Could open source overtake the iPhone?

A Linux official sees parallels between the iPhone's momentum and technologies from now-defunct Sun Microsystems

Apple's momentum in the mobile computing space with its iPhone platform could be eclipsed  by the open source movement, similar to how open source took the steam out of the sails of Sun Microsystems, the executive director of the Linux Foundation stressed on Wednesday.

The iPhones of enterprise computing a few years ago were Sun technologies, the Solaris OS and SPARC CPU platform, said Executive Director Jim Zemlin, during The Linux Collaboration Summit  event in San Francisco.

"You know what? That company does not exist as an independent company today," Zemlin said, referring to Oracle's acquisition of Sun.

After his presentation, Zemlin elaborated on his perspectives on Sun and its Solaris OS as well as Apple's stance vis a vis the open source community. Solaris has had to compete with the longtime open source Linux OS; Solaris did not become open source itself until 2005.

"In a few years, you may just find that what happened to Sun happens to Apple as open source and Linux and this huge collective of companies comes back with some pretty stunning stuff," Zemlin said.

Sun's fate, meanwhile, might have been different, he said.

"I think that if (former Sun CEO) Scott McNealy had open-sourced Solaris a little bit earlier, it may have been a different world, but that's a lesson of history," Zemlin said.

Solaris is still offered by Oracle, as are SPARC systems.

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