Nokia on working with open source

Via flors I see that Ari Jaaksi, a Vice President of Software at Nokia, recently presented on “What Mobile Users Need and How Open Source Can Help” at OSiM USA 2008. Jaaksi’s presentation is also available in pdf and Podshow is also providing an mp3. I recommend the mp3 audio as the presentation is largely images.

Jaaksi’s presentation is very relevant to Mozilla because Nokia’s N810 Internet Tablet ships with Maemo Linux as the operating system and Mozilla’s Gecko is used as the rendering engine for the Maemo Browser.  I know from recent discussions with Christian Sejersen and Jay Sullivan of Mozilla’s mobile team that Mozilla very much values Nokia’s participation in the Mozilla project.

Jaaksi’s presentation touched on these points:

  • Linux and open source CAN meet the needs of mass-market.
  • [Nokia's] role: bring open source to mainstream consumer electronics
  • [Nokia & open source] need to learn from each other. Both.
  • Building upstream. Community rules.
  • Beyond code and licenses: developers and projects.
  • Diving in: deeper involvement.

While the entire presentation was worth reviewing, starting around 16:40 in Jaaksi’s presentation are some interesting and insightful comments about Nokia and working in open source. In response to a question about whether Nokia contributed patches back to Webkit around the implementation of Webkit in Nokia’s S60 platform, Jaaksi was open and honest and said that Nokia did not do enough in that instance.  He then went on to say that Nokia plans to work more closely with the open source projects they are shipping code from in the future.

Note: when Jaaksi talks about the ‘upstream model’ what he means to say is contributing patches regularly back to the original project’s codebase. I’ve also added in some clarification in brackets in the transcription below to make it more clear as to what exactly Jaaksi is referring to.

Question from the audience (@ 16:20): Excuse me, another question. If I remember correctly, it was 3 years ago when you [Nokia] implemented Webkit in to the Series 60 devices, you had to make a lot changes, for example in memory management. Did you use the ‘upstream model’ in that case?  I mean, did you feed back to the community the changes you had made for your devices?

Answer from Ari Jaaksi:  Not the way we [Nokia] should have done it.  Let me be very honest about that. Also with our Internet tablets we have horror stories where we didn’t do it [share patches back with the trunk]. Just today, or yesterday I discussed this with the Mozilla guy, the name escapes me at the moment, I don’t know if he is here today, about our Mozilla browser here. It is really that, what we did was last summer when we started to ship with the Mozilla browser we made a couple of mistakes. We are kind of working upstream there [with Mozilla] but we are not doing as much as I would like to do and we sort of need to go back. We almost forked the code [from Mozilla] but we need to go back [to sync up with the main Gecko 1.9 trunk].

Also in the [Webkit] browser on the Series 60 devices, I claim that the Webkit situation is not a trivial case. There are… Apple forked it.  We [Nokia] kind of forked it. There are some challenges now [due to the forking of code from the Webkit trunk]. This is something that we as an industry should learn [not to do]. This [forking code] is not benefitting anybody if we do it like that. That is kind of my message here.  Good question.

I, for one, am very glad to see Nokia using open source, and it’s clear from Jaaksi’s presentation and comments that while Nokia has had some challenges in developing with open source code, they are learning how better to work with open source communities (like Mozilla) to provide innovative products to Nokia’s customers.  It’s great to hear that Nokia plans to sync back with the core Gecko code base as Nokia (and the users of the Nokia products that will ship with Gecko) will get all the benefits that the entire Mozilla community is working on for the current version of Gecko 1.9 and beyond.

Thank you to Ari Jaaksi and the entire Nokia open source development team for their hard work and efforts.  We look forward to your future products, especially those made with OSS and especially Mozilla.

3 Responses to Nokia on working with open source

  1. I think this is one of the areas where a new SCM like git (and bazaar, and fill in the blank) will make contributing to open source more compelling by making forks trivial without fragmenting the original projects.

  2. Really good article. I have been following your blog for last 3 months. You have good knowledge
    on Mobile(cell phone) Industry and happenings. Please continue the good work. Thank you.

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