2011-04-22

Motorola is working on its own mobile OS

This blog post lists the steps that Motorola has taken towards creating its own operating system and then explains why that decision makes sense.

The following is a timeline of steps that Motorola has taken so far.
  • In April 2010, Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha makes the following statement during the Q1 earnings call:
    I’ve always felt that owning your OS is important, provided you have an ecosystem, you have all the services and you have an ability and the scale to execute on keeping that OS at the leading edge. And I continue to believe that at some point, if we have all of those attributes, that owning our own OS will be a very important thing. [1]
  • In May 2010, Motorola bought a Linux-based platform called Azingo Mobile [1]. It includes the ability to run web applications on Webkit.
  • In July 2010, Motorola bought the company 280 North [2]. Since then, the company website has become dead. 280 North produces an open source JavaScript framework called Cappuccino [3] that allows one to write desktop-class web applications. It isn’t programmed in native JavaScript, but in a new language called Objective-J that is compiled to JavaScript. Both the language and its API are very similar to Objective C and the Cocoa API used for iOS. One intriguing feature of Cappuccino is NativeHost:
    NativeHost lets you build your Cappuccino application for desktop platforms and distribute it like any other desktop app. Support for Mac OS X is currently included, with Windows and Linux support coming soon. [2011-02-23]
  • In March 2011, an article from InformationWeek is titled “Motorola Mobility Building Web-Based OS” and based on a rumor. Quote:
    Over the past nine months, Motorola has been hiring engineering talent that would well-suited to create a new mobile operating system. Its team appears to include a significant number of ex-Apple and Adobe personnel, including Gilles Drieu, VP of software engineering at Motorola Mobility, Benoit Marchant, director of engineering at Motorola Mobility, and Sean Kranzberg, also a director of engineering at Motorola Mobility.
Comments:
  • Choosing web technologies: Motorola will have to succeed where Nokia failed. Choosing web technologies for doing so is a smart move, because one avoids reinventing the wheel and there are many developers who already know how to work with such a platform. Palm also made this choice with webOS and it allowed them to catch up remarkably quickly.
  • Cappuccino and iOS: Cappuccino’s choice of creating a language on top of JavaScript made sense in a historic context, because JavaScript has had a lot of problems. Alas, it also distances Cappuccino from the web development community which is presently making amazing progress. On the plus side, as both Cappuccino’s language and API are familiar to iOS developers, it is immediately attractive to them. That allows Motorola to tap into a large pool of developers.
  • Google and Motorola: Currently, Motorola is selling many Android devices, but Google is not a dependable partner, as they frequently change their allegiance, for example: Motorola (first Android 2 cell phone), HTC (first Nexus One), Samsung (second Nexus One), and Motorola again (first Android Honeycomb tablet). Thus, it makes sense for Motorola to strive for independence. Quote:
    “Google is shooting itself in the foot,” said the person familiar with Motorola's plans, citing what he sees as concerns about Android fragmentation, product differentiation, and issues related to Google's support for its partners. [2]
Related reading:
  1. Motorola hints at owning mobile OS, acquires Azingo
  2. Motorola Snaps Up 280 North For $20 Million
  3. Cappuccino Web Framework - Build Desktop Class Applications in Objective-J and JavaScript
  4. Motorola Mobility Building Web-Based OS
  5. What is the best way to combine a cell phone and a laptop? [Blog post triggered by Motorola’s efforts to do the same.]
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