Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space

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Presentation delivered at POSSCON 2011 on March 23, 2011.

Presentation delivered at POSSCON 2011 on March 23, 2011.

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  • 1. Bob Sutor – VP, Open Systems Strategy23 March, 2011Landmines for Open Sourcein the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 2. Key questions! How significant is open source for developers and users of mobile apps?! Has open source achieved a significant foothold in the mobile space?! Will the T&Cs of app marketplaces stall the use of open source for mobile apps?! More generally, what are the landmines that may hinder the adoption of open source here?2 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 3. Five landmines for open source! No GPL code allowed in apps for the Apple App Store.! Sloppy open source license compliance.! The right code is available under the wrong license.! There’s not enough money in it.! Getting heard among the noise of thousands of other app developers.3 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 4. No GPL code allowed in apps for the Apple App Store.4 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 5. Excluding GPL “Excluded License” means any license requiring, as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of the software subject to the license, that the software or other software combined and/or distributed with it be (i)disclosed or distributed in source code form; (ii) licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (iii) redistributable at no charge. Excluded Licenses include, but are not limited to the GPLv3 Licenses. For the purpose of this definition, “GPLv3 Licenses” means the GNU GeneralPublic License version 3, the GNU Affero General Public License version 3, the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3, and any equivalents to the foregoing. http://create.msdn.com/downloads/?id=6385 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 6. Well that was Microsoft, what about Apple?! The FSF argues: – “The App Store terms apply to GPLed software in the App Store. – Those terms force strict Usage Rules on customers that prohibit many activities that are allowed under the GPL. – Those restrictions are not allowed under GPLv2 section 6.”!  http://mailman.videolan.org/pipermail/vlc-devel/2010-November/077486.html! Note this is the FSF saying GPLed software is not allowed in the Apple App Store, not Apple.! Much of the debate is driven by developers who object to GPL software appearing in the App Store.6 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 7. What to do?! Understand the legal terms and conditions for each app store or market in which you intend to make your app available.! If reaching iPhone and iPad users is important to you, consider using licenses like BSD, Apache, and Eclipse.! Assess the probability that at some point code using GPL and copyleft licenses will be explicitly banned from the Apple App Store.! Try to convince Apple to carve out GPL-friendly rules.7 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 8. Sloppy open source license compliance.8 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 9. http://www.openlogic.com/news/press/03.08.11.php9 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 10. What to do?! Read and understand the open source license for the code you are using or that you plan to use for your application.! If you are using proprietary code, read those licenses as well.! Pay particular attention to requirements that say – You need to directly provide the source code or at least a way to get it. – Provide a copy of the license. – Provide any other information as stated in the license.! Be very careful about using code under the less often used licenses.10 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 11. The right code is available under the wrong license.11 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 12. It’s free, it’s open, it’s unusable! Millions and millions of lines of software code are available today under open source licenses.! You can often find something close to what you want to do in repositories like Google Code or Sourceforge.! If the license isn’t compatible with distributing it on your chosen mobile marketplace, you can’t use the code.! If you read the code, you are likely contaminated, so check the license first.12 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 13. What to do?! Reinvent the wheel: write new code under a compatible license.! Try to get the code put under an additional license that you can use.! Rethink your approach to solving the problem and then look for open source code that might be usable.! Do not think you can get away with changing a few variable names and no one will ever notice.13 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 14. There’s not enough money in it.14 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 15. Apps are cheap! Think through your business model and where you will generate revenue, if that is important to you.! If most for-fee apps end up getting sold for $.99, will using open source force that closer to $0? (Not necessarily.)! Admittedly, this is true for open and closed source apps, but super low cost may diminish a classical advantage of open source.15 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 16. What to do?! If there is no acquisition, service, or support revenue, think of for-fee content or online services.! Use licenses that allow you to charge for your apps.! Leverage the availability of open source code to speed your core app and infrastructure development, allowing you to focus on those elements that add unique, useful, or fun features for your users.16 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 17. Getting heard among the noise of thousands of other app developers.17 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 18. A whole of apps out there! According to Distimo, in February, 2011 – The Apple App Store had 314,644 apps, with 35% free and 65% for fee. – There were ~170,000 Android apps with the ratios reversed, approximately. – http://www.distimo.com/! Mobile creates a potential opportunity for one or two people to create a successful app and get it to the masses with very little overhead and middlemen.! You’ll need to do some marketing and that might go against what you think an open source developer should be doing.18 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 19. What to do?! Don’t limit the “open source” in your effort to just the coding.! Consider getting volunteers to assist with – Graphic design – User interface and usability – Documentation – PR – Marketing – Social media! That is, don’t stop with the coding when considering what other bits of the business can be done in an open, sharing manner.19 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation
  • 20. Further thoughts! I’ve mainly focused on open source and developers of mobile apps but its important to think about users as well.! DRM plus legal terms and conditions can limit the number of copies of apps that you yourself can have and can prevent your sharing the app.! Needless to say, the current lawsuits over intellectual property in the mobile space may also affect take up and use of open source, but it is too early to tell the impact they might have.20 23 March 2011 Bob Sutor - Landmines for Open Source in the Mobile Space © 2011 IBM Corporation