GNOME Mobile in 2008

This year has been eventful in the GNOME Mobile world, to say the least. We have seen new adoption of the GNOME platform in mobile and embedded devices, and increasing momentum from GNOME Mobile participants. We have seen new releases of core GNOME Mobile technologies, and the appearance on the landscape of some high-quality components which will be without doubt valuable additions to the platform. In addition, we've seen some growth in other mobile technologies. While we had hoped everyone would use GNOME Mobile, we are happy to see the industry and the market place grow. As more and more people use mobile technologies in unique ways we are confident they will see the value of free and open source software solutions like GNOME Mobile and will join our growing community of vendors.

Some of the alternative solutions are already moving towards GNOME Mobile. The year started with a bang, as LiPS, the Linux Phone Standards group, an industry group which aimed to define a set of standard interfaces for mobile phone application development, folded up shop and joined forces with the LiMo foundation. LiMo aims to provide a reference platform of Linux for mobile phone manufacturers. Several components of the GNOME Mobile platform, including GTK+ and GStreamer, have been included as required components of the LiMo R2 platform. This is a great boost to the platform as it gives them solid working technologies to build on, and we should start seeing the first R2 phones in early 2009.

Moblin, the mobile Linux edition from Intel which targets netbooks and other small form computers, and a significant contributor and user of GNOME technologies, had its second release this year, and with it, a significant announcement - Intel had agreed to acquire OpenedHand, specialists in mobile free software application development, and developers of Matchbox, Poky Linux, Clutter, GUPnP and Pimlico.

Ubuntu Mobile and Ubuntu Netbook Edition also had releases this year that included GNOME Mobile. When the OLPC project had a change of direction, widespread support of Sugar enabled the charismatic Walter Bender, former CTO of OLPC, to spin off Sugar Labs as a new non-profit to develop the innovative Sugar user interface built on top of the GNOME platform.

These events have brought with them several new participants in GNOME Mobile, and we have seen representatives from Azingo, Motorola, Purple Labs, Canonical, Sugar Labs and LiMo contributing on various GNOME forums this year, alongside long-time contributors like Igalia, Fluendo and Imendio.


The prize for star software newcomer of the year goes to Clutter, which has taken the GNOME and GNOME Mobile worlds by storm since its initial releases in 2006. Clutter is a library for creating fast, visually rich and animated graphical user interfaces. It uses OpenGL or OpenGL ES for rendering, but gives the developer a really simple API to use. With integration of some cool stuff like the Box2D physics engine, Clutter has been making waves with impressive demos of iPhone-like functionality. Clutter is now included in the latest Maemo platform, in moblin v2 and in Ubuntu Mobile, and work is underway to enable further integration into the GNOME platform.


There are many candidates for runner-up. Tracker has come of age this year, making its way into the Maemo platform. Tracker is an object store and file indexer which stores metadata about files and other objects like emails, and allows fast retrieval. GeoClue, a library which makes supporting geolocalisation in your application easy, has made an appearance in a released device, the Garmin NĂ¼vi 860, and looks set to become a more integrated part of the GNOME platform soon.

Others you might not think of

The year brought other new device releases. Nokia brought out a WiMax edition of its N810 personal internet tablet. Bug Labs released a new version of the BUG, a collection of easy-to-use electronic modules that snap together to build any gadget you can imagine, with GNOME Mobile-based Poky Linux at its heart. And showing that GNOME in devices does not necessarily mean small devices, French company Supersonic Imagine brought a GNOME-based breast cancer scanner, the Aixplorer, to market. It's applications like this that bring home the potential power of a completely free software platform.

The GNOME Mobile software platform has advanced greatly this year from some key contributions. This year, everyone benefited from the work which was done by Tommi Komulainen and others in the Nokia team in getting their performance fixes, and a major new feature input method, released in the standard GTK+ release. Nokia has also been pushing to get work which was done in Hildon integrated into GTK+ where it is useful. During the year, Tommi left Nokia, and joined litl, a new company which is working on GNOME based technologies - among the work which litl have released this year is Gjs ("Geejays"), GNOME Javascript bindings. This work should enable easlier integration of web-based content into GNOME. Bob Murphy of ACCESS tuned in at a distance during GUADEC to show off some work that he and his team have been doing with dynamically readjusting the GNOME desktop with XRandr in mobile devices with an accelerometer, and he is working to get that work integrated into GTK+ soon.

While its members make progress with GNOME Mobile and devices that use it, GNOME Mobile is still a relatively new group and participants are still working on the best way to collaborate and co-ordinate efforts in mobile-related work in the GNOME platform. We have had several meetings this year - in Austin, Texas during the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, during GUADEC in Istanbul, and again at the Boston Summit in October - and myself, Stormy Peters and Paul Cooper have been talking regularly with participants to try to figure out how we can get high quality development and co-operation, focused on mobile and embedded platforms.

We have made great progress in the past couple of years, and the value of the platform has proven itself. GNOME has been good at attacking problems from top to bottom, and addressing problems at every level of the platform from the kernel through Xorg right up to the user interface. To address the specific needs of mobile applications in terms of performance, power management and memory usage, all of the GNOME Mobile participants will need to apply this same thinking to the GNOME stack.

Using existing GNOME technologies, GNOME Mobile is a project to make GNOME technologies effective for mobile devices. GNOME Mobile provides the infrastructure for discussing the needs of mobile technologies and making changes to technologies in order to support mobile solutions. GNOME Mobile members include individuals working on GNOME technologies to companies providing mobile solutions built on them.

Roll on 2009.

FoundationBoard/AnnualReport2008/GnomeMobile (last edited 2009-03-13 15:31:03 by RossBurton)