Open source represents Google's secret weapon in its competition with Microsoft, and this explains why it gives so much support to free software projects – for example by employing top coders and running the Summer of Code project. But sometimes, Google's own projects clash with others in the open source world.
That's the case with Google's mobile phone platform, Android, which competes with other open source offerings in this space. This, in its turn, dissipates developer effort, and reduces the overall impact of any one technology.
If Android were storming away, and were the clear leader in this market, that wouldn't be a problem, but it looks increasingly as if it's one of Google flops. That impression is reinforced by the following news:
Verizon Wireless has become the first US operator to join the LiMo Foundation, a group developing mobile Linux technology.
The LiMo Foundation, started by companies including Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, NEC and Samsung, is one of several initiatives working to unify mobile Linux development so that applications can run across phones with different Linux implementations.
The LiMo Foundation has built a standard middleware layer that can run on different mobile Linux operating systems.
In addition to Verizon, the LiMo Foundation announced on Wednesday that Mozilla, SK Telecom, Infineon Technologies, Red Bend Software, Sagem Mobiles, SFR and Kvaleberg AS are also joining the group. Verizon will hold a board seat.
This is pretty significant, for not only has everyone's favourite browser foundation, Mozilla, thrown in its lot with LiMo, but one of the main US wireless operators, Verizon, has joined too. This looks like the first signs that LiMo is emerging as the leader in what is clearly a crucial market. That's good, because there's really only room for one approach.
But if LiMo continues to gain momentum, this also implies that Google should stop trying to go it alone, and should add its considerable weight to the group. After all, it presumably wasn't hoping to make any money directly out of Android, so there's no huge loss involved, other than the minor one of face, and that's hardly important compared to the long-term benefit of establishing a widely-adopted, open mobile platform.