NEW YORK—Nokia officials on Wednesday used the LinuxWorld Summit here to not only launch the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet and the Nokia Internet Tablet 2005 software edition, but also to explain why they decided to develop an open source device.
Ari Jaaksi, of Nokias open-source software operations, told attendees that this was the first true Linux and open-source device from Nokia, and they were already working on the next version of the software that would introduce VOIP (voice over IP).
Nokia on Wednesday also announced the Maemo.org development platform, which provides a set of tools and documents and such for developers and hackers.
“It is the open-source development environment for the Nokia Internet Tablet and is geared at developers looking to provide applications on top of that,” Jaaksi said.
Some applications had already been developed with Maemo around word processing, games, instant messaging and the like, but the focus was now was on application development, and “we are not going to force anyone to use a style guide or anything else,” he said.
But Nokia also wanted to sell these devices and have a profitable business around the Internet Tablet, so it had made some of the applications and programs available to open source, while others had been kept closed to protect its intellectual property.
The decision to go with Linux was made because Nokia had already done a lot of research around Linux and open source and decided it was well suited to this device.
“Internet experience, connectivity and openness to developers were the three requirements for the software that had to be met, and Linux seemed to be the best fit for this,” Jaaksi said.
“We wanted to use mainstream open-source components that were running on millions of PCs, while avoiding fragmentation and the still-maturing embedded Linux world. Using the open source technologies already in desktops, we got good quality components, good chances for reuse, a strong overall architecture, great chances for shared maintenance and a good developer value proposition,” he said.
But there are a lot of challenges to creating an open-source handheld device, including providing a user interface that works for a device like this, working out how to best address power management and get the best performance possible to meet consumer expectations for such a device.
Memory and its management have to be closely looked at, while application functionality and support for the specific hardware in use also require some work.
Nokia was hoping that the open-source community would also help it improve the usability of the Tablet, so it is not just a “geek toy” but an attractive consumer product, Jaaksi said.
Open source was also about to change the way software was created, with the new model a common-based peer production where costs and results were shared.
“For Nokia, we believe that you have to both give and take: to take what you can use, to work with communities and gatekeepers, to give back contributions and improvements while simultaneously running a profitable business,” he said.
Using open source also brought some new opportunities and issues for Nokia, including access to many new tools, components, experts, the open-source development and review model, and a chance to collaborate with the best.
“But using open source in product development also requires the management of several new aspects, including mergers of product programs and open-source communities, the architecture of the GPL [General Public License] or LGPL and how proprietary and commercial applications fit into that. You also need to understand the communities and technologies behind the product and to make an active decision, component by component, whether you want to use what is available rather than trying to actively affect the way the technology develops,” he said.