realize just how far ahead of everyone else Nokia really is.

    I hope so. Although I fear it will continue that the media, Slashdot, and many Slashdot readers, will still have this distorted view that the mobile market consists of Apple being number 1, with only Android and maybe Blackberry as some minor competiton. That way some people are talking, it would surprise me if in a few years people claim the mobile phone as an "Apple first" (already I've heard people claim that Apple "popularised" the smartphones - despite the fact that at least two billion non-Apple smartphones are around).

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