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What Is the Top Mobile Platform for Open Source Developers?

  • March 16, 2010
  • By Sean Michael Kerner
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Mobile platforms like Apple's iPhone and Google's Android have become a key focus for open source developers. And the trend is only increasing, though new research has found that over the course of the last year, there has been a shift in which mobile platform has the most open source development activity.

A new study by Black Duck Software found that at the end of 2009, there were 224 new open source software projects on Google's Android operating system, bringing its total to 357 open source projects in all. That's enough to leapfrog Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone to take the top spot in the number of open source projects being developed on either platform.

Android's 2009 open source software tally represents a 168 percent gain over the number of projects reported for it in 2008.

In contrast, Apple's iPhone garnered 76 new open source software project in 2009, representing 43 percent growth over 2008. In total, Black Duck reported that at the end of 2009 there were 252 open source software projects for Apple's iPhone.

Overall, 2009 was a year of expansion for open source development across the whole of the mobile realm.

"We're seeing robust growth in open source projects for mobile platforms, with 39 percent growth in the number of projects that are available [and] over 3,200 available now," Peter Vescuso, executive vice president of marketing and business development at Black Duck Software, told InternetNews.com. "The dynamics within that are pretty interesting with Android representing really the bulk of the growth with 224 projects, which is about 25 percent of all new projects."

Coming in third place behind Android and iPhone is Windows Mobile with 75 new projects in 2009, raising its total to 248 open source software projects in all. According to a recent study, Windows Mobile has been losing share in terms of adoption over the course of the last year.

Black Duck's data comes from its knowledge base, which is produced by a team of people referred to as "spiders" that scour every known open source repository to collect data. The Black Duck knowledge base is also at the heart of Black Duck's business, which aims to provide users with information on code licensing and related issues.

In terms of methodology, Black Duck's report isn't limited to looking at only full-fledged, downloadable applications that reside in an app store.

"Not all of these projects are applications. Some are but there also libraries, widgets and frameworks," Vescuso said. "None of these projects come from app stores -- they come from the project repositories. We're going right to the source. We're not going to the stores where these projects might be available for download."

Vescuso noted that Android likely gained in popularity in 2009 thanks in part to its open source nature and the fact it has the support of a wide range of handset vendors and operators.

Still, Vescuso added that open source and the iPhone also have an important relationship.

"Even though you think of the iPhone as a closed, proprietary platform, it is significantly built on open source," Vescuso said. "It heavily leverages open source and so it benefits from open source. In an odd way ... as the iPhone succeeds, to a large extent, open source is succeeding -- even though iPhone is not an open platform."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.




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