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Open source challenges a proprietary Internet of Things

Patrick Thibodeau | March 5, 2014
Linux Foundation believes it has the code for unlocking Internet of Things and bringing success

For vendors that want connectivity, the question is simple: Do device and appliance makers want to write software for every single product or smartphone "or do they just want to go download this code and put it into their product and know that it's taken care of?"

Having such code available will deliver the network effect and propel device interoperability, said Zemlin. "You are going to see a lot of products this year with this code in it," he said.

The AllSeen Alliance launched with major vendor support, including LG Electronics, Panasonic, Sharp, Qualcomm, AT&T Digital Life, and others. But Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, says what's missing in Linux Foundation's effort is the support of the mega-vendors like Samsung and Apple.

"The guys who are dominating the market are unfortunately not the guys who are jumping on this particular bandwagon," said Enderle.

Samsung likes products to work with its products, said Enderle. "When you are dominant, you don't like this stuff (open standards) because it lets other people into your market," he said.

Enderle says the major electronics firms won't use AllSeen unless one of three things happens: They are forced to interoperability by some government action; they stop being dominant; or consumers insist on it. "One of those elements has to be in place before some of these big guys will move," he said.

There is nothing like a Microsoft in the electronics world, no company that could through sheer market power, manage to set a global document standard. But open source is another matter.

Linux dominates high performance computing, and Linux OS-based servers, thanks to cloud providers, are rapidly gaining in market share. Open source systems, such as Hadoop, are critical in Big Data, an essential part of the Internet of Things.

"Open source has an important role to play, and the earlier that's acknowledged and facilitated, I think that's better for everyone," said Andrew Aitken, managing director of Black Duck Consulting, which is part of Black Duck Software.

Aitken said the industry is past the point where a single firm can gain control.

"When you have a Cisco and Qualcomm on one end and Nike, GE and similar (firms) at the other end of the stack, there are too many significant players for one to dominate," said Aitken. But that might not necessarily be true for vertical industry.

Aiken believes much of the the success of the AllSeen Alliance will depend on its governance, and an ability to be inclusive.

But on the importance of open source, Aitken says its stakeholders "span industries and cross international borders" and it represents the best approach for creating an Internet of Things.


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