QNX Systems

By Zbigniew Koziol

We are getting used already to gigabyte hard drives, megabytes of RAM, processors running at GHz frequencies. Well, who is asking at all if we really need these speeds and all the whistles and bells that computer giants are using to pull out the money from our pockets? At the same time, selling of PC computers drops significantly, and there is a need for new developments that would keep the businesses going. A new trend on the horizon can be seen: replacing popular PC computers with powerful, multimedia devices.

Let us see how QNX Software Systems, a company from Ottawa, Canada, plans to intercept a large part of this lucrative, rapidly changing computer market.

Founded in 1980, QNX is the industry leader in realtime, microkernel OS technology. It has established a strong customer base in a variety of industries, including consumer electronics, and telecommunications. In a press release of April 24, 2000, a strategy to "establish the QNX OS as a premier platform for the multibillion dollar e-device market" has been unveiled. "Our goal is simple: to have the QNX platform run in one third of the over 400 million e-devices that, according to market analysts, will ship in 2003," said Gordon Bell, president of QNX.

To make a fast start with their new technology, QNX took several revolutionary steps: The Company allows to download their QNX Realtime Platform free for non-commercial use, and it is planning to release source code for many QNX applications, drivers, and libraries. It has also launched a self-supporting QNX developer's network to encourage thousands more developers.

Great advantage of the new platform produced by QNX is that it integrates a high level of Linux compatibility into it. Hence, Linux developers will have an easy task to jump into the new environment and create quickly new applications or port there the existing ones. The idea of source code licensing is also largely borrowed from the open-source market - so beneficial for the development of Linux: QNX is using an "accessible source" model - most of the code will be freely available for the use by interested programmers.

The QNX Realtime Operating System is a POSIX-certified OS. It includes: Development Tools, Graphical User Interface, Networking, and Internet Technology.

Its greatest strength is networking, consisting of full implementation of the TCP/IP protocol suite and utilities - including PPP, DHCP, NFS, RPC, and SNMP. Users can connect to the Internet by using Ethernet or a modem.

Hey, lets try yourself! It is possible already to download from QNX web site, http://www.qnx.com, a demo version of the system and run it from a single floppy! That floppy contains web browser (with JavaScript and SSL-128 support). One finds there also a web server, GUI, Internet connectivity, file browser, notepad, example web pages, and a demo vector graphic animation... QNX offers also optional plug-ins and helpers, such as Macromedia Flash 4, RealNetworks RealPlayer 7, and their own media player for MPEG and general sound support. Amazing.