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Open Source and Mobile Development: Where Does it go From Here?

Moderated by:
James Turner (O'Reilly Media)
Alasdair Allan (Babilim Light Industries), Joe Bowser (Adobe Systems), Mike Wolfson (Epocrates)
Average rating: **...
(2.67, 3 ratings)

In the dark days of mobile development, there were no app stores. Code had to be developed in cooperation with mobile carriers, using proprietary frameworks. Then came iOS, and then Android. Suddenly, everyone was developing mobile apps, and running across the same problems. Sounds like a good fit for open source!

Android, being Java-based, leverages decades of open source Java libraries. iOS has use of the rich set of C and C++ libraries. Both platforms have their own new frameworks and libraries that have been custom-tailored to provide new UI and functional capabilities as well. Even Microsoft’s mobile platforms can make use of the growing .NET open source repositories.

So, what are the best-in-class packages that every mobile developer should have in their belt? What ones are most sorely missing? And are there any special legal perils to using GPL (or other restrictive libraries) in mobile apps?

Photo of James Turner

James Turner

O'Reilly Media

James Turner, contributing editor for, is a freelance journalist who has written for publications as diverse as the Christian Science Monitor, Processor, Linuxworld Magazine, and WIRED Magazine. In addition to his shorter writing, he has also written two books on Java Web Development (MySQL & JSP Web Applications" and “Struts: Kick Start”) as well as the O’Reilly title “Developing Enterprise iOS Applications”. He is the former Senior Editor of LinuxWorld Magazine and Senior Contributing Editor for Linux Today. He has also spent more than 30 years as a software engineer and system administrator, and currently works as a Senior Software Engineer for a company in the Boston area. His past employers have included the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Xerox AI Systems, Solbourne Computer, Interleaf, the Christian Science Monitor and contracting positions at BBN and Fidelity Investments. He is a committer on the Apache Jakarta Struts project and served as the Struts 1.1B3 release manager. He lives in a 200 year old Colonial farmhouse in Derry, NH along with his wife and son. He is an open water diver and instrument-rated private pilot, as well as an avid science fiction fan.

Photo of Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan

Babilim Light Industries

Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker, tinkerer, and journalist who has recently been spending a lot of time thinking about the Internet of Things, which he thinks is broken. He is the author of a number of books and sometimes also stands in front of cameras. You can often find him at conferences talking about interesting things or deploying sensors to measure them. A couple of years ago, he rolled out a mesh network of five hundred sensor motes covering the entirety of Moscone West during Google I/O. He’s still recovering. A few years before that, he caused a privacy scandal by uncovering that your iPhone was recording your location all the time, which caused several class-action lawsuits and a US Senate hearing. Some years on, he still isn’t sure what to think about that.

Alasdair sporadically writes blog posts about things that interest him or, more frequently, provides commentary in 140 characters or less. He is a contributing editor for Make magazine and a contributor to O’Reilly Radar. Alasdair is a former academic. As part of his work, he built a distributed peer-to-peer network of telescopes that, acting autonomously, reactively scheduled observations of time-critical events. Notable successes included contributing to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered, a gamma-ray burster at a redshift of 8.2.

Joe Bowser

Adobe Systems

Joe is the creator of PhoneGap for Android and is the longest contributing committer to the PhoneGap and Apache Cordova projects respectively. When he is not contributing to Open Source at Adobe, he spends his spare time working on various hardware projects at home, as well as at the Vancouver Hack Space, which he co-founded.

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Mike Wolfson


Professional Android developer and enthusiast with 20+ years working with Java, and 5+ years developing and leading mobile development teams. Google Developer Expert in Android (GDE).