Can Project Halium revive Linux on mobile?

A group of developers have come together to bring open source mobile projects under the same roof to create a fully open source mobile framework.

The Linux-based Android operating system may dominate the smartphone space, but there are many Linux users who want a mobile OS that’s closer to the desktop Linux experience, where they can use traditional desktop Linux tools and utilities.

Many open source companies have tried it. Mozilla had Firefox OS, Jolla had Sailfish OS and Canonical shipped some devices with Ubuntu mobile on it.

They all failed. But the code that they created lives on and some passionate people  have taken over those projects to create viable alternatives to Android and iOS.

Unfortunately, there are way too many open source mobile projects that are working towards the same goal, but in isolation from each other.

As a result they are duplicating each other’s work and creating fragmentation.

Now there is a group of open source developers who have created a new project called Project Halium to create a common ground for these open source mobile projects.

The group's goal is to create a framework that allows different projects to collaborate, bring their components together, and create the mobile phone platform that they want, said Bhushan Shah, one of the project founders.

Halium is looking at the components that are common among these projects, said Shah. “Currently distributions like AsteroidOS, LuneOS, Mer, Plasma Mobile, SailfishOS, and Ubuntu Touch have one thing in common that they use the libhybris to interact with the android binary blobs and also run various android daemons using different methods. And there is lot of fragmentation on how this task is handled even though these parts don’t need to be different as their essential goal is to make use of android binary blobs,”Shah wrote in a blog post.

Halium aims at bringing these common components under one roof so that developers of different projects can collaborate on a common base. The core of the Halium framework will be the Linux kernel, Android HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and libhybris.

While different projects will be working together on the base, they will be free to create their own distinctive top layer to offer the experience they want for their users. It’s akin to Fedora, openSUSE or Ubuntu experience on top of the same common component that a desktop Linux distribution is comprised of.

Halium is not a mobile distribution. Rather, it provides the building blocks that others can put together to create their distribution.

The group's first goal is to create a working prototype/proof of concept using Google’s Nexus 5 so that they can attract more developers, Shah said. A working prototype will also allow the team to approach open source organizations for funding.

Halium may not create the next Android, but it’s also not that different from what Red Hat managed to do with Linux through Fedora. If Halium does succeed in bringing those diverse mobile OS projects together, if it does succeed in creating a common platform, it may have a real shot at building a viable alternative to Android and iOS.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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