Volantis Who? - a UK Open Source Success Story
Published 14:23, 04 February 09
Guildford is not famous for being a hotbed of open source, but that's where the British open source company Volantis is based.
It's not as well known as it ought to be, probably because it sits astride the computing-mobile divide, helping mobile operators and others to display Web content on their devices.
Writing code that translates Web sites to mobiles isn't hard, but keeping up with the thousands of mobiles platforms is. Indeed, it's beyond the capabilities of a single company – which is where the free software comes in.
By opening up its software, Volantis lets anyone create the relevant bits of code needed for any given platform. If there's enough demand, someone will write it. As its Web site explains:
Since its launch in 2000, Volantis' vision has developed a standards-based approach to ensuring multi-channel delivery across PCs, wireless, TV and new IP-based devices. To date, the Company has invested over 300 man-years in research and development to make its "write once, run anywhere" approach to content delivery a reality.
Its key product here is the Volantis Mobility Server:
a java-based development and runtime platform, allowing web developers to build and run their own mobile Internet applications across over 5,900 devices.
It does through what it calls “connectors”. These:
integrate with a variety of dynamic content sources and Web 2.0 Internet services. Developers specify the connectors in their mobile sites by using simple XML markup tags, reducing the reliance on Java programming, automatically ingesting, transforming, bundling and optimizing content across all mobile devices.
Standard connectors can be combined to build "mash-up" mobile applications, integrating content from websites, databases, web services, XML documents and popular Web 2.0 services from online applications including Picasa, Flickr and Google Docs.
The last three – Picasa, Flicr and Google Docs – are recent additions, announced today. Here are some details of what the new connectors can do:
Picasa connector: Picasa is a Google application that helps users to find, organize and share photos. Photos are grouped in albums, and tagged for quick retrieval. The Picasa connector allows for the inclusion of photographs in mobile mash-ups.
The photographs are automatically optimized by the Volantis Mobility Server mobile devices, through reference to Volantis' integrated device database.
Flickr connector: Flickr, owned by Yahoo!, is an image and video community service for users to organize and share photos. The Flickr connector allows for the inclusion of photos in mobile mash-ups. The photographs are automatically optimized by the Volantis Mobility Server mobile devices, through reference to Volantis' integrated device database.
Google Docs connector: Google Docs includes on-line word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications. The Google Docs connector enables the inclusion of these documents in mash-ups, which are then automatically optimized to be read on mobile devices by the Volantis Mobility Server mobile devices, through reference to Volantis' integrated device database.
The word processor will be the first application supported, with spreadsheet and presentation application to follow later in the year.
What's interesting about Volantis's announcement is that it is indicative of how mobiles are becoming fully-fledged computing platforms, able to handle highly-graphical applications like Picasa and Flickr.
Similarly, the inclusion of Google Docs shows that users are interested in accessing their documents anywhere, using their mobile, which becomes a proxy for their desktop.
Volantis is an excellent example of a company producing powerful, open infrastructural code whose depth and richness could not be matched using closed source development methods. It's also a great example of yet another British open source software success story, albeit one maybe a little too shy and retiring for its own good.