Where Are All the Open Source Mobile Apps?

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Android is great in principle: after all, having millions of mobiles running Linux at the bottom of the stack is pretty good news. But we have a big problem at the top: there are very few free software apps, so you are almost forced to run closed source code on top of the open source Android (ironic or what?).

Black Duck has just published some figures that throw an interesting light on this area:

Some 903 new open source projects for the mobile space were created in 2009 bringing the total to over 3,200 projects, a 39 percent increase over 2008. Black Duck attributes the steady growth to the strength of smartphone sales and the volume of open source platforms. Market research firm comScore shows an 18 percent rise in the number of smartphones in Q4 2009.

Additionally 224 new projects specifically related to Android were launched in 2009, almost three times the number targeted for the iPhone, which at 76 is the second-fastest growing platform. Windows Mobile, which like the iPhone is not based on an open-source software platform, was third with 75 new projects, reflecting the large number of Windows application developers in the market.

The iPhone, which has spurred creativity among OSS application, utility and tools developers, appears to be benefitting the Android platform as well. Projects available first on the iPhone increasingly are being ported to the Android platform.

While it's great news that the Android platform is attracting developers more than the iPhone, and far more than Windows Mobile, these are still small numbers: 224 new projects in a year is pretty footling compared to the 30,000 apps that are out there for the Android.

The question is, will we ever see a real flood of open source mobile apps, or is mobile destined become a bastion of closed source?

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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