Open Source and commercial interest can be odd bedfellows. The former depends of course on transparency and high access to thrive, while the latter tends to fall back on secrecy just to survive. Detractors of Open Source will even claim that there’s no such thing as a successful open source project, especially a profitable venture.
There are certainly exceptions to that broad allegation. Red Hat is an oft-cited one. So was MySQL even before (and likely the reason) Oracle snapped it up. And the list definitely doesn’t stop there (read the comments after this linked article).
But stronger still has been the resistance to certifying mobile devices in general for corporate use, much less anything running an open sourced operating system. RIM and its highly-touted secure, proprietary messaging system have had a virtual lock on the enterprise world for years… at least in the Americas.
Nokia’s Maemo has never even come close. The N900 was positioned more as a mobile computer than phone of any type, and its largely-open approach to communications (drivers and certain binary blobs notwithstanding) scared network security wonks– even as it endeared itself to IT trench warriors. One problem was its lack of support for Microsoft Provisioning for Exchange, as was bemoaned ad nauseum at talk.maemo.org. And so far no competitor has come close to threatening RIM. Not even Microsoft.
Talk enterprise communications for a growing part of the world, and you mean Blackberry.
And so I found it scary, fascinating and highly ironic when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) banned the popular Blackberry because, basically, of the one thing that makes it so damned attractive to corporate interests: its security. The article states:
The government cited a potential security threat because encrypted data sent on the devices is moved abroad, where it cannot be monitored for illegal activity.
Which is funny considering that the one time Blackberries were any sort of security risk in the UAE, it was due to a local carrier sending spyware out to their customers.
You can’t make this stuff up.
The government paranoia is quickly spreading in the region, too, and could possibly go far beyond the Middle East both politically and of course economically. RIM may very well require the region for growth.
Which brings us down to the actual point. The transparency and openness of Linux-based operating systems like Maemo and now MeeGo is seen as a risk in some quarters, and a godsend in others.
Openness is a two-way street, however. Data traffic that can be monitored by governments can be seen by citizens too– as well as other parties. So there are two extremes in play here, each with distinctly attractive and even necessariy different philosophies and no real middle ground. Even President Obama encountered a tough time getting his Blackberry onto a White House network (this was solved using a customized device), so the issue is certainly not limited to more conservative nations.
The Blackberry ban is scary because of what’s being designated illegal by officials involved. Pornography, one of the biggest drivers of the Internet, is one such cited activity. That’s an easy target, and even understandable based on some aspects. But the rationales go even further, to the point that any communications that can’t be easily monitored by a sovereign body is considered a problem.
Things are getting interesting in RIM’s usual space in general, with Android and Apple’s iOS starting to chip away at Blackberry’s home turf, the American enterprise. It’s too soon to dig any graves for Canada-based RIM, but there’s no doubt the company has its work cut out for it, as will its up-and-coming competitors if the war on Blackberries spreads across global and corporate boundaries.
So what might any of this mean for MeeGo? That’s next.