Intel's open source Moblin platform is beginning to ship on consumer electronics products. The Linux-based platform is designed specifically for mobile Internet devices that use Intel's Atom processor. The project launched last year and has evolved swiftly.
Gigabyte is preparing to release the M528, its first Moblin-based device, next week in Taipei. It has an 800Mhz Atom processor, 4GB internal storage, 512MB of RAM, a 3MP camera, and a 4.8-inch LCD touchscreen that supports a resolution of 800x480. It also has support for WiFi and 3G connectivity.
IDG reports that the product will be available for NT$12,900 (US$386) with a 2-year 3G service contract at Chunghwa stores in Taiwan. The device will face strong competition from Apple's 3G iPhone, which is also set to launch through Chunghwa next month.
Intel has built close ties with Taiwanese partners, and views the country as a significant market for Moblin-based devices. The chip giant announced last month plans to build a Moblin development center in Taiwan as part of an arragement with the country's Ministry of Economic Affairs. Intel is also investing in VMAX, a mobile carrier that is rolling out Taiwan's first major WiMAX network. Although the Gigabyte MID and other early Moblin devices don't have WiMAX support yet, the feature will be included in future Atom-based MID products.
The Gigabyte M528 is based on a design by Compal, a major ODM from Taiwan. The same design is also being used by Aigo for its P8860 MID. I got an opportunity to test one of the generic Compal models in person when I was at LinuxWorld earlier this year. I was impressed with the product's performance and usability. The device's form factor makes it feel like a beefier N810, but its processor puts it in the same class as modern netbooks, performance-wise. The device I tested came with OpenOffice.org, which it was able to run surprisingly well.
The arrival of Moblin on actual consumer electronics devices is a significant milestone for the platform. It has gained enormous traction with the major Linux distributors, but it has been slow to attract a community of independent programmers. When Moblin products hit the market and reach the hands of developers, it will likely get a big boost as early adopters begin porting applications and hacking the platform.
The platform leverages the GNOME Mobile and Embedded stack and uses Hildon, a derivative of the GTK+ toolkit that was originally designed by Nokia for Internet tablet devices. It also includes a modified version of the Firefox 3 web browser. Developers who want to get a head start hacking on the platform can download the source code from Intel's Git repository.