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19/05/2009

Scilab takes off on its own

The news was officially released during the launching ceremony on 29 April: the new Scilab Consortium has taken off, devoted to the development of a free, open-source scientific computing platform. The Consortium became part of the Digiteo foundation on 1 July 2008. Now, its new status will enable it to free itself from the constraints of scientific research projects to take on new challenges in industry.

Inria Chairman and CEO, Michel Cosnard , and Digeteo Director, Maurice Robin , shook hands to seal the official transfer of Scilab to Digiteo, in front of an audience made up of Inria and Digiteo staff, many people from industry, players in the education and research world, partners and software users. This change of status is like a part of a natural process. It will allow Scilab to open up increasingly to industry and "compete" with Matlab, the pay-to-use scientific computing software developed by the American firm The MathWorks.

In just ten years, and despite its limited resources compared with The MathWorks, a real giant, Scilab has managed to become a free, open-source alternative to Matlab in the scientific computing sector. Work on Scilab was started by a research team in the 80s and the software was released in 1994. The first Scilab Consortium, backed by Inria, was set up in 2003. Today, twenty engineers work full time on developing Scilab, now regarded as a model of open-source software for scientific computing. And what a model! Its "hyper-powerful" computing base puts it on an equal footing with its rival, according to users and clients like Renault, EADS, CNES and National Instruments. Even though there is still room for improvement when it comes to developing specific functions for some clients and its graphic user interface.

« t's just a matter of time,» says Claude Gomez , Director of the Scilab Consortium. The new status will make it possible to build up the team and guarantee its long-term future so that these requirements can be met rapidly. The long-term goal is for Scilab to become fully self-sufficient. Because, even though Scilab will still be available for downloading free of charge, it will generate profits. How? By diversifying activities to cover a broad range of services. These could include helping new users to migrate from their old computing software to Scilab, developing specific, tailor-made functions for them and taking part in research projects with industrial partners. So although the software is free, users could be asked to pay for customer service.

Keywords: Scilab Consortium Digiteo Matlab Scilab Claude Gomez Maurice robin

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