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License Compliance Tool for Mobile Open Source Developers

  • September 13, 2010
  • By Sean Michael Kerner
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Open source licenses are being widely used inside of mobile app store applications, according to a new study from software services and support vendor OpenLogic.

OpenLogic analyzed over 450 Apple App Store and Google Android apps and found that 88 percent of Android and 41 percent of Apple iOS apps had an open source component. The data helps underscore OpenLogic's new commercial service called OLEX App Store edition, which is intended to help enable App Store developers and managers to identify and maintain compliance with open source licensing requirements.

While the percentage of open source in Android apps reported by OpenLogic seems high, it's important to note the survey did not examine an equal number of Android and Apple iOS applications.

Kim Weins, senior vice president of marketing at OpenLogic told InternetNews.com that her company scanned 364 Apple iPhone/iPad apps. In contrast only 90 Android apps were scanned. Both sets of apps scanned were free apps as opposed to commercial application that the app stores sell.

"We suspected that there would be a lot of open source used in mobile apps, since there is so much open source used in software in general," Weins said. "What was a bit surprising was the level of GPL usage in iOS apps given the recent statements by the Free Software Foundation about the incompatibility with the iTunes Store Terms of Service."

OpenLogic found that GPL type licenses represent 8 percent of the Apple apps and only 3 percent of Android apps. Weins added that in this research, OpenLogic scanned for a subset of all the possible open source licenses.

"We scanned for GPL-type, MIT, BSD, and Apache," Weins said. "In iOS, MIT was the most popular. In Android, Apache was the most popular."

While the OpenLogic study identified open source usage in mobile app stores, Weins noted that it did not check for compliance or non-compliance with open source licenses.

Open source license compliance in general has been a hot topic in recent years. Multiple vendors have had legal suits brought against themfor non-compliance. In an effort to help developers and vendors comply with open source licensing requirement the Linux Foundation recently launched a new compliance program in an effort to make compliance easier to achieve.

"We participated in the announcement of the Linux Foundation's Open Compliance Program," Weins said. "That program will help to educate companies about how to comply with open source licenses. OpenLogic's products and services can then help operationalize those compliance processes."

One of those products is the new OLEX App Store edition. The new solution builds on the same feature set in the OLEX Enterprise solution that helps organization identify and manage their open source usage and policies.

"OLEX App Store includes most of the same features as OLEX Enterprise Edition, but applied to the unique requirements of app stores," Weins said. "Developers can access the Developer Portal to scan their own apps in a self-service mode and ensure they are in compliance prior to submission to an app store."

"The app store owner can receive certified scan results that helps them ensure the app is in compliance with both app store policies and open source licenses," she added.

Ensuring compliance from both developers and the app store itself is what differentiates the app store model from a typical enterprise software effort.

"Developers provide the apps to the app store and then the app store provides the app to consumers," Weins said. "As a result, both the app developer and the app store proprietor need to be concerned with open source license compliance. Given the high level of open source we detected in mobile apps, we believe this will be the next frontier for open source compliance."

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

Tags: open source tool, compliance, licenses




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