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25 novembre 2010 4 25 /11 /novembre /2010 11:58

Sony starts an experimental R&D project to leverage the open source community to build and evolve the next generation application framework for consumer electronic devices. The project is called SNAP (Sony Network Application Platform). I am far from being a Sony fanboy, the reason why I talk about it here that it is a fork of the GNUStep framework.


To understand what GNUStep is, let's do like Doc and Marty and go back in time to 1985. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple and started a new IT company called NeXT. NeXT produced high-end computer workstations based on their own UNIX-based operating system called NeXTStep. Like the mac, NeXTStep was a graphical operating system with strong human-machine interface guidelines. But what differentiated NeXTStep from other OSes at the time was its strong reliance on the Objected-Oriented paradigm. The NextStep APIs particularly well designed and were written in a strange dynamic flavor of the C language called “Objective-C”.

Those of you familiar with Mac OS X might have a feeling of déjà-vu. Well, Apple will buy NeXT in 1997 and what you get on your Mac since 2001 is nothing but the evolution of NeXTStep with a Mac skin.

What is important to know is that before being bought, NeXT did release a complete public specification of the NeXTStep APIs called OpenStep, with the help of Sun Microsystems. OpenStep was used by NeXTStep and Solaris. GNUStep is a GNU project that provides a free implementation of the OpenStep specs.


After the NeXT acquisition by Apple, APIs did continue to evolve under a new fancy name, “Cocoa”. While Sun stopped OpenStep in Solaris, GNUStep didn't and strongly adheres to the original specs.

So let's see what the purpose of SNAP is. According to Sony, SNAP goal is not to provide a strong compatibility to OpenStep. Indeed, they claim to modernize the framework and optimize it to modern consumer electronic devices.This is what Apple did with the iPhone (based on a variant of Cocoa called Cocoa Touch). The SNAP development environment is based on Ubuntu Linux and has reached beta stage. Sony recommends to install it in a virtual machine by now. If it is successful, programming on future Sony devices may feel a bit like programming on the iPhone.

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