Nokia's Maemo: A Free Software Platform?

Neal H. Walfield neal at
Tue Jan 30 15:39:31 UTC 2007

At Tue, 30 Jan 2007 16:08:34 +0100,
Werner Koch wrote:
> On Tue, 30 Jan 2007 14:47, neal at said:
> > common feeling.  I call this assertion into question: Maemo relies
> > heavily on non-free components and Nokia has constructed technical and
> > psychological barriers which prevent a free platform from emerging.  I
> I talked at the LinuxTag 2005 with Devesh Kothari, Nokia's product
> manager for "OSS", who is more a techie than a suit.  He assured me
> that the use of Opera is only a temporary solution and that they are
> already working on a replacing it using a free browser (Konquerer).  I
> have still not seen any movement in this regard.  AFAIK, even the
> promised Vorbis support using the DSP has still not been implemented.

This is one of the common misconceptions in the free software
community regarding the 770 and n800: that the only non-free
components are Opera and Flash.  As I point out in the note, Nokia
holds back several important pieces of the platform including how the
battery works and several central UI components.  Unlike Opera, these
components are less easily replaced, I think.

> BTW, it is not only Nokia.  Other vendors operate the same way. For
> instance, Hauppage's MVP box: Many people spent a lot of time
> improving the devices but at one point you are trapped the same way as
> when working on Windows.  In that case the driver for the MPEG decoder
> and video device of the PowerPC chip.  IBM, that huge free software
> supporter won't release any specs.

I wasn't suggesting it was only Nokia but observing the amount of
enthusiasm towards Nokia, especially in the GNOME community, I thought
it pertinent to analyze this particular case.  Your example is a good
one, though, and one which I was not aware of.

> Maybe these vendors are part of a greater plan: Embrace the hackers
> and let them spend their time on cool para-free gadgets so that they
> can't work on free code ;-)

para-free is a nice term; it immediately invokes the image of


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