So Trolltech recently ported the Qtopia application suite to the Neo. Right after the release, the community almost immediately started to join one of three camps — two being huge, one being small. The first camp is the ultra-pro’s: They embrace Qtopia and demand OpenMoko Inc. to halt all efforts working towards a non-Qt/Embedded-based platform immediately. The second camp is the ultra-con’s: They are afraid of C++, have not forgotten the less-than-optimal community relationship during the last five years, or claim Trolltech stealing attention from the „sole real free way to write software“ in order to facilitate their „dubiously dual licensed“ stack. More modest people join the third camp, the pragmatist’s: They realize that Trolltech has a four year’s advantage with their stack and that this is the very reason for it to be more polished, more complete, and more usable compared to what OpenMoko can offer right now.
If there’s one thing we learned from the GNOME vs. KDE war, then that the overall benefits of the competition (inspiration, innovation, …) outweigh the disadvantages (duplicated work, reinvented wheels, …). We also learned that there are ways to collaborate — see for example all the great work that happens around the freedesktop.org standards, among them Dbus, which Qt recently accepted as the new standard Unix way to do high-level interprocess communication (IPC). I see Dbus being an important technique for the future of the (mobile) Unix ecosystem. It is what I would call the collaboration enabler. Below this dbus line, we can collaborate, above this line we can compete. Once we have agreed about interfaces to all the low-level services we offer (telephony, networking, device control, user preferences, PIM database, you name it…), we can call these dbus interfaces from whatever language or toolkit we can imagine. This is my idea of freedom.
Along this line, I sincerely welcome Trolltech’s initiative. To be honest, it didn’t came as a surprise to me anyways, since all the major free software players kind of stay in loose contact — after all many of us know each other personally since lots of years and while we not necessarily agree about the technical way to move forward, we all share the vision and work towards open platforms. Having Qtopia on the Neo improves the visibility for Linux-based mobile open hardware (read: more demand for FIC) and this draws more of attention to all of us (read: more demand for mobile open source developers). Which is good.
Then again, not yet everything is bright and shiny. Qtopia still is based on Qt/Embedded which in turn means it relies on exclusive framebuffer access thus preventing other UI-toolkits from running in parallel (yes there is an X-server for Qt/Embedded, but this is a scary indirection). Also, it has its own GSM multiplexer code, hardware device abstraction layer, etc. etc. I would really like to see us collaborating in the lower services infrastructure. Being an optimist, I’m sure this will happen eventually.
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