FreeOS examines the Simputer: a Linux-based handheld device
developed in India, meant for use in economically disadvantaged
rural areas. The novelty of Linux-based devices may be wearing off,
but there's more to the Simputer than its OS to spark interest,
even if you aren't a gadget fan: the hardware specification for the
device is released under the "Simputer General Public License,"
which ensures that work done to improve the specification is either
kept public, or, for commercial interests who want to keep their
modifications closed, paid for with a one-time payment.
"The bugbear of any new OS or device is availability of
application software and this can come about only through
availability of a platform for developers. The IML is a XML
(Extensible Markup Language) application for describing the content
and applications handled, by a Simputer. The open source nature of
the IML allows rapid development of solutions on any platform
including Windows, Linux and Solaris.
Currently the following applications are available for the
Simputer: an IML browser with the cute name of imli , Text to
speech software, Internet access software like browser, E-mail and
even a MP3 player.
The system software of the Simputer is under GPL as it uses
Linux. However for the hardware, the Trust has come up with its own
definition of an open source like license called Simputer General
Public License (SGPL). Anybody can download the hardware
specifications of the Simputer and build his own machine or further
develop on it. However, the producer must then obtain any one of
two possible licenses from the Simputer Trust. These bind him to
sharing any derivatives with the Trust for further dissemination.
Those who wish to go commercial with their product have to make a
one-time payment to the Trust. Here again the Trust has kept it at
a lower cost ($25,000) for developing countries and $250,000 for
developed countries. No list of "developed" countries is provided