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I am way behind on this blog and need to write about the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley, Android and my experience with the Google Nexus One, a forthcoming BeagleBoard project, and one or two other things :). I am in the midst of updating my main machine to Ubuntu 10.04 (from 8.10) but hope to get to all of these issues this week, so stay tuned.

A new conference has appeared for mobile application developers: AppCon, produced by ConvExx and Taptopia, and sponsored by Wiley/Wrox publishing. The conference takes place August 24-26 in Las Vegas, and, so far as I can tell, it is the only major conference dedicated solely to the issues surrounding mobile applications.

Normally this blog focuses lower down the stack on Linux kernel and integration issues. However, as a Developer’s Advocate, I don’t want to ignore the big picture, and of course the end user’s experience is nearly completely driven by the application layer. Mobile apps definitely have different UI and HMI requirements from desktop apps, but more than that, they also have to have a stronger interaction with the (embedded) OS. For that reason a conference like AppCon is important, as it can address the whole spectrum of issues surrounding embedded application development.

It is important to note as well that this conference is not specific to open source, though naturally operating systems like Symbian, Android and other Linux-based mobile operating systems, and presumably open-source toolkits like gcc will be addressed. Similar issues are faced by all embedded app developers, and it is important to collaborate where we can and differentiate at other levels, which itself is an open-source tenet.

The conference has three main tracks (taken from the press release):

  • Developer: technical sessions for developers, architects and technical managers covering location-based services, cross-platform integration and gaming.
  • IT: technical/management sessions for IT experts evaluating, designing or implementing mobile support in the enterprise, with topics including MS Exchange integration, mobile App security and compliance issues.
  • Business: sessions covering the business, legal, sales, marketing and other aspects, including a special focus on small businesses and startups.
  • I am very happy to see conferences such as this one appear, because despite its massive visibility, mobile application development is just now reaching the stage where “experimental”-level classes are starting to appear in universities. I am particularly happy to see the business track – so many conferences concentrate solely on the technical aspects of application development while ignoring the larger picture.

    And if none of that convinces you, keep in mind that it happens in Las Vegas, and that Penn Jillette is giving the keynote address. 🙂

    Wired is partnered with YouRenew to try to recycle 40,000 devices in honor of earth day. Clean out your closet and help. (Note: I wrote an article last year on recycling old machines by loading them up with Linux, check it out.)

    Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit keynotes are now available in video for those who missed them.

    On the subject of conferences, I am off next week to attend the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose. I’ll be at TI’s Technology Day most of Tuesday and in the MontaVista booth (#2222) on and off, stop in and say howdy!

    Andreas Constantinou, as I have previously stated, is the smartest guy in mobile computing. This week he is tackling Android and pondering whether the disruptive Linux-based OS meets its parent company’s famous assertion that it will “not be evil“. (To be fair, the official company stance is that it is possible to make money without doing evil—that may be the heart of the argument outlined below.)

    This is a hot topic in the Linux community. At the combined Embedded Linux Conference and Linux Collaboration Summit this past week, Greg Kroah-Hartmann explained his well-considered decision to remove Google-specific code from the upstream kernel, while simultaneously praising Android and inviting Google to sit down and hash out the technical issues (which they are doing now).

    But – is Google’s relative non-openness regarding Android actually evil? Andreas questions this as well. As I stated in the comments on his blog, I have learned an enormous amount about the mobile industry by reading the VisionMobile blog for the past four years, much more than I learned in three years in the trenches working at a major mobile software manufacturer. This is a very complex subject and I think Andreas is better equipped than most to see the details—and, further, to explain them to the rest of us.

    That being said, I wonder if there is a big-picture issue that is being missed in the discussion. I’ll use Andreas’ title to make a devils-advocate assertion:

    Although open is defined as not evil,
    Not being completely open is not necessarily evil

    Openness is a spectrum, and not all parts of a given product have to be open in order for it to be beneficial to an industry as a whole. It depends on the industry, and it also depends on the beneficiary. Private branches, private roadmaps, and even a gated developer community are not “evil” if the end result is a net gain for the majority of participants. I believe this is partly what Google means by their famous and much-quoted statement, although mostly what they mean is that they don’t intend to do evil things with advertising. Google has hubris to spare, but at least in this case they are using it to the benefit of others. Maybe not completely, but enough.

    Apple turned the US cellular market on its ear when the iPhone came out, and rightly so – it was long overdue for a revolution. But it did so out of narcissism, to benefit Apple. Google is taking the whole issue one step further by opening the model up at various points, to the benefit of consumers, app developers, and handset manufacturers. This is to the possible detriment of carriers as they are now, but it hastens their eventual evolution into dumb pipes (which IMO they should have been all along).

    Is it ALL to the benefit of everyone? No. Does it have to be in order to not be “evil”? In my opinion, no. And I’m saying that as a serious open-source advocate. I say this not so much a begrudging acceptance of Google’s need to monetize as a realistic assessment of the situation. We all benefit from Android’s disruption whether or not it is completely open.

    Actually, AFAIK the Goog never claimed to be always “open”. The relative openness of various components of the system is not as important as the disruptiveness of the whole. As an aside, I personally hope that they work out their issues with the Linux kernel maintainers, but even if they don’t they still will have helped change an entire industry for the benefit of both app developers and consumers, and that is a very non-evil thing to do.