Monday, March 24, 2008

Aussie Linux head: Microsoft more open than iPhone

The world has been turned upside down for Linux developers, thanks to Microsoft's approach to its mobile platform--today it's the most open functioning platform on the market, says new Linux Australia president Stewart Smith.

The star of application-rich mobile phones, Apple's iPhone, has been met with criticism from the open source community and even confusion by major software developers like Adobe.

Zac Bowling, a developer involved in the open source Mono project, was initially excited about the iPhone SDK, but now calls it a "joke" for the way Apple has locked-down applications on the device.

"The restrictions on what your application is allowed to do is total, laugh-out-loud, crap," he wrote on his blog.

His complaints include Apple's decision to make it possible to run just one application at a time, which has implications for the functionality of instant messaging on the handset.

For consumers that want mobile phone platforms with more apps, the coming months or even years will be testing.

The arrival of OpenMoko and Google's Android are highly anticipated by open source fans such as recently-appointed Linux Australia president Stewart Smith. But that's the problem: they're not here yet.

"I could wait for the Android project or OpenMoko, but when I was looking for a phone my problem was that I needed a phone that works now," Smith told ZDNet Asia's sister site ZDNet Australia.

"I had this dilemma when I was searching for a new mobile. Do I go with Windows, Symbian, or an aging Palm--which is pretty dead--or an iPhone? Which has the apps that will let me do stuff?" Smith asked.

"As it turns out you can crack an iPhone, or you have this strange thing where you have Microsoft being the open one, encouraging developers to make software on its platform."

Smith would like to see mobile phones head in the same direction as desktops, which allow users to run everything from multiple operating systems to a free range of applications.

For the moment though, consumers don't have access to a phone that works, let alone one that "doesn't suck", he said.

"Even the simple things like a phone that doesn't crash often would be nice. Once you have that you don't need to know how to reboot or replace the battery, which is a worry when you can't [for the iPhone] take the battery out," he said.

So until Android and OpenMoko make their debut, according to Smith, Microsoft Windows Mobile will maintain its unfamiliar position of being the most open mobile phone platform available.


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