Doors close on open-source speculation

After all the attention lavished on Google's Linux-based Android mobile OS as well as the excitement generated by Nokia's summertime announcement it would acquire the remaining shares of mobile software licensing company Symbian Limited and release the code into the open-source wild, onlookers have speculated on whether Microsoft or Research In Motion will open their respective mobile operating systems as well. Given that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once called open-source software "a cancer," it shouldn't come as any surprise that his company has no plans to give away Windows Mobile for free. "We are doing well--we believe in the value of what we are doing," Ballmer recently told Reuters, insisting Microsoft will continue to assess mobile software licensing fees from $8 to $15 per device. "It's interesting to ask why would Google or Nokia--Google in particular--why would they invest a lot of money and try to do a really good job if they make no money?"

But Research In Motion is a different story. While almost no one anticipates the device maker will open up its BlackBerry platform, RIM senior software developer Cassidy Gentle admitted during the recent BlackBerry Developer Conference that the firm has at least given the idea some serious consideration. "We do have an open source management team that is investigating this," Gentle said, according to a report in The EE Times. "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."

The EE Times adds that in the discussion that followed the Gentle Q&A, one third-party developer said he would like to get a look at the BlackBerry source code to better understand RIM's technical thought processes and root out bugs, but other developers in attendance said they don't feel a strong need to access the source code. At least RIM is willing to discuss the open-source debate with its developer partners--compare that to blowhard Ballmer, whose comments suggest he doesn't quite grasp the concept that Google's plans for Android include a potentially lucrative advertising revenue component. Agreed--open source doesn't make sense for Microsoft. But Ballmer's refusal to even consider new ways of thinking speaks volumes about his company's diminishing influence in the new mobile reality. -Jason