oFono: Nokia & Intel start a new Linux project against Android?

I am not really sure whether it’s a big deal or not, but an interesting new mobile open source project, called Ofono, has been quietly announced today.

And, judging on who’s involved – Nokia and Intel -it might be a pretty big deal.

It  seems that Nokia and Intel are trying to create a new Linux based telephony software stack for smartphones/mobile internet devices.

The new stack should handle various low level GSM/UMTS services/tasks (like talking to and connecting to a GSM/UMTS network, making a call, accessing SIM card, etc;), so that developers can easily create mobile apps without worrying about them.

Sounds like pretty low level and technical stuff, way below where most app and even phone UI  developers tread into.

But it could be a part of a bigger intiative, like Intel’s effort to get into mobile telecom and new, always-on,  mobile computing device Nokia keeps hinting about. The movers of the project – people from Maemo part of Nokia and mobile initiatives at Intel – strongly hint at it.  The platform (s) built above and with oFono might eventually become a serious  alternative to Android, Symbian and other mobile OSes.

oFono architeture diagram looks like this:

ofon-artecture

Here’s what their first blog post on the site says:

Intel and Nokia are pleased to jointly announce the oFono project, an open source project for developing an open source telephony solution.

oFono.org is a place to bring developers together around designing an infrastructure for building mobile telephony (GSM/UMTS) applications.…

oFono is licensed under GPLv2, and it includes a high-level D-Bus API for use by telephony applications of any license. oFono also includes a low-level plug-in API for integrating with Open Source as well as third party telephony stacks, cellular modems and storage back-ends. The plug-in API functionality is modeled on public standards, in particular 3GPP TS 27.007 “AT command set for User Equipment (UE).”

Nokia and Intel will jointly maintain the oFono project. We’d like to invite all developers to join the ofono.org effort and community.

The Ofono About also states:

… it aims to provide an easy to use interface that can be used to create rich telephony applications without requiring one to have a deep understanding of the underlying technology and its limitations.

… APIs for all aspects of telephony are planned, including but not limited to Voice calls, SMS, Cell Broadcast, Supplementary Services and SIM Phonebooks.

… aims to make writing telephony applications as easy as possible. Thus oFono will take care of the core logic, including things necessary for standards compliance. This will allow application writers to focus on what they should be doing: presentation aspects and funky animated UIs.

And what it all means? Well, as I said, I’m not really sure. Sounds like a potentially big thing. Well, here’s one take on it:

The oFono project could end up being just another quiet open source collaboration that eventually gets superceded or overshadowed by other contending technologies. Yet one gets a sense of witnessing the birth of something much larger…

In collaborating on such a key component of their open source projects — both of which target MIDs, but using different processor architectures — Intel and Nokia may well realize that time is running out to keep Google’s Android from running away with the mobile device world. By collaborating and using the power of open source, they may well have a chance to quickly catch up on telephony while Google hurries to expand Android to support MIDs and netbooks.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • HereAndNow

    In the near future, I can imagine virtually all mobile devices (MIDs,netbooks,notebooks,…) including typical smartphone electronics (3G, GPS, accelerometer, digital compass, etc.), for the simple reason that there are a lot of great applications that can be built to leverage it. The ability to make phone calls/send SMS is likely to become important, as well.

    A smartphone OS, like Android, would certainly be able to make use of the additional hardware, but current desktop OSes not so much. Thus, it probably makes sense to also add this functionality to desktop versions of Linux.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    The key issue here is battery life. And session based (laptops, netbooks)
    with always-on (mobile and smart phones) devices.

    There's is a world of difference between 3-8 hrs of battery life on a
    laptop and 24-100 hrs. on a phone. Of course, the same is the difference in
    capabilities. Whoever bridges the gap will rule the next gen of devices.

  • http://www.staska.net Staska

    The key issue here is battery life. And session based (laptops, netbooks)
    with always-on (mobile and smart phones) devices.

    There's is a world of difference between 3-8 hrs of battery life on a
    laptop and 24-100 hrs. on a phone. Of course, the same is the difference in
    capabilities. Whoever bridges the gap will rule the next gen of devices.