bada opensource Open source   or   the fake silver bulletEven though I originally wanted to write something about the BlackBerry for quite some time, the ever-famous myth of “open source solves everything” IMHO needs debunking more urgently.

The reason for this hits us via the Wall Street Journal, who claim that Samsung is to open-source its bada platform shortly:

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930.SE) plans to open up its homegrown mobile software platform to outside developers and device makers next year in a bid to kick-start growth in the operating system and reduce its reliance on Google Inc.’s Android in the increasingly litigious smartphone and tablet computer business.

Samsung “is planning to make Bada software an open source platform next year,” a person familiar with the situation said, adding the South Korean firm has no plans to buy a software company.

Having seen a similar trend with various companies in the past, it is difficult to decide what Samsung wants to achieve. Given that Hutchison Austria has advertised bada as an “open source OS” in the past, it is entirely possible that Samsung wants to provide its developers with better debugging facilities similar to the source code sharing which has led to the Windows 2000 source code leak. This would be a smart move, making work a lot easier for its partners.

On the other hand, however, we could see a IT manager lemming reaction: when threatened (like the critter on the left), go open source. Then, expect to seee Linux number 2, with thousands of developers flocking in to develop for you. This trend has been visible with various companies, (almost) all of which have failed.

If Samsung expects to save development costs, this is a failed concept. Just because an OS is open source, it will not be developed – MeeGo is the best example. Finally, let’s let a former Symbian honcho speak his feelings:

The culture within Samsung is too secretive to make this work: in my view they would raise expectations they couldn’t fulfill, which is worse than not open sourcing in the first place. We saw quite a bit of that with Nokia too. Samsung would need to create an internal open source mindset and culture, while building an open source eco-system. We all have seeen with Nokia that this does not work, if you are under time pressure. In fact it is becoming increasingly clear that in fast paced markets, you can only build an open source project if you already have an open source culture. There are many examples: look at Eucalyptus vs. OpenStack in the fast moving cloud space. Even if you have an open source culture, you are disadvantaged if you are not perceived to have one (or perceived to have less of a track record than your competitor): see KVM (RedHat) vs. Xen (Citrix).

What do you think?

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Frode Inge Helland

Related posts:

  1. Whats behind Nokia’s open source browser
  2. Producing Open Source Software by Karl Fogel
  3. Why LedManager can’t become Open Source
  4. On CoreCodec’s open letter
  5. Open Source Press & Tamoggemon release book on Symbian programming

4 Responses to “Open source – or – the fake silver bullet”

  1. I’ve been reading news and opinions of open source for the better part of the past decade and don’t recall ever seeing “open source solves everything” or anything like it. To be sure, open source is in the news and people do tend to get a little excited about it, but that’s not without cause. And that’s not to say open source is without it’s failures. There are a lot of failures in open source. That’s part of how it works. It’s a big mess and only the good ideas, successfully executed survive but the emphasis is on big. That’s an over simplification of course. But you have set up a straw man here, “open source solves everything”. What a load of BS. Who says that? You do, that’s who. Proprietary software solves everything! Who says that? I just did. Does that mean everybody’s saying it? If your humble opinion is correct, it’s about two decades too late. I would say your sense of urgent debunking is a little off too.

    A quick Google search revealed that Bada can entertain proprietary code as well as open source code. Tam Hanna says that “Samsung plans to put all their Bada eggs in the open source basket”. You didn’t say that precisely of course but that’s the impression I got. And you didn’t mention that the proprietary side got equal billing in the deal. Tam Hanna’s latest opinion piece is half right. Or half wrong, depending how you look at it.

  2. Hi Richard,
    thank you so much for talking back!

    What I wanted to say was that I have heard this attitude quite a few times – if we open source it, we dont need to develop ourselves anymore.

    In fact, I can remember some talks by consultants on “how to use open source to save development costs” in Vienna around 2005.

    All the best
    Tam

  3. “if we open source it, we dont need to develop ourselves anymore.”

    That’s not the same as “open source solves everything”. There is a lot of naivete about open source. Some of it out of ignorance, some of it out of greed and without a doubt, some of it is generated by self-serving companies like Black Duck. If it’s approached with the proper knowledge and understanding, a project does have a fair chance of saving money by choosing to open source it rather than to lock it up in proprietary code.

    The style of your article here is one I’ve seen before. It makes a statement that has some truth in it but bends so out of proportion to a point of being almost a lie. No, you didn’t lie, but you came pretty close. It’s classic misinformation.

    Open source will save boat loads of money. That statement is the polar opposite of your statement “open source solves everything”. Yes, the opposite because you are setting up a straw man and I’m stating a gross exaggeration (which by the way I don’t endorse).

    So let’s get back on track here. Bada supports proprietary code as well as open source code. It would seem that Samsung either didn’t get the memo about “open source solves everything” or they don’t believe in that statement.

  4. Hi,
    first of all, thank you so much for all the comments! It is a pleasure to interact with you.

    In regards to this:

    That’s not the same as “open source solves everything”. There is a lot of naivete about open source. Some of it out of ignorance, some of it out of greed and without a doubt, some of it is generated by self-serving companies like Black Duck. If it’s approached with the proper knowledge and understanding, a project does have a fair chance of saving money by choosing to open source it rather than to lock it up in proprietary code.

    I only wanted to refer to a story which I have read quite often in books and literature here. However, your comments are so valuable that I wanted to ask you if you were interested in writing a rebuttal and getting it posted as a story!

    With compliments
    Tam Hanna

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