Re: GPLed AbiWord with QNX/Photon

Subject: Re: GPLed AbiWord with QNX/Photon
From: Paul Rohr (
Date: Tue Dec 21 1999 - 22:12:38 CST

Shaw and Thomas,

Are we getting too complicated here?

Most modern desktop OSes ship as an integrated product from a single vendor
which includes both kernel-level services and higher-level libraries which
provide a full GUI experience. In some cases (Debian or Red Hat Linux),
those products aim to be totally non-proprietary. Other Linux vendors aim
for a mix of proprietary and non-proprietary components to their products.
However, in many cases (Windows, BeOS, MacOS, Solaris, etc.), these products
are totally proprietary. More to the point, in the last case *unbundling*
any of those services is against those proprietary licenses.

In all of these cases, the GPL is a valid license for software which was
written to run "on" these platforms. (We all know RMS's arguments about
whether it's *moral* to do so, but that's not the issue here.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like we're talking about another OS
vendor, QNX, who also sells a proprietary "desktop-like" operating system,
called Neutrino (or is that Photon? I can't always keep other folks'
marketing straight). Again, this is an integrated proprietary OS-level
product, sold by a single vendor. The *only* difference I can see here is
that the vendor in question *does* allow unbundling of the components of
this desktop-like OS, so that people can just buy the pieces they want.

So what? There's no doubt that QNX as a company is utterly proprietary. So
are Microsoft, Be, Apple, Sun, etc. That's not the relevant issue.

I'm not a GPL expert, but the concern Shaw's been expressing sounds like
it'd devolve into an argument of the following form:

  - GPL software *can* be written for monolithic operating systems because
    according to their proprietary vendors, they can't legally be unbundled
    (without help from the DOJ).

  - However, GPL software *can't* be written for integrated OS products if
    their proprietary vendor allows them to be legally unbundled.

If so, this sounds like we're splitting hairs *much* too finely.

bottom line
AbiWord is desktop software. It requires a modern GUI operating system to
run on. That definition describes Windows, BeOS, MacOS, and any
GTK-plus-*nix combination. It also describes Photon-plus-QNX-microkernel,
aka Neutrino. (Again Thomas, my apologies if I've gotten the names mixed

AbiWord is a GPL product which runs natively "on" Windows, BeOS, and most
GTK-plus-*nix combinations. We're seeing promising signs that it will soon
run natively "on" MacOS. Thomas is willing to do the work so that it also
runs "on" Neutrino.

AbiWord will *never* run "on" a raw QNX microkernel. Calling QNX the OS
here, and Neutrino an add-on sounds like a total red herring to me.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b25 : Tue Dec 21 1999 - 22:07:36 CST