One of my regular themes on this blog is how open source is moving beyond the infrastructual programs it best known for – GNU/Linux, Apache, Sendmail, BIND etc. - and starting to produce free software solutions for quite specialist vertical sectors. Here's the latest one – and it's a biggie:
OpenICE.org, a community of engineers, hackers, and users, launches today going up against two giants in the mobile computing industry, Microsoft, with its Sync product and Intel with their moblin based car infotainment platform.
The goal of OpenICE is to provide a comprehensive, scalable and flexible set of tools to build a mobile system for Car Infotainment. This is done by a grass roots effort to collect the latest technologies developed in the open source community and combine them with custom built interfaces and tools tailored for car infotainment. These components result in the OpenICE platform: Entertainment, Information, Connectivity and Mobility. By being open, both in source and standard, OpenICE encourages and invites business and users alike to freely tinker and improve the platform for their own needs.
The centerpiece of the platform is nGhost, a mobile desktop that acts as a hub for the system. Not just a desktop, nGhost acts as an infotainment server, allowing information from multiple applications, computers, and the cloud to interact with the user. "When people think of information in vehicles, they usually think of GPS and car trouble signals. NGhost takes information to the next level by providing an interface that can be used with the cloud to gather information and share information" says Kevron Rees, lead designer and engineer of the nGhost project. "nGhost will allow information from the internet about traffic, weather, and other important data to flow freely to your car, and to the components that can react to the information."
There's actually quite a subtle point here. OpenICE is going up against “two giants” - Microsoft and Intel's moblin. But the interesting thing here is that moblin is actually mobile Linux:
Moblin.org is an open source community for sharing software technologies, ideas, projects, code, and applications to create an untethered computing experience across Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), Netbooks, and embedded devices. The computing hardware is based on Intel Atom Processor Technology, which requires software optimized for low power, low footprint, high performance, wireless, and graphics to deliver a full Internet experience. The Moblin Core Linux Stack, an integrated open source software stack serves as a starting point for developing applications for these devices.
In other words, two out of the three platforms – Microsoft, moblin and OpenICE – are based on Linux, and open source. It's a pattern I expect to see more of as free software moves ever further up the software stack.