Friday, August 10, 2007

Mobile LinuxWorld: Moblin

At LinuxWorld Expo on Thursday, I had a chance to meet Andrew Wilson of Intel. Andrew is formerly the head of the carrier grade Linux initiative of the OSDL (now Linux Foundation). Wilson is now heading up evangelizing Intel’s Moblin efforts.

Intel’s Moblin, like Nokia’s Maemo, is about making some sort of mobile Internet device that’s somewhere today’s (postage stamp screen) cell phones and a full-fledged laptop. (The two experiments started long before the intro of the iPhone, which tries to address that demand using a standard phone form factor).

[Maemo arch] With Maemo, Nokia ported various Linux components to run on a mobile device. But, most importantly of all, they created a new Linux user interface they call “Hildon” that solves many of the Linux/Unix UI usability problems. Ironically, Hildon was initially developed by Psion (the forerunner of Symbian) for Nokia’s Communicator family of Symbian-based cellphones. No word on how (or if) the Psion Hildon code ended up in a Nokia product that competes with Symbian.

Nokia-N800-ThumbNokia has so far shipped two products based on Maemo, both of which used Wi-Fi but had no GSM connection. The initial Nokia 770 Internet Tablet (released in May 2005) had many problems, but this January it released the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet corrected many problems.

Mobilin adapted the Maemo code (including taking Hildon), and also added other other code such as a Firefox-based mobile browser. Some say the Moblin UI is iPhone-like, but that may just be pretty icons. Both want to commoditize operating systems, but Nokia wants to sell devices and Intel wants to replace ARM chips with Intel chips.

Many had speculated whether Intel was stealing from Nokia, cooperating with Nokia or even helping Nokia’s efforts, and similarly how Nokia would react. Wilson said that Moblin has attracted several Nokia contributors, and is hoping to have many firms besides Intel actively involved in developing code at Moblin. There seems to be no public support by Nokia (i.e., at the press release level) but that does not preclude Nokia engineers from joining and monitoring the technical effort.

Nokia is offering Hildon to the GNOME Mobile initiative, née GMAE (GNOME Mobile & Embedded initiative), which seeks to make GNOME and GTK relevant for mobile devices. Both Intel and Nokia are sponsors of the GNOME Foundation. So at both the strategic and technical level, the two companies are working to achieve some of the same goals.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so damn cool but I want a umpc with multi-touch screen