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AOL acquires Linux phone designer, revives AOL Wireless

Aug 8, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 14 views

The first company ever to market a Linux-based mobile phone in the US has been acquired by America Online. Wildseed (formerly GitWit) targets the teen market with dual-band GSM/GPRS Linux fashion phones (shown at left) with snap-on plastic skins themed around popular entertainers. AOL is a division of entertainment powerhouse Time Warner.

Wildseed's Linux phones support “Smart Skins” that first debuted in March of 2002. Smart skins comprise snap-over plastic covers (shown below) that contain an embedded 8-bit Atmel MCU (microcontroller unit) and memory. The MCUs interface with the Linux phone's primary processor via a serial connection, supplying the phone with ringtones, graphic images, and software related to the Skin's particular theme. Available themes include games such as Mortal Kombat, Deadly Alliance, GameBoy titles, Korn, Nellie, French Kitty, and others.

Wildseed's Linux phones sport unique, snap-on “Smart Skins”

Wildseed is based in Kirkland, Washington, with offices in London, UK. It licenses its “Identity” phone design to Curitel, which claims to be Korea's number two mobile phone manufacturer, behind LG. Curitel markets the Identity as the GA-400B. That phone has reportedly been marketed in several US GSM/GPRS markets by third-tier carrier Dobson, which often licenses the “CellularOne” brand.

For complete technical details about the Identity/GA-400B, see our complete Device Profile.

Wildseed earlier licensed its Smart Skin technology to Kyocera.

AOL Wireless

AOL appears to be reviving its “AOL Wireless” division, which markets products such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) to mobile carriers and phone makers. In addition to Wildseed, AOL recently acquired Tegic, a vendor of predictive text-input software for keypads, and XDrive, an Internet storage space vendor. Going forward, AOL Wireless will be led by Craig Eisler, while former Wildseed CEO Eric Engstrom will become the division's senior VP of wireless products.

Eisler said, “Wildseed's technologies will help AOL enhance its wireless properties, and speed the development and deployment of new applications and solutions. We look forward to working with our carrier and OEM partners to deliver innovative services and content to their subscribers.”

AOL's CTO of digital services, John McKinley, said, “With the combination of Tegic and Wildseed, we can offer our carrier and OEM partners the best-in-class platform [for data-related mobile technologies.]”

Additional details can be found in a PC Magazine story, here.

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