Will BlackBerry and Kindle go the open source route?
Published: 27 October, 2008
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Open source is flavor of the month in the mobile world, with Android and the Symbian Foundation showing off their wares, and the vendors of other mobile platforms are coming under pressure from developers and investors to consider going open too. While Apple's closed model is, so far at least, justified by the success of the iPhone and App Store, there is mounting speculation that products like RIM BlackBerry and Amazon Kindle should open up their systems in order to gain greater market share.
Kindle, the Amazon e-book reader, is threatened by the trend to pack all a user's services on to one smartphone. For instance, a book reader application called Stanza has seen 395,000 downloads from the Apple App Store since it opened three months ago - more than the 380,000 Kindles Amazon is expected to sell in the US for the whole of 2008. More and more Kindle fans are arguing that Amazon could, at very low cost, open up the device to developers and make it into a multifunction product, with add-on apps. This would also allow users to engage in social networking, exchanging book recommendations and reviews as they do on the Amazon web site.
RIM, by contrast, has taken major steps in recent months to open up its platform to developers, and has just announced its own software store, which will go live in the new year. One way that it could steal a march on Apple and Windows phones would be to go another step, and put its software into the open source process.
This is something the company is actively considering, though it does not expect to take this plunge in the near future. Senior RIM developer Cassidy Gentle said the Canadian firm has an open source management team that is investigating the issue. He commented, speaking at RIM's first developer forum: "I would expect some of our Eclipse or Mobile Tools for Java could be made available on an open source basis, but as for our APIs or other software - that's a pretty big leap."