As Linux matures as a viable operating system for mobile devices so, too, does the surrounding ecosystem of development tools.
Trolltech is doing its part to boost mobile Linux adoption with the release today of Qtopia 4, which is based on its Qt (pronounced cute) 4 development platform.
Qt is a C++ application development framework providing common application programming interfaces (API) (define). It is well known as the underpinning for the KDE open source desktop, which is included in most major Linux distributions.
The new release brings Trolltech’s mobile platform up to date with its popular desktop development platform.
New features from Qt 4 in Qtopia include improved text rendering, multi-threading, model/view architecture and template container classes.
The new graphics and windowing capabilities allow for some interesting executions that were not possible with previous versions of Qtopia.
Trolltech CEO Haavard Nord SAID that Qtopia 4 allows for transparent overlapping windows, so if a user is browsing on the phone and a call comes in, a transparent window can come up without obscuring what the user was doing.
Linux mobility took another step forward with a safety feature already available on Java powered phones. Nord explained that Qtopia allows for something called “safe execution environment” which is similar to a Java Sandbox.
With Java, a user downloads an application and runs it on the phone which would live in the Java “sandbox.” The sandbox is a right-restricted area that cannot access other part of the phone.
Qtopia 4 is not a competing platform to efforts from embedded Linux player MontaVista but rather is a complementary effort, according to Nord.
“When you’re a manufacturer and want to build a Linux-based device you take the Linux kernel and then you’ve got basically a naked device,” Nord explained to internetnews.com. “It doesn’t have any device infrastructure, doesn’t have a PIN database or any standardized way of installing applications.”
“Qtopia platform adds all of the software infrastructure to devices,” Nord continued. “Trolltech doesn’t touch the kernel.”
MontaVista, with its Mobilinux platform is a tuned Linux kernel environment for mobile platforms. In fact, Nord said that most of Trolltech’s customers end up using MontaVista as the Linux kernel provider.
According to a recent research report, Symbian still leads the mobile OS space, though Windows and Linux are poised to overtake it soon.
“Linux came to the mobile market late in comparison to Windows or Symbian, which have been in the game for years,” Nord said. “Linux has been catching up and it has not been as mature as the alternatives. In terms of technology it has now caught up.”