$265 Spark tablet runs Plasma Active Linux software

A new tablet called the Spark is on the way. At first glance it looks like most of the cheap Chinese tablets we’ve seen in the past few years, but the Spark won’t run Google Android. Instead it will run an open source Linux-based operating system with the KDE Plasma Active interface running on top.

Spark Tablet

KDE Plasma Active team member Aaron Seigo unveiled the tablet on his website this weekend. It features a 1 GHz AMLogic CPU with Mali 400 graphics and a 7 inch capacitive multitouch display. The tablet has 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage and a microSD card slot.

The Spark is expected to ship “soon” and it will sell for about €200, or just under $265 US.

Update: The Spark is expected to ship in May, 2012. Pre-orders will begin in early February.

It’s certainly not the most powerful tablet to hit the scene. We’ve seen plenty of devices with more memory or storage or faster processors. But the tablet’s software is what sets it apart.

While Google tends to release the source code for most new versions of Android, the software is developed behind closed doors and released to the public only after Google decides it’s ready. Google doesn’t accept community contributions to the code and the company didn’t release the source for Android 3.0 until Android 4.0 was already ready to go.

KDE Plasma Active is a community driven free software platform. For folks that aren’t interested in developing software, the development team is working to make the tablet as usable as possible. There will be a content store that allows users to download free or paid apps as well as digital books from Project Gutenberg.

Primarily though, I expect the Spark tablet and future devices based on this platform to appeal primarily to open source and free software enthusiasts — at least initially.

The Plasma Active development team has been working on tablet-friendly software for a while. We got a first look at a touch-friendly version of the software last April, and by October the team was showing off a pretty functional demo of Plasma Active on tablet hardware.

Thanks DDevine!

Update: Post updated to reflect the fact that Google did release the source code for Android 3.0, but not until Android 4.0 was also available.

  • http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/ Jedibeeftrix

    fantastic news, thanks for the heads up.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, usually i pass on 7 inch devices. But this i is just so want!!

  • Matti

    When they say “learns your usage patterns”, I sure hope they aren’t employing KDE’s Nepomuk. That thing’s a resource hog!!

    • Donny Darwin

       Nepomuk has become orders of magnitude lighter, due in large part because they needed it for mobile devices.

  • John Morris

    I’ll wait and see, but KDE on 512MB ram sounds cramped unless a lot of work has gone into putting it on a serious diet.

    • http://twitter.com/codedivine Rahul

      That is my concern as well.

    • Anonymous

      This is not full blown KDE4 it is a tablet specific version so I expect it to be fine.

    • Anonymous

      Well on the N8x0 people have played with both swap to SD and swap to compressed ram with good results, so i suspect lessons learned will be applied to this tablet.

    • bob builder

      Cramped?
      Damn! I knew that ipad2 with its 512mb ram was totally useless.

      Its a good thing you warned the world.

  • Andrew Fox

    Google did release the source code for 3.0 (honeycomb), it was released at the same time as Ice Cream Sandwich’s source code. Do some research before writing things like that :P

    • http://www.liliputing.com Brad Linder

      Right… that slipped my mind. I should have said they didn’t release it until it was obsolete… 
      The point being that they’re under no obligation to ever release the source and Honeycomb is a good example of an OS that was on the market for most of the year while the source code was unavailable. 

      I’ll update the post though. 

      • Matti

         That’s what most of us saw coming when they announced it was under the Apache license (same thing HP’s doing for WebOS).

        They can withhold the source as and when they see fit.

      • http://www.liliputing.com Brad Linder

        To be fair, the fact that Google has released as much source code as it has already sets the company pretty far apart from Apple or Microsoft — and the truth is that most users probably don’t care much anyway.

        But for those that *do* care, the Spark tablet will use not only free and open source software, but a community-driven release that doesn’t rely on a single company for development.

