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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?

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 and researcher who has authored more than 80 peer-reviewed papers and eight books and has been involved with several standards bodies. Originally an astrophysicist, Alasdair now works as a consultant and journalist, focusing on open hardware, machine learning, big data, and emerging technologies, with expertise in electronics, especially wireless devices and distributed sensor networks, mobile computing, and the internet of things. He runs a small consulting company and has written for Make: magazine, Motherboard/VICE, Hackaday,, and the O’Reilly Radar. In the past, he has mesh-networked the Moscone Center, caused a US Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was at the time the most distant object yet discovered.

Joe Bowser


Joe Bowser is the Lead Developer on the Sensei On Device team that is deploying Machine Learning technologies into various products at Adobe. Prior to this, he was the creator of PhoneGap for Android and 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, most of which involve First Person View mini-quadcopters.

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).