The Linux Foundation (LF) and LiMo Foundation announced an HTML-focused open source embedded Linux project steered by Intel and Samsung that incorporates components from MeeGo, the smartphone-oriented LiMo spec, and the carrier-backed Wholesale Applications Community interoperability standard. The LF's MeeGo project promised to help transition developers to “Tizen,” which will span multiple device types when it debuts in 2012.
Two days after Financial Times Deutschland claimed that a merger between the Linux Foundation's MeeGo project and the LiMo Foundation's LiMo (Linux Mobile) smartphone middleware spec was at hand, the LF announced a new HTML-oriented open source embedded Linux project called Tizen. The initial release of Tizen is targeted for Q1 2012, enabling first devices to come to market in mid-2012, says the LF.
Tizen's product categories mimic those of MeeGo's UXes (User eXperiences), including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks and in-vehicle infotainment systems. (The first and possibly last MeeGo phone, Nokia's N9, shipped this week.)
While the LF mentions LiMo as a contributor to the "standards-based, cross-architecture" Tizen, the non-profit foundation never utters the name MeeGo in its press release. (So much for the transparency of the open source process.)
Yet, Intel, which leads the Tizen steering committee along with LiMo member Samsung, clarifies the picture in a statement that reads, "Tizen builds upon the strengths of both LiMo and MeeGo and Intel will be working with our MeeGo partners to help them transition to Tizen."
Samsung and Intel partner on Tizen
Earlier this month, Intel recently denied rumors that it was selling its MeeGo assets to Samsung. Samsung representative James Chung confirmed this in a CNET interview, noting that Samsung was already focused on its own Linux-ready Bada operating system — a reason it held up for its decision not to acquire HP's WebOS.
Somewhat coyly — although accurately — Chung was said to have added that "Meego is an open-source project which cannot be a target of acquisition."
Now, however, it appears Tizen co-chair Samsung is still interested in MeeGo, or at least the parts of it that show up in Tizen, although it's still unclear if it plans to integrate Tizen with Bada. At the very least, it will likely develop Bada and Tizen as potential in-house alternatives and trump cards if Google's pending Motorola acquisition ends up squeezing Samsung and other Android OEMs.
MeeGo transitions to HTML5
A blog entry by Dawn Foster on the new Tizen site says that Tizen's APIs will cover capabilities including messaging, multimedia, camera, network, and social media. The Tizen SDK will include a native development kit (NDK), and the entire Tizen software stack will be open "from the core OS up through the core applications and polished user interfaces," she writes.
Meanwhile, over on the LF's Intel-backed MeeGo project site, a blog posting by MeeGo project leader Imad Sousou explains the MeeGo "transition" to Tizen. Sousou suggests that while a good deal of code can be moved to Tizen, much will be left behind, as the project is starting over with a new framework based on HTML5.
"Shifting to HTML5 doesn't just mean slapping a web runtime on an existing Linux, even one aimed at mobile, as MeeGo has been," writes Sousou.
The MeeGo project will assist users and developers in transitioning to Tizen, adds Sousou. "A lot of things will be the same as they were in the MeeGo project," he writes. "The Tizen project will reside within the Linux Foundation, will be governed by a Technical Steering Group, and will be developed openly with familiar and improved infrastructure."
Sousou argues that the future belongs to HTML5, an emerging browser technology that also plays a major role in cloud-oriented operating systems like Google's Linux-based Chrome OS. The move to an HTML5 foundation will mean that "APIs not visible to HTML5 programmers need not be as rigid, and can evolve with platform technology and can vary by market segment."
Tizen blasted by MeeGo developers
Sousou adds that "reasonable people could disagree" with his assessment, and indeed, the blog entry is followed by an overwhelmingly negative barrage of comments.
One of the many calls for forking MeeGo comes from "Maarten," who writes "Changing everything at the moment a project is almost ready, again. (Like maemo and moblin) shows that there is no future for project managed by these people. By the time Tizen is ready they will have missed the boat again."
