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Maemo 5 pre-alpha peeks out

Dec 9, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views has released a “pre-alpha” version of its Maemo 5 SDK (software development kit). Based on Linux, and designed for Internet tablets such as Nokia's N810, Maemo 5 brings hardware-based graphics acceleration for OMAP3, cellular connectivity, and support for HD cameras, the… Nokia-sponsored Maemo project says.

As a major version numbered release, Maemo 5.0 breaks backward compatibility for existing Maemo software. However, it adds support for hardware-based graphics acceleration on Texas Instruments OMAP3 processors, support for HD cameras, and — cellular connectivity. Nokia earlier hinted at Maemo phones, though the stack's cellular capabilities may be limited to data connectivity — at least initially. Nokia's N800 and N810 Linux tablets both depend on WiFi, but Nokia added a newer WiMAX version of the N810 (pictured at top and below).

The “100 percent” open source pre-alpha release of Maemo 5 is still missing major components, and is “not suitable for application development,” says the blog announcement from Nokia community manager Quim Gil. The release is targeted at platform developers who want to learn about new features such as a new kernel setup that “is much closer to mainstream Linux.”

In release 5, codenamed “Fremantle,” Maemo for the first time supports upstream components including Clutter, Libcanberra, OpenMax, PulseAudio, and Tracker. The open source Clutter 3D graphics library, in particular, has received early attention. It was created by OpenedHand, which previously helped Nokia port the Matchbox window manager to Maemo, and which was recently acquired by Intel to help with Moblin.

The competition — A Clutter-based UI for Moblin
(Click to play)

Other interesting new open source software components include Libcanberra, OpenMax, PulseAudio, and Tracker, while updated packages include Glib, GTK+, GUPnP, Telepathy, BlueZ, X server, and “some of the renewed Hildon components,” says the group.

The Maemo 5 pre-alpha has not switched over yet from the Maemo 4 user interface, says Over the next few weeks, repository updates will add a revamped UI using Clutter, as well as the Open Hardware Manager (OHM) media application framework and systems daemon, bringing the project up to an alpha release, says the group. The open source OHM framework sits above HAL and “abstracts out” hardware management tasks such as controlling heat dissipation on embedded devices, according to the developers at (see diagram below).

OHM architecture (Source:]

Designed primarily for use in Nokia's N800 and N810 Internet Tablets, the Debian Linux-based Maemo last received a major upgrade with Maemo 4, which arrived with the N810 in November 2007. Maemo 4 reflected N810 improvements including faster performance, the new slide-out QWERTY thumb keyboard, a GPS receiver, and a light-sensing screen dimmer. (See farther below for more on Maemo's roots).

Nokia N810 WiMAX edition

In September, Nokia VP Ari Jaaksi revealed that Nokia would add 3G/HSPA capabilities to an OMAP3-optimized Maemo 5, and that it would contribute code for 3G/HSPA on OMAP3 to the Linux kernel. The OMAP3 platform includes processors such as the 600MHz OMAP3530, a high-end system-on-chip (SoC) that offers integrated OpenGL ES 2.0 and a video accelerator. Even the lower end processors in the OMAP3 family are more powerful than the 400MHz TI OMAP 2420 that powers Nokia's N810 tablet.

A break in backward compatibility

Due primarily to the shift to OMAP3, “we expect an API break between Maemo 4 and Maemo 5,” writes Gil. He adds that the scope of the break will not be made clear until the beta release. Maemo 5 is currently offered only as an SDK, Gil explains, because it targets OMAP3 and does not offer OMAP2 compatibility. This is due to the complexity of adding the revamped UI and other new functionality, which is said to have made it difficult to maintain compatibility between the architectures.

Despite the lack of “official” backward compatibility to Nokia's OMAP2-based N800 and N810 tablets, developers are invited to try their hand at developing Maemo 5 variants that are compatible with the existing Nokia tablets. also released an alternative Maemo SDK+ beta version that is based on Scratchbox2.

Maemo background — and foreshadowing

With Maemo, Nokia broke with a long tradition in mobile devices, by eschewing “embedded” software development frameworks such as Trolltech's Qt/Embedded, and instead using a slimmed down implementation of the GNOME desktop environment and GTK+ development framework, which competes with KDE/Qt in the desktop Linux market. Then in April, prior to completing its acquisition of Trolltech (now the wholly owned Qt Software), Nokia announced that it would be porting Trolltech's Qt libraries to Maemo. The port should enable developers of C++ desktop applications based on the Qt cross-platform libraries to add Maemo to their target platforms, alongside Windows, Mac OS, desktop Linux, and Windows Mobile (which gained support with May's Qt 4.4).

Maemo 5, meanwhile, may be destined for more than tablets. According to a recent Reuters story, Nokia may move to Linux for some of its higher end smartphones. A Nokia executive was quoted in the story as saying Maemo would be the likely choice for such a phone.


Maemo 5 is available now for free download in pre-alpha format, says, which did not offer a precise timetable for subsequent releases. The announcement may be found here, and the release notes can be found here. A table of changes between Maemo 4.1.1 and Maemo 5 should be here, and source code should be here.

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