Trolltech announced today that Qt/Embedded will follow in the footsteps of its larger sibling, Qt/Unix, which last month became available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Qt/Unix provides the graphical user interface (GUI) underpinnings of KDE, currently the most popular windowing system for Linux. Qt/Embedded is a reduced footprint GUI toolkit which is capable of meeting the resource constraints of PDAs, cell phones, webpads, and other mobile and non-mobile embedded systems. Small footprint graphical windowing implementations based on Qt/Embedded can occupy as little as 600K bytes of system memory.
One way Qt/Embedded reduces system resource overhead is by interfacing directly with the Linux video framebuffer, thus avoiding the requirement to include the bulk of an X Window System within the embedded device. Thanks to application program interface (API) commonality between Qt/Unix and Qt/Embedded, Linux programs can easily be recompiled to run on embedded systems, making a large number of programs immediately available to newly developed embedded devices.
Haavard Nord, CEO and founder of Trolltech, expects Qt/Embedded's new GPL license to encourage the formation of a large and enthusiastic open source developer community for Embedded Linux based mobile devices. That community, according to Nord, will rapidly catapult Embedded Linux to the forefront of the PDA market.
In the past, Qt's non-GPL status had been perceived by some open source developers as a disadvantage, a situation that probably contributed to the emergence of the GNOME desktop as a competitor to KDE. According to Nord, last month's announcement of a GPL license option for Qt/Unix has already resulted in a pickup of interest in Qt.
In order to jumpstart the Linux-based PDA market, Trolltech has developed a ready-to-use GPL port of Qt/Embedded for the Compaq iPAQ, a PDA that normally runs Microsoft's Windows CE OS. Trolltech demonstrated a prototype of its Linux-Qt/Embedded PDA package for the iPAQ at last month's Embedded Systems Conference (San Jose, CA) and also at last week's Embedded Linux Expo & Conference (Westborough, MA). Included in the iPAQ Embedded Linux (and Qt/Embedded) support are personal information management (PIM) applications for word processing, address book, calendar, and browser functions. The demonstrated capabilities also included handwriting recognition, a handful of games, and several system management utilities.
“I expect Linux on PDAs to become better than what is available with Palm OS in quite a short time,” said Nord, referring to the expected consequences of bringing Qt/Embedded under the GPL umbrella.
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