ST-Ericsson Community Workshop 2009

Today, I had the honor to hold the opening keynote of the ST Ericsson Community Workshop 2009.

At this event, ST-Ericsson presented their Nomadik STn8815 SoC, as well as their work on getting the u-boot and kernel ports submitted back into the upstream/mainline projects.

As anyone following the linux-arm-kernel list will have noticed: For the last months, they have worked hard on cleaning up and submitting the code for this SoC. Like many people in the community, I personally appreciate this very much. Finally, ARM SoC vendors actively putting resources to become a "first class" member of the community.

The STn8815 is a ARM926EJ-S core based SoC, including a ST DSP for video codec acceleration as well as a number of standard peripherals such as I2C, SPI, UART, SDIO, etc.

The STn8815 reference software that they released today, includes 100% open source drivers for everything that runs within Linux, inside Linux or on top of Linux on the application processor. The codec implementations inside the DSP are closed source / proprietary. However, the infrastructure to communicate with the DSP, as well as the gstreamer/ffmpeg integration on the Linux side is fully open source.

The attendees of the workshop are receiving the NHK-15 reference boards, which have the STn8815 SoC plus a total of 384MByte NAND flash and 128MByte of DDR memory. There's also a number of peripherals that you expect in such a product, including LCM, SD card slot, Bluetooth, Audio Codec, and Wifi.

Unfortunately, the Wifi driver is closed source. However, the Wifi is a dedicated peripheral component. The use/choice of this Wifi chip on the NHK-15 is probably a bad design choice from an open source point of view. But: This proprietary Wifi does not affect the openness of the actual STn8815 SoC.

Included with the kit for the attendees also a full programming manual as well as register-level specification for the STn8815, as well as the complete schematics of the development board. No NDA required :)

As a summary: I welcome ST-Ericsson to join the Linux community and to provide Open Source friendly solutions, provide the documentation and holding this workshop. However, the STn8815 is already quite 'old' hardware, as it is still ARM9 based - while much of the competition is shipping ARM11 or Cortex-A8 today. Let's hope at some point in the future we will have more competitive hardware with just as much openness.