Jim Zemlin, director, The Linux Foundation, shared with Swapnil Bhartiya his views about Nokia open sourcing the Symbian operating system. This interview was conducted through e-mail when Nokia open sourced Symbian.
Swapnil: How do you see Nokia open sourcing Symbian? Was it cost of investment in R&D or realization that open source development model better than the proprietary one?
Jim Zemlin: Nokia open sourcing Symbian was inevitable. Nokia, like companies all over the globe, realize that open source development leads to better products and services and increased portability across devices.
Swapnil: Is open source Symbian a threat to Linux on mobile platform? The arrival of Open Source Symbian may encourage a lot of mobile players to stick to the old, familiar platform and yet save cost – instead of working with Google on its Android? Do you think Symbian will affect the development and growth of Linux on mobile platform?
Jim Zemlin: Symbian is complementary to efforts like MeeGo because they share the same application level APIs with the Qt framework. This gives developers a large footprint for creating their apps for both the higher end Linux-based platforms like MeeGo and for devices that use Symbian. With common APIs and developer tools, growth can increase across both platforms.
Swapnil: Nokia is also working closely with the Linux Community — Maemo has earned a lot of respect. What kind of relation ship LF has with Nokia? Do you see them becoming an ally and further the growth of Linux or are they just flirting with Linux for a while to see its pros and cons? Is it a marriage or a one night stand 🙂
Jim Zemlin: Nokia has a total commitment to Linux. This is not an experiment for them. They are members of the Linux Foundation and understand the benefits of the platform and are doing a lot of important work to accelerate the adoption of Linux on next-generation computing devices.
Swapnil: Linux in increasing its foothold in mobile space. What have you observed – companies like Nokia, RIM take it as a challenge or an opportunity?
Jim Zemlin: There is no question that companies like Nokia and even RIM see Linux and open source as an opportunity. The Holy Grail for mobile computing is developer support for your platform; and the way to achieve that is by providing easy to use, common developer tools within an open development model. Maintaining a mobile operating system is an expensive effort. Companies like RIM could even benefit from Linux by abstracting their app layer and moving towards the Linux kernel to take advantage of combined development that enables better power management, lower cost hardware and other opportunities. From a consumer point of view, this may not affect a RIM user’s experience with RIM-based devices but it will significantly decrease the cost for RIM and increase the speed at which they can innovate on their products.
Swapnil: Do you see any possibility of Nokia’s shift toward Linux and Symbian Foundation become a ecosystem for apps development? The ‘power’ of Symbian is strong developer base due to familiar technology. Is there any such possibility? If not how much sense it makes for Nokia to work on two different platform – Linux and Symbian?
Jim Zemlin: MeeGo (Linux) and Symbian are complimentary platforms because they use common APIs with the Qt framework. There is no doubt that this environment will create an even bigger ecosystem for application development and increased compatibility. MeeGo can also serve as an app platform for a broad variety of apps and widget frameworks that are common in the industry.
Swapnil: How do you see as this diversity of OSes in mobile segment — bane or boon?
Jim Zemlin: Choice is always good. Unification of resources and common technologies can accelerate new products and services. I think you will see more consolidation as the network benefits of certain platforms become evident. We believe MeeGo will be a large-scale platform for developers over a long period of time.
Swapnil: The good thing (which we need on PC platform as well) is now there are couple of OSes for mobile phones (Linux has so many customized flavors –Bada, Maemo) so users have choices and innovation is dynamic and fast. But, Interoperability or compatibility may become a big issue later, for users as well as developers. One developer will have to write apps for all platforms. Is LF working on creating some standard body so that there is compatibility, interoperability and healthy competition?
Jim Zemlin: With the announcement of MeeGo, which merges Moblin and Maemo, developers will be able to use common tools that they already know – such as the Qt framework – to develop apps just once and port them across devices and platforms. Compatibility will see huge strides in the year head thanks to this project.