I have rarely been participating in a promotion of OSGi that went so well as our panel on the CCNC 2006 in Las Vegas. And as some can testify, I have been at many. It was my task to kick off the panel. For the occasion, I had written a new presentation that took a different approach. Instead of listing and explaining the features, I tried to define the problem we are trying to solve. In 1998 our goal was to create a standard for applications that run on home gateways. We were faced with a couple of hard problems: no defined hardware platform or operating system, a bewildering number of network standards and devices, unattended devices, and last but not least the requirement to enable competition in implementations.
By trying to solve the incredibly hard software problem of home automation, we more or less accidentally created a very elegant component software system that solves a much broader class of problems than home automation. From this problem analysis, I sketched the vision of where we want to go: To become the component model of choice for embedded, desktop, and server applications. Of course this is a high level vision that sometimes irritates people because there is definitely much work to do before we are there. However, the wonderful part was that in this case that the vision became so nicely rooted in the real world.
Dave Marples could take the stage and talk about the GST project. This is a European Union sponsored project to standardize the telematics unit in cars. With his usual flair he explained how important OSGi was for this project. Vince Izzo (Business Development, Motorola) then had a very interesting story about the Home Genie project. The Home Genie project was a home automation product marketed by Shell. The project unfortunately failed but the experience made him very enthusiastic about the OSGi Service Platform. He goes on record that the OSGi Framework was rock solid and a pleasure to work with. This was a very strong testimony for the OSGi Service Platform, but even better, it indirectly explained why OSGi is not as big as it should be today. We started out to solve the home automation software problem but when we did, it had become clear that that our target market had collapsed.
Jon Bostrom could go in for the kill with his exciting vision for the mobile phone. Jon has been involved with mobile phones and Java before there were Java phones. He worked with NTT Docomo to start iMode and has been involved with almost all Java related phone technology. He is currently Director Java Platforms at Nokia. His work has always been an uphill battle. It is hard to believe with 800 million Java phones on the market, but many people industry laughed at the idea of putting Java on a phone. I guess these people must feel like the book publishers that turned down J. K. Rowling. Jon has become convinced that the current model of Java on the phone is hindering the further evolution of the market. The current standard, MIDP, is so crippled that you can not do much more than games. In this standard, developers can not create components that are leveraged by other components. In the real world there are a tremendous number of exciting ideas that need a device like a mobile phone. Tapping this market will release an enormous amount of energy that can benefit the operator, the manufacturer, service providers, and obviously the end users. To quote a paraphrase of Jon: “We need to let the developers stand on the shoulders of other developers”. Something you can specifically not do in MIDP. The work we have done in the OSGi to create a mobile platform specifically enables a cooperative application/component model. To show the dedication of Nokia to this model, he told the audience that there will be phones with an OSGi Mobile Platform available in the coming months.
The beautiful thing of the panel was that we had this high level, software oriented, but rather high level vision of a bundle market that was supported by 3 different industries with concrete applications. However, the best thing came when we had the questions. There is always an attendant that looks very skeptical and asks: “Are there any deployments of this”? And it felt so good to be able to answer: “Yes, we had 10 million downloads of Eclipse in the last year”.