Mobile Tech News visited a presentation at CTIA today entitled "Herding the OS Cats." Members of the panel included Avi Greengart, the Executive Director of the LiMo Foundation, Dan Hoffman, Chief of Mobile Security from Juniper Networks, Rosemary McNally, Executive Director of Technology at Verizon Wireless, and Erik Klein, Vice President of Technical Planning at Nokia.
The first question confronting the panel was deciding how many mobile operating systems to include in the conversation over the course of the hour-long presentation. The panel moderator suggested nine including Android, Apple iOS, RIM, Windows 7, LiMo and Symbian as well as HP webOS and MeeGO.
The Nokia rep confirmed that the first MeeGo device would ship later this year. Also function phones will not be going away as price point sensitivity and data plan costs prohibit many users from upgrading to smartphones. It was also noted that function phones appear to have a stronghold in the pre-paid marketplace.
Rosemary McNally of Verizon Wireless maintained that having between three to five operating systems maintains a healthy competitive environment from an innovation perspective and also promotes a healthy application development environment.
Avi Greengart representing the LiMo Foundation said that LiMo focuses on being a highly friendly OS and is not locked in with any one particular operator. LiMo is in great demand in Asia, he noted, due to the Asian markets having more service-centric operators.
Mobile Tech News asked if the fact that Android was gaining momentum against Apple's iOS was due to the fact that it was "open." This led to an interesting answer period with all panel members attempting to promote the notion that there was no clear definition of "open."
The Verizon Wireless panel member did say that openness to some extent was responsible for the popularity of Android while the Nokia rep said the focus of his company was to create a "great user experience." This was not dependent on whether an operating system was open or not. His focus was more on the idea of building an "ecosystem" where all contributing parties gained from the experience including developers, operators, handset manufacturers, etc.
LiMo's executive director noted that the LiMo operating system went open a year ago and they didn't notice any difference in acceptance after releasing the source code versus being closed.
From a developers standpoint, there will be no quick solution to cross-platform development. Competition between operating systems will continue and openness will be a construct with varying meanings. Open source software is generally considered to be software whose source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees.
The issue of open versus closed operating systems seems to be one that will continue to be discussed for some time. As in most situations, the market will be the deciding vote in the debate.