Practical Collectivism: LiMo Foundation Strikes Balance Between Community and Commerce

Amidst a flurry of announcements about the foundation at last week’s LinuxWorld, LiMo’s Morgan Gillis held a kind of “state of the foundation” session on Wed., describing the foundation’s seemingly realistic goal: to strike a balance between the open source ideals of collaboration and community and proprietary software’s insistence on competition and innovation. “The community delivers the platform,” Gillis said, “and commercial innovation thrives on top of it.”


Founded in 2007, the LiMo Foundation was begun by mobile industry heavy hitters (Motorola, NEC, NTT COCOMO, Orange, Panasonic, Samsung, and Vodafone), to “create an open, Linux-based software platform for use by the whole global industry to produce mobile devices through a balanced and transparent contribution process enabling a rich ecosystem of diffrentiated products, applications, and services from device manufacturers, operators, ISVs, and integrators.”


Make no mistake: LiMo is NOT a standards body, but a group of collaborators, developing a free, device-agnostic middleware upon which you can build using almost any development environment you’d like. What if you run into patent trouble? LiMo’s members hold over 300,000 patents—and all of them have agreed to mutual patent non-assertion. But if a non-member should try to enforce their patent on your code, LiMo can help—if their subtantial weight can’t stave the assertion off altogether.


Perhaps the most interesting facet of LiMo’s strategy is its angle on solving fragmentation. Their solution lies in “reciprocation of fixes and optimization”—the user community, consisting of representatives from the entire mobile ecosystem, agree on changes to the OS. This means no forking, and—if you stay within the foundation’s framework—no worries about device- or carrier-specific snags to porting your app. The more people that join the foundation, the more widespread the agreement, and consequently, the less fragmentation.


And since the platform is open, there’s nothing to stop LiMo’s users from creating their own market spaces.


Sounds reasonable, right? I guess only time will tell.

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