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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), 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?

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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 director at Babilim Light Industries and a scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. An expert on the internet of things and sensor systems, he’s famous for hacking hotel radios, deploying mesh networked sensors through the Moscone Center during Google I/O, and for being behind one of the first big mobile privacy scandals when, back in 2011, he revealed that Apple’s iPhone was tracking user location constantly. He’s written eight books and writes regularly for, Hackaday, and other outlets. A former astronomer, he also built a peer-to-peer autonomous telescope network that detected what was, at the time, the most distant object ever discovered.

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Joe Bowser


Joe Bowser is a senior computer scientist at Adobe, where he’s the lead developer on the sensei on device team that’s deploying machine learning technologies into various products at Adobe. Previously, he was the creator of PhoneGap for Android and the longest contributing committer to the PhoneGap and Apache Cordova projects. When he’s not contributing to open source at Adobe, he spends his spare time working on various hardware projects, most of which involve first-person-view miniquadcopters.

Photo of Mike Wolfson

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).