QNX shares source code, kinda

QNX Neutrino project will let people see and tinker with the embedded operating system's source code--but not ship products with it.

QNX Software Systems, one of the old guard in the the embedded operating systems industry, made a move Wednesday to fend off rival Linux by opening its Neutrino product source code for all to see.

But don't mistake the move for a true adoption of open-source software. Although QNX's hybrid model lets outsiders see, change and extend the Neutrino software, commercial use of the software requires purchase of runtime licenses, the company said Wednesday. Academics and noncommercial developers get free use of development tools.

The Neutrino development process will be more "transparent," and outsiders will be able to participate in the process, the company said. "QNX is the vanguard of change in the world of commercial software development and deployment," said Chief Executive Dan Dodge in a statement.

Vanguard of the change? Maybe, in the proprietary software realm, but more like a laggard in the overall open-source transformation of the software industry. For example, embedded systems maker Wind River Systems already has tried and discarded one open-source retooling with its FreeBSD Unix move years ago before settling on a second strategy based on Linux. And with all the free-for-all attention devoted to embedded Linux, it can't be much fun keeping the proprietary software walls as high as possible.

"The once-proprietary embedded operating system space is in transition to an open model," said Raven Zachary, an analyst with the 451 Group. It's either that, "or lose out to embedded Linux."