Other commenters critique the name of the project, call HTML5 "slow, hacky, ugly" and "awful," and refer to Tizen "yet another user-baseless Android/WebOS clone." Meanwhile others refer to LiMo as "a dead horse," and claim Intel has either lost all direction or is intentionally "sabotaging" MeeGo.
With the HTML5 focus, it seems clear to many that the underlying Qt cross-platform development framework is out the window, which would be a non-starter for many of the commenters. MeeGo was born in Feb. 2010 as a merger of Intel's Moblin project and Nokia's Maemo project and Qt framework.
Neither the MeeGo project or the LF were clear on Qt's role or other specifics on Tizen components. Other LF projects that might possibly contribute would be its Yocto project, which develops open source Linux tools, although that project operates at the lower levels of embedded development.
WAC'd out in LiMo land
The LF is clear, however, that Tizen will include components from the LiMo spec, as well as the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), industry group established by mobile carriers to devise a common app format. The LiMo spec is said to be compliant with WAC standards, which in turn incorporate the Open Mobile Terminal Project's BONDI and the Joint Innovation Lab's JIL initiative.
HTML5 and WAC web development environment will allow device-independent applications to be "produced efficiently for unconstrained cross-platform deployment," says the LF. Also part of the Tizen platform will be a "state-of-the-art reference user interface," says the nonprofit Linux advocacy group.
The WAC was established in Feb. 2010 by 24 telecom operators, including AT&T, China Mobile, Orange, Verizon, and Sprint. In addition, the organization launched with support from the GSMA organization, as well as LG Electronics, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.
The WAC's BONDI technology, which is integrated in LiMo, standardizes a set of device interfaces for web applications and widgets, enabling developers to employ common web authoring tools to create rich-media apps and widgets. BONDI includes APIs that widgets can use to perform actions such as interface with peripherals, launch applications, and invoke messaging calls.
LiMo and MeeGo background
The LiMo Foundation was founded in 2007 by a consortium of powerhouse mobile phone operators and vendors including Access, Panasonic, NEC CASIO, NTT DoCoMo, Samsung, SK Telecom, Telefonica, and Vodafone. It reached its peak in 2009, when it signed up vendors and carriers left and right with promises to release LiMo-compliant phones.
However, since then it has had little impact outside of Japan, where it has appeared on Panasonic and NEC phones. Motorola was an early adopter, but abandoned the platform in favor of Android back in 2008.
LiMo's major product launch outside of Japan was the Samsung-manufactured Vodafone 360 H1 (pictured), which faded fast in Europe. The group still pushes out updates to its open source Linux smartphone middleware spec, however, including a LiMo 4 spec released in February, which added the beginnings of tablet support.
MeeGo's rise and fall has overlapped that of LiMo, but began later. After Nokia abandoned MeeGo for Windows Phone in February of this year, the smartphone UX portion of the project stalled, and the more substantially developed netbook UX had few takers, especially considering the downturn in netbook sales.
Earlier this month, Intel made it clear it had shifted its smartphone strategy to Android. The company recently suggested MeeGo still shows promise in other areas, especially in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) computers where MeeGo is one of five Linux distros confirmed as compliant with the open source Genivi standard.
Stated Morgan Gillis, executive director of LiMo Foundation, "LiMo Foundation views Tizen as a well-timed step change which unites major mobile Linux proponents within a renewed ecosystem with an open web vision of application development which will help device vendors to innovate through software and liberalize access to consumers for developers and service providers."
Stated Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation, "Open source platforms such as Tizen are good for Linux as they further its adoption across device categories. We look forward to collaborating with the LiMo Foundation and its members on this project."
The initial release of Tizen is targeted for Q1 2012, with the first devices expected to arrive in mid-2012, says the Linux Foundation. A bit more information may be found at the bare-bones Tizen.org site. More information on the LiMo spec may be found at the LiMo Foundation site.
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.