GNOME to fish in embedded Linux pond

The team developing the open source desktop environment claims to have made 'very significant improvements' in performance and memory usage, as they target the embedded market with future versions

GNOME developers are making various changes to the open source desktop environment that should make it more suitable for embedded environments.

Future versions of GNOME will include improved compatibility with styluses and performance enhancements, according to GNOME Foundation director Murray Cumming on Friday. This will include a focus on the GTK+, a toolkit used by GNOME to create graphical user interfaces.

"Enhancements to GTK+ are being made by OpenedHand [an open source services company] to allow better use of a stylus instead of a mouse. At the moment, some of our code assumes that the pointer moves gradually across the screen, but a stylus can jump from point to point. Therefore, effects such as button-highlighting needed some extra thought," said Cumming.

"There has also been increased focus on performance and memory usage, with some very significant improvements that will show up in the GNOME desktop soon," Cumming added.

Dave Neary, another director of the GNOME Foundation, said that although GNOME is primarily used as a free software desktop for PCs, its software stack is being used by a number of companies in the embedded market.

"The big advantage of the GNOME software stack is the ease in which developers can create software with it. The stack has become very polished, and we've seen adoption from third parties like Nokia, VMWare, Adobe and others," said Neary.

As well as providing a user-friendly development environment, the GNOME software stack is available under an open source licence that is more business-friendly than the licence for rival open source desktop environment KDE, Neary claimed.

"The entire GNOME developer platform is licensed under the LGPL, which allows third party developers to build commercial closed applications with it. This is not the case with Qt [the graphical framework on which KDE is based], which is GPL. I do not doubt that paying licences for Qt is something that people considered when making their choice," said Neary.

GNOME's increasing focus on the embedded market is also demonstrated by the addition of two embedded software companies to its advisory board. Both OpenedHand and Imendio, which develops for various platforms including embedded devices, joined the GNOME Foundation's advisory board last week.