      • Anonymous

        Obsolete? dunno. It is the basis for ICS, after all. It is just that now we have a single set of code for all Android devices rather then juggling two brances. Hell, i think there was some video that showed Honeycomb falling back to the 2.x interface when small physical screen was set. Now however the interface stays largely the same across all devices. Flip a ICS tablet into protrait and it will look pretty much like a ICS phone.

  • Anonymous

    From my experience of cheap China tablets the amlogic chips only run at 533mhz per core, yet are quoted as 1ghz. I think this oem tablet I’ve seen running android a little sluggish.

  • http://twitter.com/deantwitme dean

    very interesting. but 512MB ram, 4GB internal store seems very limited.My eyes are on it.

    • Anonymous

      Ipad 1 had 256mb ram, ipad 2 has 512mb. As for the storage there is an SD card slot.

      • Anonymous

        Running a mobile OS doesn’t require as much resources as running a desktop OS.  Though 512MB should be enough for a light weight version of Linux.

  • nil

    Hardware looks like the Zenithink ZT280-C71. n.b. the Mali 400 GPU is scheduled to have a proof-of-concept Free driver released at FOSDEM next week.

  • Anonymous

    So… who’s going to develop apps for this OS? Are we going to be able to put Android apps on it like BlackBerry OS?

    • Anonymous

      Just look up “Linux” for what will be running on this system and who will be developing for it, Plasma is just the custom UI.

      While yes, there are ways to run Android apps on Linux but given the hardware it’ll probably be better to dual boot.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ibisum ibi sum

    Where to buy it?

  • Marc Collin

    512meg of ram is very low… why not 1G..surely a few buck of difference

    • Anonymous

      Just to compare:

      How much ram do Ipad 1 and 2 have?

      • Anonymous

        256MB and 512MB respectively… 1GB for ARM devices is relatively new and is mainly to improve multi-tasking and running multiple apps without having to manage apps and turn anything not being used off to save memory for the present running app.

        It’s mainly that ARM chips are finally getting powerful enough to start running desktop OS options with the upcoming next gen chips that there’s a push for up to 2GB of RAM.

        ARM chips though are still 32bit and aside from employing some 64bit memory management to boost performance they won’t have a true 64bit solution for a couple more years and it may be over a decade before it becomes common like it has on x86 hardware.  So unlikely you’ll ever see more than 2-4 GB on a ARM system till then.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Brad.

    I switched to Linux in part thanks to you.
    I ended up buying a Dell Mini 9 that came with Ubuntu 8.
    Problem was it was so ugly that my wife called it depressing.
    Luckily, my neighbours son knows about Linux and told me I had a choice of desktops.

    3 years later, we run 4 computers-laptops on Linux at home and Ive installed KDE based Linux on the computers of my parents, inlaws and two aunts. Im a Linux geek now!!

    To each his own, so I wont badmouth other desktop environments, I like vanilla and you mght chocolate, so these are personal choices and not a right or wrong thing.

    But coming from the Windows world, KDE has made the jump to Linux much smoother.

    I really have no need for tablets (tried fora few weeks, and it didnt beat the netbook for my uses) but I just might be convinced at 250$ instead of buying another netbook.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Brad.

    I switched to Linux in part thanks to you.
    I ended up buying a Dell Mini 9 that came with Ubuntu 8.
    Problem was it was so ugly that my wife called it depressing.
    Luckily, my neighbours son knows about Linux and told me I had a choice of desktops.

    3 years later, we run 4 computers-laptops on Linux at home and Ive installed KDE based Linux on the computers of my parents, inlaws and two aunts. Im a Linux geek now!!

    To each his own, so I wont badmouth other desktop environments, I like vanilla and you mght chocolate, so these are personal choices and not a right or wrong thing.

    But coming from the Windows world, KDE has made the jump to Linux much smoother.

    I really have no need for tablets (tried fora few weeks, and it didnt beat the netbook for my uses) but I just might be convinced at 250$ instead of buying another netbook.