Intel aims for 2-second boot time with Moblin Linux platform

Intel logoAt the Linux Collaboration Summit, the director of Intel's Open Source Technology Center has revealed some details about the company's vision for Moblin, its Linux-based mobile platform. He says that Intel hopes to achieve two-second boot time and redefine mobile user interfaces.

At the Linux Collaboration Summit in San Francisco, Intel Open Source Technology Center director Imhad Sousou discussed the company's plans for the next major version of its Linux-based open source Moblin platform. The aim of Moblin, Sousou says, is to improve the quality of the Linux user experience on Atom-based devices. For Intel, this is a broad mandate that reaches deep into the platform and will require improvements at many different layers of the stack. One especially important aspect of Intel's platform improvement agenda is to reduce overall startup time.

Tests of the latest Moblin 2 alpha release show that the major components of the stack, including the graphics system, can start up in mere seconds. Intel intends to build on this effort and hopes to eventually reduce total startup time to two seconds. Achieving this ambitious goal while still retaining the full software stack will be an important step for making Moblin an appropriate platform for embedded car computers and many other embedded applications where the software needs to be seamless and instantly accessible. "We think that two second boot is possible," Sousou declared during his presentation.

Boot performance improvements of that magnitude would surely boost Linux's viability in the mobile space, but it will not be an easy task. Parallelizing components of the boot process is often viewed as the most practical way to reduce the total boot duration, but Sousou cautions that parallelization should be viewed as a means to an end and not an end in itself. "Parallelized bloat is still bloat," he remarked.

He also discussed Intel's new partnership with the Linux Foundation, which was announced last week. The Linux Foundation will take over stewardship of the Moblin project's governance and move it forward in a manner that will increase the accessibility of the project to third-party developers and other Linux vendors. Intel chose this path because they wanted to shift the project to a vendor-neutral environment. "Big corporations are not good shepherds of open source projects," Sousou said. He cites IBM's establishment of the Eclipse Foundation as an example of the right approach. Rather than starting a new nonprofit organization, however, he says that Intel thinks that the community's interests would be best served by collaborating with the Linux Foundation, which already has strong relationships with many Linux stakeholders. The move was broadly welcomed by Linux distributors.

A big question that has emerged from this transition is what kind of governance model to adopt. Sousou says that Intel had not previously put much consideration into that issue, because the development of Moblin has been focused so extensively on upstream development. Intel says that they are tentatively planning to create a body that they refer to as the Moblin steering committee to direct development through the Linux Foundation.

Sousou also spoke about Intel's vision for improving mobile user interfaces. Conventional widget toolkits and standard UI frameworks lack the flexibility needed to build truly rich user experiences, he said. Intel thinks that canvas and scene graph frameworks provide a more powerful way to build next-generation interfaces that are intuitive, effective on touchscreen devices, and aesthetically pleasing. Last year, Intel acquired OpenedHand, the company behind the open source Clutter canvas framework. Intel plans to leverage Clutter to build dynamic user interfaces that have smooth animations and accelerated graphics. With these animation frameworks, he stated, widgets and windows are replaced with scenes and actors. Intel wants to make it easy for application developers to build such interfaces in their own software.

Intel clearly has high hopes for Moblin and an ambitious vision for the platform's future. The company's strong commitment to upstream development and collaboration with other vendors is a promising sign that Intel is interested in achieving its goals in an inclusive way that will benefit the entire Linux platform and the desktop stack as well as the mobile ecosystem. The real test will be the level of third-party involvement that converges around the Moblin project. If Intel can gain sufficient mindshare and build bridges with the large number of companies that are committed to using Linux with competing hardware, then Moblin has the potential to become the nexus of mobile Linux development.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Intel, Linux

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