There has been a lot of media coverage in recent weeks about the Palm Pre smart phone. One of its key attributes is the webOS operating system that could potentially help save Palm from oblivion.
Palm has posted many of the open source applications that are part of webOS — as they are required to do under the terms of the GPL license — and it’s an interesting list.
At the heart of webOS is the Linux 2.6.24 kernel which originally was released by Linus Torvalds in January of 2008. It’s also got BusyBox –– yeah that same busybox that the has been the subject of legal lawsuits — which provides an embedded tool set.
For the audio/video portion there are some interesing applications in use – including ffmpeg, gstreamer, pulse audio and alsa (advanced linux sound architecture). It’s not clear to me whether or not Palm is using those open source audio/video applications in conjunction with a proprietary codec (or not).
For instant messaging, Palm is using libpurple — which is the core open source instant messaging stack behing the Pidgin (formerly gaim) open source IM program that is in (nearly) every Linux distribution.
On the browser side, Palm is using WebKit — which of course is the same core rendering engine used by Apple’s Safari (in the iPhone) and Google Chrome (in Android). Though all three vendors are using WebKit that doesn’t mean that all three mobile browsers are the exactly the same, but it does give them a common base.
Make no mistake about it, Palm Pre is powered by open source software – time will tell whether that will be the catalyst that enables Palm to succeed with developers and users.