The TRON Project entered its 18th year in the spring of this year. The way of thinking the TRON Project raised from the beginning, that of making open information on the base specifications toward which many people would cooperate and make systems, was not a very popular way of thinking at the time the project began, but today it has become one of the worldwide currents. What we call the open architecture current does not stop in the world of embedded systems in particular, rather it has become established worldwide as can be seen in the open source software of personal computers and workstations. However, there are various things that are called open. As is well known, with the General Public License (GPL) that originated with GNU and which has also been adopted in Linux, "because it guarantees that free software is free to all its users," if one makes changes to a portion of the source code, that portion must also be made made public. This is certainly fair, but to people doing business, this is a depressing constraint.
On the other hand, the so-called BSD License of late that has been adopted with FreeBSD and the like is freer and there are no restrictions of that type. Not just operating systems, but even with fonts one learns there are various patterns, even systems that are outwardly open, such as those it is all right to use privately, but which cannot be used in business. Because there are various facts, even though they are called open architecture, one has to be careful. The next thing that becomes a problem is who does the maintenance of the specification. One can imagine such things as it's done completely by volunteers, anyone can contribute, a large company will take responsibility and support it after taking compensation. When an open architecture intends to fight with the commercial operating system of a commercially closed architecture, the problem of what to do to raise serviceability also comes to the fore. If that's not the case, things will be frightening, and the open architecture will not be used in places of business. As a business model, for example, in the case of Linux major RedHat, that company is succeeding with a method in which their eCos embedded operating system supports the µITRON interface and the software itself is free, but they receive a fee for maintenance and training. They say that things are going well in America and Europe. No matter how much we call it free software, when no one pays money for something, limitations appear.
In today's world where technology becomes old at the rate that a dog ages, open architecture cannot win out against commercial software in the provision of peripheral drivers and various middleware and the like. There are many cases in which this type of maintenance and training is done using mail and the Web. Clearly, the Internet is aiding in the spread of open architectures. And then, the rapidness of Internet information distribution will continue to change support also. No, if the Internet hadn't existed, it would have been completely impossible for open architecture to spread this far.
The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 69 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.
Copyright © 2001 Personal Media Corporation
Copyright © 2001 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo