Allwinner to Address Linux, Open-Source Issues

14 January 2015

Allwinner Technology Co. Ltd. (Zhuhai, China), the fabless processor accompany accused of failing to meet Linux licensing requirements, has admitted that it needs to do more.

The company said it would go back and ensure that materials in support of older 32bit processor system-chips comply with the open-source requirements that come with using the Linux operating system. When specifically asked about this a spokesperson for Allwinner, writing in email, said: "Yes, we'll provide more material gradually."

The use of the qualifier "gradually" could be a cause for concern for some that Allwinner is not moving quickly enough. The various 32bit chips that are said to be supported with offending materials were released during 2013 and 2014 so the non-compliance dates back over many months.

It was the Linux-Sunxi community, a group of developers that likes to use Allwinner chips and Allwinner-powered tablets, partly because of their low price, that pointed out that Allwinner has failed to provide complete source code for the Linux kernel or u-boot bootstrap software loader for processors ranging from the dual-core A20 through to the octa-core A80 (see Allwinner Accused of Breaking Linux License Rules).

The requirement to provide source code when distributing Linux is one of the requirements of the GPL software license that governs its use. Allwinner has admitted that it has not fully met the requirements in this area but in its response did not give a timetable for achieving compliance.

In its response, given in email through a spokesperson, Allwinner said: "Allwinner advocates open source, that's why in these years we have open sourced some source code and docs here: We know that more things need to be done, and we're also trying to do better. Since the SoC design of A83T, more open source factors are taken into consideration. Allwinner A83T was done better in open sourcing than its predecessors."

The A83T is an octa-core Cortex-A7 based tablet computer SoC that was announced in September 2014.

Allwinner, has done well in previous years selling tablet processors to Chinese Android tablet computer makers. In 2012 and 2013 Allwinner was reported to be the leading supplier of application processors for Android tablets worldwide outselling the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel. However, it is thought to have come under pressure from rivals Rockchip and MediaTek in 2014.

The company is also likely to come under more pressure to improve its open-source behaviour from the Linaro organization, which it joined in March 2014.

Complying with open-source requirements is fundamental to Linaro, a not-for-profit collaborative organization that is focused on improving Linux on ARM. Linaro has more than 200 engineers that work together on assignment from member companies, including engineers from Allwinner. Linaro will host its annual Asian meeting in Hong Kong February 9 to 13 and Allwinner's status as a citizen of the open source community is likely to come under scrutiny there.

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Allwinner Accused of Breaking Linux License Rules

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Allwinner Preps 64-bit Tablet Processor

Intel Partners With Rockchip For Tablet Push

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