Even 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.
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