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Symbian to make Psion's OPL dev language open source

Relief column breaks through for beleaguered EPOC developers...

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You've quite possibly never heard of OPL, but once upon a time this wouldn't have been the case. Back before Palm was thought of, OPL was the easy to use development language for Psion EPOC devices, and until events (and indeed Palm) largely overwhelmed Psion, there was quite a thriving community of small developers and enthusiasts using OPL, and bitching about Psion in pretty much the same way as Apple fans bitch about Apple.

And now, OPL is going Open Source - apparently on the say-so of Symbian. News of the move was broken on by All About Symbian by Ewan Spence of freEPOC.org, who says All About Symbian is going to be involved in the planning of turning OPL into an Open Source project. Symbian apparently intends to get OPL running on Series 60 and UIQ platforms, which at least in theory means that people who've developed for Psions in the past will be able to resume hostilities on Sony-Ericsson, Nokia and Nokia's friends' phones.

The nature of the Open Source licence that will be used isn't yet clear, but Spence says there will be a Sourceforge-like system for distributing source code, and that "there will always be an 'official' Symbian version (similar to the way Linux is developed at the moment)."

Quite our favourite piece of the announcement is the way it dances nimbly around unspecified obstructions: "Symbian... [has] had to take into account certain business considerations, which has held up development of OPL.

"This barrier has now been removed, with interested parties to be given access to the source code; and with other experienced Tools Vendors and Partners offering to support OPL, it would be fair to say that OPL is shortly going to be the language that belongs to the community - which can only be of benefit."

Um, what barrier could this possibly have been? The Register and Psion go way back, and many's the blazing row we've had with their High Command (which is currently not entirely unrelated to Symbian's High Command) about development and much else. Historically, open source or free software of any description was entirely anathema to Psion, which actually aimed to make most of its money out of software and add-ons. So even though OPL had effectively become a development language for a line of mass market consumer devices that have more or less ceased to exist, we reckon prying it out of Psion's grip must still have been a job and a half.

We could of course be wrong, but well done anyway, chaps. ®

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