A few years ago, I was an avid QNX user. I used the non-commercial desktop version of this wonderfully clean and elegant pure-microkernel operating system for a long period of time, as a desktop operating system. I liked the whole style of this operating system, its Photon user interface, and its excellent package management system. I even wrote a three-page article about it. Sadly, QSS, the company behind QNX, lost all interest in the non-commercial desktop version, and ditched it, leaving only a hard-to-find 30-day evaluation version alive. Community interest dwindled, and so did mine. Despite my lost interest, it saddened me today to learn that QNXZone.com, a community portal for QNX, has been shut down. Read on for a few short thoughts.The note on the website reads: “Due to the significant decrease in the size of the QNX community, diminished interest in QNX for non-commercial projects, this site is no longer providing a community forum or news.” It may have been shutdown months ago, I really would not know. I stopped visiting QNX websites on a regular basis ages ago, simply because nobody was really putting any energy into the whole ‘QNX on the desktop’ idea. And with the parent company losing any interest in that idea, why would the community continue?
I have always had this dream that QSS would continue to ‘silently’ bless the enthusiasts working on the QNX desktop experience by continuing to release the non-commercial version of its operating system (the 30-day evaluation version is fairly similar, but hard to find and inaccessible). It really would not matter much to QSS’ cashflow, since the company’s crown jewels are not QNX itself, but the extended developer tools that run on top of it. Us OS enthusiasts using and extending QNX on the desktop pose no threat at all to QSS’ income. They are after the embedded market, powering in-car computers and nuclear power plants.
It is sad that an operating system with such potential is held back by its parent company. I am sure that were QSS to be more open about running QNX as a desktop, they could easily gain a group of enthusiasts willing to work on improving the whole experience, like they did during the 6.2 days, with ports of all major open source software packages, like Firefox, Thunderbird, an X server, AbiWord, various games, you name it. The beauty of it? It would not cost QSS a dime. Just post a nice download link to a free-for-non-commercial use version of QNX, exclude the development tools, but include the incredible PhotonUI. That is all.
I still receive the QNX Newsletter in my inbox every month, reminding me of what a joy it was to use it on my desktop.