Thursday, July 19, 2007

Moblins run loose

For its Mobile Internet Device initiative, Intel has decided to brand its sponsored open source project “Moblin.” [YALBNdtCS]†

Most of the code is GPLv2 or LGPLv2.1. Intel admits its complete debt to Nokia’s maemo project: “Porting applications from to mobile Internet devices and vice versa will be straightforward.”

In my own research with Siobhán O’Mahony, we have found, however, that there’s more to open source openness than just a license, i.e. control over development and governance. Intel has historically had tight control of standards consortia that it sponsored (such as USB 2), so that pattern seems likely to continue here. As with other tightly-controlled sponsored projects, this means hackers can use the code but rivals will have little or no influence over its direction, let alone ability to use it for their own strategic goals. (Yes, the case of controlling GPL licensed Linux code is a little more complex than say MySQL or Sleepycat).

Intel’s goal is to sell more chips and crush ARM. Open source is a means to that end, not a goal in itself. Commodity software is bad for a company that sells software but good for a company that sells chips.

Just an aside: does “moblin” rhyme with “goblin”? I know bugs are often “gremlins,” but are they also “goblins”? What does this say about code quality?

† This is coming up so often that from now on I’ll just use the YALBNdtCS acronym for “Yet Another Lousy Brand Name due to CyberSquatters”

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