Nokia site caters to open source developers

A new Nokia Web site, ostdev.net, allows software developers to use the open source model to collaborate on the creation of...

A new Nokia Web site, ostdev.net, allows software developers to use the open source model to collaborate on the creation of software for the company's upcoming Media Terminal home entertainment system.

The Media Terminal, which is expected to compete with Microsoft's Xbox video game console when both are launched later this year, will run on what Nokia calls the open standards terminal (OST) platform, based on Linux, Xfree86 and Mozilla.

The device is being designed to combine the Internet with digital broadcasting to give consumers a single place for organising and storing their media, and will be Nokia's first OST-based product.

The Finnish company plans to start shipping the terminal in Sweden by the third quarter and in Germany and the UK shortly after. The media box could make it to the US by the year's end, according to Rickard Nelgér, head of product management for Nokia's home communications division.

To make sure the ostdev.net Web site helps the open source community develop Media Terminal applications, Nokia is working with US-based open source software development company CollabNet.

CollabNet, which is also working with Sun Microsystems on its Jxta peer-to-peer (P2P) project, will manage collaboration with the open source community on applications for OST and the Media Terminal. It will also provide tools for open-source development such as bug tracking services, collaboration aids and logs to monitor the software's development.

Nokia plans to use software as a link between the Internet, television, digital video and other media functions. Users could, for example, pull pictures off of their digital camera and load them onto a television, add sound from their MP3 player and create a family slide show, all via open software protocols.

As many companies including Microsoft and Motorola have shown interest in developing media terminals, Nokia fears early growth in the market could be stunted by a lack of interoperability between the various systems.

With each vendor keeping its system closed, Nokia decided that consumers might be frustrated by being forced to choose one platform over another and limiting themselves to that platform's applications.

By making its platform open source, Nokia could let developers work with the same code base and make sure their applications all work on the Nokia platform. The company even hopes to attract some of its competition to the new Web site.

"We would rather have a fairly large part of a huge market, than a huge part of a small market," Nelger said.

Microsoft recently criticised the open source model, saying that opening code threatens companies' intellectual property and gives them less incentive to innovate. While CollabNet does not claim that the open source model works in every case, it says its model drives development and innovation in many instances.

"Nokia is demonstrating that for some applications, open source is the right thing for the business," said Bernie Mills, vice-president of marketing at CollabNet. "It is indicating that even though you are seeing some questions around certain Linux companies, open source as a business model is alive and well."

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