I had this (lightly edited) conversation yesterday:
15:30 < gnomon> On that note, though, what did you mean about Windows Mobile having the only open ecosystem?
15:38 < mhoye> Current mobile OSes are: WinMo, WebOS, iPhoneOS, Symbian, Android, PalmOS, RimOS
15:38 < mhoye> And a couple of irrelevant stragglers.
15:38 < mhoye> I don't think I've missed anything there?
15:41 < mhoye> Of that list: PalmOS is dead technology. Android, iPhoneOS, RimOS and WebOS are walled-garden, gated-community development environments.
15:43 < mhoye> Symbian and (forgot to add) Maemo _might_ be relevant, except there's zero business model associated with apps for Maemo and nobody is developing for Symbian in any quantity now that those other competitors are in place. Which leaves Windows Mobile, which despite its closed-sourcedness has always had an open, marketable development environment.
15:44 < mhoye> Unlike, say, WebOS or Android, which are built entirely on top of free software and are still entirely closed.
15:45 < mhoye> Java, which by rights should be completely obsolete by now, is still well alive because even if java-the-language sucks, java-the-sandbox and java-the-security-model are alive and well in the portable space.
15:45 < mhoye> Symbian ships, to my knowledge, only on Nokia products, and the overwhelming majority of them are non-smartphones. Maemo doesn't currently ship on anything.
15:46 < mhoye> Some thing are open, and some have an ecosystem. The only place that has both is the second-worst product of the bunch (WinMo, the worst clearly being Symbian)
15:50 < mhoye> And unless Windows Mobile 7 is at least as good as iPhone OS 1, then the walled-garden fuck-you-and-your-freedom model wins. Which makes me really sad, because the alternatives to the Microsoft approach right now are way, way worse.
15:52 < mhoye> The two bright light possibilities here are Palm and Nokia, but they need to ship a development kit and a competing product, respectively.
15:53 < basilisk> To illustrate that point: There are at least 4 mature GPS Flight Navigation packages for WinMo, and an immature one for Maemo. None for Android, WebOS, iPhoneOSX, Symbian.
15:54 < basilisk> No Symbian device had a screen worthy of use, and all the other APIs couldn't provide the necessary functionality
15:55 < basilisk> The developers of the Maemo Cumulus package are excited about the Qt Maemo thingy, so they may be able to easily port to Symbian in the future
15:55 < mhoye> And this leaves me, as much as it galls me, with a MacBook and an iPhone.
15:56 < basilisk> There's Free GPL OSS GPS Flight Navigation software for WinMo, fer chrissakes, since no other platform could support them
15:56 < mhoye> Because at least while I'm fighting a running battle to jailbreak my phone and keep up with MacPorts, now I have hardware that works right.
16:32 < mhoye> (since you asked.)
Have I mentioned how much it galls me that stuff built on free software is being used to restrict what I can actually do with the technology that I own? Most HDTVs run Linux, albeit just enough to bootstrap the proprietary goop that decodes HDMI. You can develop for Android however you like, provided you do it with Java and run it in their little sandbox, which is precisely as much freedom as being allowed to choose what colour of straightjacket they’ll be putting you in.
It feels so wierd to be rooting for Microsoft to carry the day in the name of software freedom, but since they’ve become so chronically inept at shipping anything that anyone actually wants (and yet shockingly effective at cannibalizing their own success, rewarding billions of dollars worth of failure and screwing their brand and their customers while blundering around the technology landscape like a dumb animal) that it still kind of feels like rooting for the underdog. But as far as I can tell, actual Free Software in the portable space has either been co-opted or failed.
It’s hard to count them out; they’re huge, they have a ton of money and these three glorious near-monopolies (Office, Windows and Exchange) that keep them alive, and if they did nothing but sit in a drum circle chanting about Sharepoint for a decade, they’d still be a force to be reckoned with. But since they replaced Gates with somebody with an MBA and rabies, I don’t think they have the taste or vision to make that work.
I hope Palm ships a really good SDK. And that Nokia ships… God, something. Anything. Anything that isn’t their Ovi store, at least, because jeebus. But mostly, I don’t want to be right back where we were ten years ago, fighting this fight all over again, and losing again.