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Novell prepping Moblin version of SUSE

May 6, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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Novell announced it is developing a Moblin-based version of SUSE Linux that is optimized for Intel Atom-based netbooks. In addition, Intel and Novell today announced a partnership to collaborate and encourage original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs) to adopt the Linux-based Moblin distribution.

As part of the agreement with Intel and Moblin.org, Novell will establish a Novell Open Labs group in Taiwan “to foster the adoption of Moblin,” says the company. Novell also plans to work with the Taiwan Moblin Enabling Center (MEC), a joint venture between Intel and the the Taiwan Institute for Information Industry. Novell says it will join MEC's efforts to validate designs for Moblin compliance.

In early April, Intel announced it was handing over control of its Linux-based Moblin mobile device stack to the nonprofit Linux Foundation (LF). In its new role as “host” of the open-source Moblin.org community, the LF will offer “technical support” for the group — and possibly move the stack to embrace platforms beyond Intel's Atom.

Yet judging from the Novell announcement, Intel still appears to be actively promoting the technology. The Novell distribution will be based on Moblin v2 for Netbooks, a second-generation version of the stack targeting netbooks more than the previous focus on mobile Internet devices (MIDs). Moblin v2 has already shipped in second alpha form, and is due to go beta fairly soon. Among other enhancements, the distribution features faster boots, a ConnMan connectivity manager and a Moblin Image Creator (MIC2), and new Moblin Core Components, including Clutter.

Novell is already a member of the open source Moblin.org community, and says it has contributed key operating system features including window, e-mail, and media management features. Moblin consists of a development sandbox, an emulator, and target software. The latter components include a kernel and middleware, graphics framework, window manager, browser, and a growing set of third-party applications and contributed projects.

A Moblin/SUSE merger

According to Guy Lunardi, Novell's Director of Client Preloads, in an interview, “it's very possible you will see Novell going to market with OEMs on pre-installations on netbooks as early as a few weeks after the final release of Moblin 2.0.” The new, and so far unnamed distribution, which appears to be more of a SUSE-fied version of Moblin rather than a Moblinized version of SUSE, will be offered by a wide range of OEMs and ODMs, he added.

SUSE Linux is currently offered as a install option on MSI's Wind netbook (pictured below, right), although MSI has more recently been pushing its Windows XP versions, with one executive claiming last Fall that the Linux versions weren't selling.


MSI Wind
(Click for details)

Although highly rated in the corporate world, the commercial SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) is targeted primarily at enterprise environments, and lacks some of the consumer-oriented features of other distributions such as Ubuntu. SLE is based closely on the Novell-sponsored OpenSUSE community-maintained version, which offers a broader focus, and like most Linux distributions these days has gradually shifted its emphasis to embrace less technical users.

Lunardi would not confirm that MSI would field Novell's new Moblin-based distribution, but noted that the fast, and fast-booting, new Moblin v2 technology could help reverse the tide of netbook users increasingly choosing Windows XP over Linux. After suggesting, as have others, that the shift toward Windows in the netbook market has had a lot to do with Microsoft cutting pricing, as well as other related issues pertaining to “channels and availability,” he said that a new Moblin verson of SUSE Linux could “be compelling to disenchanted Windows users who are finding it to be too slow.”

Common frame of reference

Lunardi said that Intel was pushing for a common frame of reference for major features found in the various Linux distributions expected to support Moblin v2, including Ubuntu. On the other hand, each version will have its own look and feel, he said, with distribution vendors picking and choosing from Moblin's growing list of features and UI options.

Developing Moblin v2 has involved a lot of work, including optimizing the platform for BIOS, WiFi, broadband, Ethernet, audio codecs, and graphic subsystems, said Lunardi. The key elements that will mark Novell's SUSE-injected Moblin distribution include the web browsing experience, and support for the lower resolution and smaller screens of netbooks, The latter is one area where Linux vendors might win the battle with Microsoft, he suggested. “Windows XP consumes a huge amount of vertical space on the screen,” said Lunardi.

Key additions will include media management, interacting with contacts, and music playback, he added. “Social networking features will be tightly integrated,” added Lunardi.

With their social networking emphasis and other new features, Moblin v2 and the distributions that will build upon it, are not only trying to win back the netbook market from Microsoft, but preemptively thwarting competition from Google's Android. So far, netbook vendors including Acer, Asus, and HP have confirmed they are running trials of Android netbooks to see if they're viable, and yesterday, there was evidence that Dell might join them too.

Availability

Novell did not offer a timetable for its Moblin v2 distribution, except to say that it could happen as soon as a few weeks following the formal release of Moblin v2.


 
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.

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