Android boosts open source development for mobile

Mobile open source software projects continue to double annually, with more enterprise applications added to the mix

For the third year in a row, mobile open source software projects have more than doubled in number, with the current count at around 18,000, up from around 8,000 in 2010. The rise of mobile computing in the enterprise, coupled with the Android's rapid adoption worldwide, contributes to the trend as developers race to be the first to market with mobile innovations.

Those findings come from Black Duck Software, which maintains the Black Duck Knowledge Base, a database of more than 600,000 open source projects from 5,000-plus sites. Of the new mobile open source projects in 2011, 70 were developed for Android, whereas 20 percent were built for iOS.

Almost 10 percent of new projects in 2011 were aimed at the enterprise, according to Black Duck, with offerings for security, such as, which implements HOTP and TOTP algorithms for two-factor authentication; for encryption, seen in OpenMEAP, a platform for secure transfer of data over mobile; for cloud computing, including Cumulus, a CloudStack Android client; for mobile payments, such as Zimbrew, a secure end-to-end mobile payment platform; and for database management, including TouchDB, a lightweight Apache CouchDB-compatible engine.

Apple's share of new mobile OSS projects for 2011 represented a 19 percent drop from 2010, but the number of overall new iOS projects grew year over year, according to Peter Vescuso, executive VP of marketing and business development. "I don't see this so much as developers moving away from iOS as shifting their focus as Android shipments and installed bases accelerate," Vescuso told InfoWorld.

Android's worldwide adoption skyrocketed from 30 percent to 51 percent in 2011, while iOS's market share increased by 5 percent to around 25 percent.

One of the drivers behind the trend is the abundance of high-quality open source code that's readily available for developers to harvest and use for their own projects, according to Vescuso. "We see over 18,000 [open source] projects targeted specifically to mobile platforms, plus around 600,000 open source projects to choose from which offer other useful components. Why reinvent the wheel?" he said.

Vescuso also credit the open source movement itself as a driver of innovation -- one of the oft-repeated mantras in support of open source. "The OSS developer community is embracing mobile, which we see as part of a larger trend whereby open source is driving innovation," he said. "The OSS development model puts developers in the position of leading as innovators, rather than following."

Jay Lyman, a senior analyst at 451 Research, said Black Duck's numbers reflects momentum behind open source. "Just as we see in cloud computing, open source software is prominent in the mobile space where vibrant mobile operating systems, applications, and communities require sufficient knowledge of codebases and proactive approach with policy for efficiency and innovation," he said.

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