This story is the epitome of why I love open source: Anyone can take anything from it and build on top of it. And that’s exactly what former CEO of Apple John Sculley is doing through his Obi Worldphone.
Obi Worldphone has introduced two high-quality, premium-designed smartphones — SF1 and SJ1.5 — targeted at Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The SF1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, comes with 2 or 3GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of storage with microSD card. It has a 13-megapixel main camera (powered by Sony’s IMX214 Exmor sensor) and a 5-megapixel front facing camera and dual microphone for better voice. The SF1 showcases Dolby Audio with 7.1 channels of high-fidelity sound. The 2GB model will be sold for $199 and 3GB model will be sold for $249.
The low-end Obi Worldphone SJ1.5 is a 3G smartphone powered by the MediaTek MT6580 Quad-Core processor. In addition to featuring easy-access dual SIM slots, the SJ1.5 comes with 16GB of internal storage and a card slot for memory expansion. The SJ1.5 sports front and rear cameras and is protected by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The phone will be sold for $129 USD.
It’s all about licence and attitude
Although Google Android, when you get it pre-installed on partner devices, is not an open source product, it is based on the Android Open Source Project (aka AOSP). Anyone is free to take AOSP code and build a competing platform. That’s what Amazon tried (and seemingly failed) to do with its Fire line of devices. That’s what Cyanogen is trying to do (although Cyanogen’s CEO is violating the spirit of open source, arrogantly telling everyone that they will take Android away from Google).
What allows this unique phenomenon is the licences used by Google for AOSP. There is no restriction.
Most open source communities operate this way, but for a few exceptions — notably Canonical and its Ubuntu project. Anyone wanting to use Ubuntu needs ‘permission’ from Canonical to use the project! It’s no surprise that SteamOS moved to Debian and Google chose Gentoo OS for OnHub instead of Snappy Ubuntu. I hope Canonical will realize it in time and do something about it. But I digress.
The point I’m trying to drive home is that companies using or building open source software would be wise to understand and value the open source development and distribution model. Open source and restrictions on use are like oil and water; they don’t mix.
Unlike Canonical, Google has been extremely transparent and open about its open source project. And that’s the essence of open source and that’s why I love and use it!