Symbian Foundation Opens Symbian Kernel Source Code

Ahead of schedule, the Symbian Foundation has released the source code to Symbian’s EKA2 real-time, multitasking, SMP microkernel, under the Eclipse Public License. It comes with a complete development kit, free of charge. The Foundation’s plan is to open up the entire platform, and this is of course a very important milestone in that process.

The Foundation claims that the opening up of the kernel source code is nine months ahead of schedule, which is pretty awesome. Sixteen our of the 134 platform packages have now had their source code opened up; this process started in April 2009 under guidance of the Symbian Foundation.

“The release of the microkernel demonstrates three vital, guiding principles of the foundation: first, the commitment of many community members to the development of the platform – in this case, Accenture, ARM, Nokia and Texas Instruments Incorporated all made contributions; second, progress in fulfilling our commitment to a complete open source release of Symbian; and third, a tangible example of providing the most advanced mobile platform in the world,” said Lee Williams, Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation, in the press release.

The kit includes the following items:

  1. Open source kernel and other complementary packages
  2. High performance ARM compiler toolchain (RVCT4.0): free to developers and companies of less than 20 employees
  3. Open source simulation environment based on QEMU
  4. Open source base support package for the low cost Beagle Board
  5. Supporting binaries
  6. Hardware execution environment

You all know what this means, right? Not only is the smartphone market a very competitive one, with several different offerings competing with one another, but it is also almost completely open source.

Well, the kernels, that is. Android and webOS are based on Linux, Symbian’s is open too now, and Windows Phone is based on Windows CE, and the Windows CE code is available under one of those semi-open initiatives that allow you to look at and sightly modify the code. The iPhone is of course built on top of Darwin, which is open source too. I believe that of the major players, only RIM is lagging behind – the BlackBerryOS is still fully closed.

Rather surprising, isn’t it? Symbian owns about 50% of the smartphone space, and now it’s got a fully open source kernel. Who would’ve thought that the mobile space was where open source would really take off.


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