Mobile Linux Rivals Ubuntu And Sailfish Could Share APIs

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Mobile Linux platforms Ubuntu and Sailfish could team up with Plasma Active

Linux phone platforms Ubuntu and Sailfish could move closer together along with Plasma Active from KDE, as the groups behind them are talking about using common Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in their work on User Interface (UI) design.

The two open source phone platforms Ubuntu and Sailfish (based on MeeGo), as well as the Plasma Active workspace use Qt 5’s QML – a JavaScript-based language perfect for the design of UI applications. The resulting interface elements are similar, but are not currently compatible with each other.

Now, Ubuntu’s home, Canonical, and Jolla, the company behind Sailfish, are working with KDE towards a common architecture, preventing further fragmentation of mobile Linux. This could eventually allow these three systems to share HTML5 apps.

Why can’t we be friends?

Born in a chat on KDE’s #active IRC channel, the idea to have common APIs could have a huge influence on the future of all three projects. According to KDE developer Johan Thelin, the Qt framework, initially released in 1992, is a great tool to write UIs that feature swiping – something Ubuntu on a phone relies on heavily.

Open Source © marekuliasz Shutterstock 2012Zoltán Balogh, developer at Canonical, confirmed in an open email on Wednesday that the discussion about APIs was underway, and invited anyone interested in QML to participate. “Clearly a productive collaboration between communities and companies would be something revolutionary,” he wrote.

The proposed cooperation attempts to not only simplify UI development, but establish long-term links between Canonical, Jolla and KDE staff. “There are also discussions underway regarding other aspects of the bigger puzzle such as common package formats and delivery strategies,” wrote Aaron Seigo from KDE on his blog.

“We are poised, should we keep our heads straight and our feet moving, to evolve that holiest of grails in the mobile space: an open and vendor neutral application development strategy built around the commonality of QtQuick and Linux,” he added.

In time, this could lead to the situation when a single app could work and look native on both Ubuntu and Sailfish mobile operating systems, as well as Linux distributions using Plasma Active.

This would attract more developers to the fledgling platforms, resulting in more apps and helping mount a more serious challenge to iOS and Android.

“I am exceptionally happy to be a part of a project and a community that can see the forest for the trees here: the cooperation for the competition,” wrote Seigo.

Ubuntu on a phone was officially announced last week. The new software is not just any phone OS, but fully-featured Ubuntu on a smartphone, with an interface designed for touch interaction and small screen size. It is capable of running both HTML5 and native apps, written in serious programming languages. Even though Canonical’s OS has attracted a lot of attention, Sailfish, unveiled in November, is currently the leader of TechWeekEurope’s alternative mobile OS poll.

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