The open source ecosystem for mobile devices has grown larger with the announcement of a new Linux-based operating system for smartphones in the form of Maru OS, which is now open source.

Maru is a Debian-based operating system that lets you run a complete desktop environment from a smartphone. By connecting it to an external display, you get what looks like a traditional, full-blown Debian GNU/Linux system, while still having access to your Android phone.

Maru is not the first platform of this type. Ubuntu for Android did very much the same thing, but it is no longer maintained. And, of course, many other Android mobile devices can connect to external displays, keyboards and mice -- but then you have to use Android, which is a far cry from a real GNU/Linux environment.

For that reason, Maru -- which is based on Android but supports the traditional desktop Debian software stack -- is a big deal. It lets users have their mobile OS and a GNU/Linux desktop at the same time.

Maru was not originally open source. But on Feb. 11 its developer, Preetam D'Souza, announced that he is open-sourcing the code because he believes that will lead to more contributions and speedier development.

This will be welcome news for open source enthusiasts who want a way to do more with their mobile hardware using a Linux-based platform. But it also has implications for open source in the business world, where open source, freely reusable software for Android-compatible devices (besides Android) is not in ready supply. An open source offering like Maru could help VARs and all sorts of other organizations do much more with mobile devices than has traditionally been possible.

It could also spice things up in the Ubuntu ecosystem, where Canonical has so far faced little real competition for its steadily advancing plans to bring Ubuntu Linux to phones and now tablets. Maru promises another approach, which could become a competitor for Ubuntu phones and tablets if it matures to support more devices. (Currently, only Nexus 5 phones are supported.)