Why Aren't There More Open Source Solutions for Mobile Devices?

A Microsoft software engineer working on open-source technologies recently wrote that "you can find an open-source implementation for (almost) anything.

"But the mobile landscape is a notable exception."While there are some open-source success stories, Android being a massive one, only a handful of major companies rule hardware and software innovation for the devices we carry in our pockets. Together, Apple and Samsung hold over 50 percent of the world’s market share for mobile devices, a figure that underscores just how few dominant players exist in the space. Numbers like these might leave you feeling somber about the overall viability of mobile open source. But a growing demand for better security and privacy, among other factors, may be turning the tides, and a host of inspectable, open-source solutions with transparent life cycle processes are emerging as promising alternatives…

Along with the open-source messaging app Telegram, Signal has garnered attention as a more privacy-focused alternative to apps like Facebook Messenger. The browser Chromium and the mobile game 2048 are other noteworthy examples, as well as proof that although open-source apps aren’t the norm, they can be widely adopted and popular. For example, over 65 percent of mobile traffic flows through Chromium-based browsers…

Despite the many open-source technologies available to help build mobile apps, there’s plenty of room to grow in the user-facing space — especially as more people recognize the value of having open-source and open-governance applications that can better safeguard their personal information. That growth isn’t likely to extend to the hardware space, where the cost of building open-source implementations isn’t as rewarding for developers or users — though we may start to see more devices that allow people to choose individual hardware modules from a variety of providers.
The article does cite the open source mobile hardware company Purism. And there’s plenty of interesting open source software for mobile app developers, including frameworks like Apache Cordova (which lets developers use CSS3, HTML5, and JavaScript) and a whole ecosystem of open source libraries. But it all does raise the question…

Why aren’t there more open source solutions for mobile devices

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