Intel Releases Moblin Into the Wild

Moblin will include a highly customizable touch-screen interface for navigating the operating system.
Big tech companies don't always mean what they say when they make promises about open source.

But if there was any doubt that Intel is serious about its open-source mobile Linux project, Moblin, the company made a big stride toward dispelling them today as Intel chief Linux and open source technologist Dirk Hohndel invited the crowd at the OSCON open source conference--as well as open source developers everywhere--to jump in and take charge with the project.

The Moblin project, which began last July as an effort by Intel to create a unified software stack for smart phones, small mobile Internet devices, and Netbook-style mini-notebooks, has drawn support from a wide range of tech companies, including Adobe and RealNetworks.

Linux distributors such as Xandros and Canonical have both integrated aspects of Moblin into their mobile-centric distributions. Canonical's forthcoming Ubuntu MID edition, designed for Mobile Internet Devices, is built around Moblin.

But to pass the litmus test of the open source community, Intel needed to do more than release a software stack. It needed to release that stack to the free will of the Linux development community, and that's what Intel's Dirk Hohndel did today--sort of. More precisely, Hohndel promised to release Moblin to the community "in the next few weeks."

Moblin 101

Moblin devices are being designed with Internet multimedia applications--such as sharing photos, music, and video--in mind.
Moblin 1.0 is nearly ready for release, and it consists of seven interconnected projects--from an image creator that developers can use to build device-specific OS installations to a platform-specific kernel and user interface framework to a Web browser and multimedia support components.

These seven components comprise Intel's starting point for the first generation of its mobile Linux. According to Hohndel, what goes into version 2.0 will depend largely on the open source community.

"This is something that Intel doesn't want to control, but wants to turn into a true open-source community project," Hohndel told PC World. "In a few weeks, the community will take over and drive the direction of what we do."

When Moblin's community of developers hits its stride, Hohndel expects the operating system to fall into a twice-yearly release schedule similar to that of Ubuntu and other major Linux distributions. However, it may take as long as nine months to create the first new community-built release.

Linux distributions incorporating the Moblin stack are expected to become available on consumer devices--including, possibly, the Atom-based Acer Aspire One Netbook--by the end of this year, and will compete directly with Microsoft's Windows XP, which will continue to be sold exclusively on these ultra-mobile machines.

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