Thursday, March 13, 2008

OSiM USA 2008 - Day 2

The second day of the conference was awesome.

As I said at the end of my last post, I was expecting more interesting sessions on second day. But I had even more fun than expected. Most enjoyable sessions to me were the 2 demos - one by Soonr and another by Matthew from OpenedHand.

I asked many presenters about what sort of business model do they envision for open source application developers, and I didn't get any conclusive answer from them. However I found partial answer to my question in the demo from Soonr (and also from the talk with funambol yesterday). In short, Soonr allows users to save their data (docs, contacts, etc.) in the cloud (an account with them) and lets them access it using their cell phone or desktops. It customizes this data to suite the browser's capabilities (downsize powerpoint slides etc.). Basically it has the same benefits as having mobile versions of all Google/Yahoo services. However Soonr makes the process seamless. I liked the idea of how they handle the stolen cell phone use-case. If the user looses his cell phone, he can configure his account to disallow access from that cell phone.

I particularly liked the OpenedHand presentation because it was the only hardcore technical presentation in the entire conference. Matthew Allum (CEO, founder of OpenedHand), demonstrated the Clutter GUI his company is working on. The presentation was impressive. I have almost never attended a presentation where the slide show hasn't been done using PowerPoint. I suppose I might have seen OpenOffice presentations, but those were clearly not flashy. Matthew however gave presentation on his Ubuntu laptop and his slides had more fascinating effects than any PowerPoint slides I had ever seen. When I asked him at the end of the session about which software he used, he said that it's one his own little scripts. I know now where to look for, while preparing my next presentation... Back to "Clutter". If the phone has hardware support for graphics acceleration then Clutter gives all the snappy effects that you see in modern iPhone-like phones. See it for yourself. I have dowloaded and built the Clutter from o-hand's svn repository and played with many examples myself. It's very well structured source code and easy to build. Matthew's demo was done on an iPod-touch, but I heard it will also be able to run in upcoming GTA02 version of Openmoko phone.

Among all the people I met at conference, I enjoyed talking to Quim Gil the most. He is the product manager of Maemo project and I have read him on mailing lists from time to time. The discussions we had were very educational for me. I had many questions on Maemo (some of them naive and impractical), but Quim was nice enough to answer all of them with enthusiasm. I am a software engineer by profession and have worked with bunch of smart people; but never have I had such a frank discussion with as senior a person as a product manager. I think that is why we call it "Open" source. Thanks to Quim, Matthew and Hal (Funambol), I left the conference with an inspired spirit.

I was very excited about hearing Sean Moss-Pultz, but I got little disappointed when he couldn't make it to the conference. However Michael Shiloh gave very informative session on Openmoko. I got to handle the GTA02 that he passed among the audience. It was nice to see it, before I actually buy it in next few months.

There were couple of panel discussions on how web 2.0 is different from or similar to mobile 2.0. Among a lot of arguments and opinions I found Fabrizio's (Funambol CEO) comment very curious. It's well known that mobile browsers are lagging in AJAX and flash support as compared to desktop, which impedes the access to web 2.0 from mobile phones. With iPhone's browser interface and n810's microb engine that goal is looking within reach. However according to Fabrizio, mobile 2.0 will be made up with native apps connected to the web, rather than a fancy browser. I have always liked this idea personally even on desktops. But only time will tell how the web will unfold on the phone in our hands.

Ari Jaaski's presentation in the morning was as per expectations. Carolyn Lewko did very good job of hosting today's sessions. Andreas Constantinou also had many insightful comments during various sessions. Dan Morril's Android presentation was also nice. I would have liked to ask him about difficulties in porting android to other platforms because of the closed source binaries at the core of android, but then I changed my mind. My hunch is, Google will at least provide pre-compiled binaries for various platforms in future, even if they won't open source everything. Let's see. I hope someday I will be able to run android on OpenMoko and Nokia tablets.

Overall, this was a successful beginning of the US chapter of OSiM. Congratulations to the organizers. I hope there will be increased participation from the developer community next time. After all, the Open source phenomenon is nothing without the Geeks in the Garage. If big corporations are to involve more in open source, they should get to meet face to face with the real innovators. Conferences like this can play key role in that.

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