CherryPal: Where's the Code?

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 21, 2008

This morning we got the news of the official launch of the CherryPal computer: a tiny little box consuming only 2 watts of power, booting in 20 seconds, and yet offering the oomph of a desktop computer (albeit an older desktop computer, as it requires a VGA monitor). This is achieved, apparently, by offloading most of the work to "the cloud" using Amazon's servers. While the prospect of a truly green computer is intruiging, from the open source point of view this effort does not seem to be fully-baked yet.

The press release is fairly sketchy on the software details, but they do mention a "Firefox-based browser" and a "highly customized" version of Debian Linux as powering the box. (They also mention iTunes as part of their software, which is likely to get Apple's intellectual property lawyers interested).

This certainly sounds like another open-source device from the description - or at least, closed hardware running open source software. But poking around CherryPal's web site reveals no hint of any source code. Many of the links on the site lead to cheerful "Coming Soon!" banners, but there doesn't even appear to be a logical place in their site structure for code hosting.

I'm not prepared yet to say that CherryPal is violating any open source licenses. After all, though the product has been announced, it's not due to ship until the end of July. And to the extent that their software runs in the cloud, they're probably protected from having to reveal source by the ASP loophole. But with versions of - at least - Debian and Firefox running on the box, they do have an obligation to give code back to the community. I'm sure the community's watchdogs will be keeping an eye on the situation to verify that they do.