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At last — native apps for Motorola Linux phones

Aug 6, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Motorola yesterday made the first-ever release of native development tools for its Linux-based mobile phones. MotoDev Studio for Linux 0.3 is a freely downloadable, Eclipse-based toolsuite aimed at helping third-party and community Linux developers create, test, and certify apps for the newest Motorola… phone models.

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MotoDev Studio for Linux is one of four MotoDev suites currently available from Motorola's developer website. The others target Java, UIQ, and Web widget development.

Motorola calls MotoDev Studio for Linux v0.3 a “public preview,” and still a “work in progress” that is functionally incomplete. Dino Brusco, director of developer platforms, explained in an interview that that designation and those disclaimers exist primarily because the phone models that the toolkit is meant to support are not available yet. “The tools will be finalized at the same time that the new Linux platform becomes available,” he said.

Brusco further explained that the updates to the SDK would be delivered “seamlessly” using the Eclipse framework's update facility. there will be a series of updates prior to the launch of the first phones based on the next-generation Linux platform, he said.

Christy Wyatt, who heads up open software and ecosystems for Motorola's mobile divison, explained how the development process will work for third party native Linux application developers. MotoDev Studio for Linux includes an emulator that developers can use to test their applications. When their application is ready for testing on real hardware, they can attend one of Motorola's MotoDev Summits, where Motorola can help them test and certify the application. Then, they can post it in the online MotoDev catalog.

Wyatt clarifies, “It's not a 'store' per se, but a catalog for users. Developers with commercial applications can publish links on where to buy them, however.”

In addition to native Linux applications, Motorola's next-generation MotoMagx Linux platform will also bring the first support for Web “widgets” to the platform. Written using common web standards such as xhtml and css, and rendered via an integrated webkit engine, the widgets can put frequently updated information directly onto the phone's background. Because of the low barriers to development (lots of folks know how to develop web apps), community interest in Widgets has run high, Wyatt said. However, widgets could also enable operators to deliver new services to phones in the field without the risk of a firmware upgrade.

MotoDev Studio — the future of LiMo tools?

Linux's primary competitors in the smartphone market are Symbian and Windows CE. Both of those OSes benefit from robust third-party developer ecosystems. However, Linux thus far has developed only a managed application ecosystem based on Java. That is due to “fragmentation,” or differences between phone vendors' Linux implementations that prevent portability between stacks.

To end that fragmentation, several standards organizations were formed. The one that seems to have won out is LiMo, an international powerhouse with some 52 members, including all companies that have achieved the most success with Linux on phones so far.

In a recent interview with LinuxDevices, LiMo marketing director Andrew Shikyar said LiMo hopes to release a software development kit “before the end of the year.” The Foundation also hopes to release a second version of its specification prior to 2009, Shikyar said.

Shikyar's description of the planned LiMo SDK sounds eerily similar to MotoDev Studio. “It will allow developers to create applications that are highly portable. That includes Java, Web widgets, and native Linux applications. We are focused on engaging more with developers as the LiMo specification becomes more complete,” he said.

Asked whether Motorola will contribute MotoDev Studio to LiMo, Wyatt replied, “We're completely open to making whatever contributions the members of LiMo would like to see.”

So have a have a look at the tools. They just might evolve into the standard toolkit for third-party native application development on Linux-based smartphones.

So far, the other significant LiMo-compliant Linux stack contributing to LiMo is MOAP/L, developed by NEC, Panasonic, and their Esteemo spin-out, for use on NTT DoCoMo's network. Asked about similarities and differences between MOAP/L and Motorola's MotoMagx stack, Wyatt said, “Both sides have made significant contributions. Unlike a lot of standards efforts, LiMo did not start with a full platform, but rather with components. So, there are some pieces we have to take out, and others we have to put in. For example, LiMo is based on GTK+.”

Currently, Motorola's MotoMagx Linux stack uses Trolltech's Qt, although Wyatt has previously indicated plans to move away from Qt following Trolltech's acquisition by competitor Nokia.

Additionally, LiMO has announced plans to support MIDs (mobile Internet devices), which should offer native Linux developers an improved target, compared to just using the emulator in the MotoDev Studio.


MotoDev Studio for Linux is available (!) now. The 381.2MB download is available with registration, here.

Henry Kingman

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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