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Intel lets go of Moblin

Apr 2, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Intel has handed over control of its Linux-based, Moblin mobile device stack to the nonprofit Linux Foundation (LF). In its new role as “host” of the open-source community, the LF will offer “technical support” for the group — and possibly move the stack to embrace platforms beyond Intel's Atom.

Tipped yesterday in the New York Times, the announcement could have ramifications for both the LF and for Moblin itself. With its new role in hosting Moblin, the LF is now actively supporting a mobile stack and toolsuite that has so far been dedicated to a single processor family: Intel's Atom. Because the LF is the central, neutral entity representing Linux (aside from Linus Torvalds, who is sponsored by the LF), the nonprofit group may be greatly encouraged to expand the Atom-focused stack to support other platforms. These may include other x86 platforms such as Via's Nano, as well as mobile ARM-based system-on-chips (SoCs) from Texas Instruments (TI), Freescale, and Qualcomm.

Jim Zemlin

In a December LinuxDevices interview with Jim Zemlin, the LF's executive director, he noted that Moblin may well move to other platforms. “Actually, Intel's biggest competitors could go and implement Moblin on any chip architecture they want,” he said at the time. “Intel is being very very good about not closing that down. It has not tried to corner market on this code. If I was a competitor I would be jumping all over it.”

In the same interview, Zemlin noted that Moblin incorporated the LF-sponsored Linux Standards Base (LSB) framework, “leveraging the work the LSB has done toward binary compatibility.” Other projects supported by the LF include Carrier Grade Linux (CGL), the Mobile Linux workgroup, and a Green Linux project aiming to improve Linux power management. None of these are focused on a particular processor platform, or even a particular community's competitive stack.

Moblin vs. Android?

Of course, pressure to expand Moblin to other platforms will hinge upon demand. Currently, vendors working on netbooks and similar devices with TI's OMAP3x, Freescale's i.MX515, and Qualcomm's Snapdragon SoCs appear to believe that the Google-sponsored Android stack is a suitable Linux-based platform. And the LiMo Foundation, which has so far focused primarily on smartphones, could also be expanded upward to support MIDs and netbooks.

Meanwhile, already has its hands full with its current push for a Moblin v2 for Netbooks, which is due to go into beta soon, and a Moblin v2 for MIDs that focuses on the next-gen heir to the Atom — Intel's Moorestown processor — is on tap for 2010. It may not have much bandwidth for an ARM port in the near future.

BenQ's S6
Moblin-based MID

(Click for details)

The precise details of the LF's role as “host” of the are somewhat unclear. As a community project, was at least outwardly never controlled by anyone but its developer members. However just as Nokia rules the open source Maemo project, and Google dominates Android, Intel has clearly been in charge of Moblin, and has invested significant funds into the project.

As the employer of some of Moblin's top developers, Intel will continue to have a major role, and if nothing else, it will help fund the open-source project via its role as a Platinum member of the LF. Whether it is as open to moving to other platforms as Zemlin suggests remains to be seen.

In any case, the LF has listed some 14 positive quotes about the move, from Linux distro vendors and toolmakers, including Canonical, Novell, MontaVista, and Wind River. The general consensus seems to be that the new hosting arrangement will bring more developers into the Moblin mix and accelerate innovation, although no one specifically mentions moving to other platforms.

Stated the LF's Zemlin, “Moblin offers a truly open platform and already has some of the best and brightest minds focused on its architecture and development. Through the Linux Foundation, an even broader community can contribute to Moblin becoming the predominant Linux-based platform for mobile devices.”

Stated Doug Fisher, VP, Intel Software and Services Group, and GM, System Software Division, “The Linux Foundation is the perfect environment to take Moblin to the next level.”

The first developer meeting for the Moblin project under the Linux Foundation will take place at the Annual Collaboration Summit beginning on April 8.

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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