Clutter is Good for Intel’s Moblin Linux

What’s the key to more Linux adoption on mobile devices? Intel wants to know. The chipmaker is searching for answers with its Moblin 2.0 mobile Linux project.

The Moblin 2.0 effort includes a new user interface technology that Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) hopes will improve the user’s mobile experience. That starts with a look and feel that pushes the envelope.

“We’re pushing down application logic under the UI (user interface), literally separating experience from application logic and services,” Imad Sousou, the Director of Intel’s Open Source Technology Center, told

Intel is positioning Moblin as a way to build more adoption of its Atom-based chipsets for mobile devices. So far, consumer devices ranging from Netbooks to in-vehicle entertainment systems are adopting the Atom CPUs.

“What we end up with is this huge chunk of the stack that is common across everything,” Sousou added. “That’s the other key advantage of having a common core and API’s across all usages of Atom-based platforms. It lets developers take applications from one platform to another and they just have to change the[user interface].”

Moblin is looking for more traction with Atom CPU based netbooks, which is a growing category. “Having netbooks take off the way they have is a huge validation for vision of Moblin that there are big usage models,” Sousou said.

With Moblin 2.0, Intel is also integrating in an open source technology called Clutter. Sousou said clutter is an open source animation framework that allows for the development of applications in the same way you would develop games. The underlying complexity is abstracted such that intricate UI can be built with a minimum of code.

“Because it’s developed like a game engine, all the graphics happen on the GPU , freeing up CPU do to application work,” he said. “When combing with Atom and the various GPU’s we use in Moblin supported platforms, you end up with advanced UI platforms. We really think it will create a huge opportunity for application innovation on top of Moblin.”

Moblin 2.0 is currently targeted for release at the end of the first quarter of 2009. It can’t come too soon, if past is prologue. Earlier this year, Intel canceled a Moblin 2 developer day at the time noting that Moblin 2 wasn’t ready for developers.

“At the core of things some of the key elements of Moblin 2.0 were not defined enough where you could really go and talk about it,” Sousou explained of the delay.

But even as delay issues are ironed out, Moblin 2.0 still faces some hurdles.

“The challenge is the usage model and the expectation of what the device can do,” Sousou said. “Atom-based devices are great for content consumption, they’re not really for creating content.”

After all, people consume content quite differently on devices compared to desktops and laptops, which is the main challenge. That’s why Moblin 2.0 has a mission to give developers “the right tools to build UI that make it easy to consume content on Atom based platforms.”

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