Home Business IT Open Source Open tablet Spark to hit shelves in May

The Spark, an open tablet which will be available for purchase by May this year, will run the Mer operating system, the community continuation of the Linux-based MeeGo project which is hosted by the Linux Foundation.


According to KDE developer Aaron Seigo, who is behind the tablet, pre-orders will be accepted from next week for the device which will focus on Europe first but which will be shipped worldwide depending on the order.

Seigo wrote on his blog that software add-ons would be available through the standard Mer repositories and the Open Build Service; however, to make it easier, there would be an add-on store from which applications could be downloaded.

The client for the add-on store will free software. "The store is not Spark, Linux or even software specific. The back-end will be released as open source once we have proven the design and implementation in production circumstances (we have written it twice already, learning a lot of great lessons in the process). Should the projects fall over and die, however, we will release the source code immediately under a permissive F/OSS licence," Seigo wrote.

The Spark has a 1.3 megapixel webcam, 800 x 480 resolution, 2 USB ports, a microSD slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Models with 3G and GPS will be manufactured later.

Seigo said the Android operating system provided by the hardware manufacturer was not being used. "We are also well aware that some of the people in the hardware supply chain are violating the terms of the GPL. This was amazingly frustrating for us and caused significant delays as we went in search of GPL-friendly vendors.

"We found that in the market of affordable device makers in China, they just don't exist. There's a cultural as well as legal hurdles that have led to this unfortunate situation, and I personally think Google has a lot to answer for when they allow such companies open access to their app store while they must be aware of the license violations that are going on. "

For these reasons, he said the developers had decided to go with Mer, the community continuation of MeeGo, as the base operating system.

"With the amazing help of the Mer community, we have been able to bring up a non-Android, built-from-source kernel on the device and even boot into Plasma Active. There is still work left, and we still do have some binary drivers, but this progress is already one massive crowbar that's prying open the doors that have been shut on the world of ARM-based devices," he added.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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