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Google rallies allies in open Linux phone initiative

Nov 5, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

[Updated 4PM] — Google and 33 other companies have announced an ambitious industry alliance that will maintain a completely open source mobile phone stack. The Open Handset Alliance (OHA) says phones based on its Linux-based “Android” stack will reach market in as soon as eight months.

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The Android stack is based on “open Linux kernel,” the group says. It also includes a full set of mobile phone application software, in order to “significantly lower the cost of developing and distributing mobile devices and services,” OHA said.

The stack appears to have been created by Android, a mobile phone software house that Google acquired just over two years ago. The Android stack's name is apparently a reflection of co-founder Andy Rubin's fondness for robots. Rubin previously co-founded Danger, a software house that continues to provide software for the Sidekick “hiptop” marketed by T-Mobile.

Few real technical details about the Android stack are available at this point; however, an “early access” version of the Android SDK is being prepped for release on Nov. 12, the OHA said. The stack will be licensed under “one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses,” according to the fledgling organization.

In taking on not only the Linux kernel and middleware layer, but also the application stack, the OHA appears to have more ambition than earlier industry groups, such as the kernel-oriented LiMo Foundation, and the middleware-oriented LiPS (Linux Phone Standards Forum) and OMA (Open Mobile Alliance) initiatives, among others. In terms of its licensing and scope, the OHA's Android stack may more closely resemble Trolltech's Qtopia Phone Edition and FIC's OpenMoko projects.

OHA founders include:

Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated, ” Our vision is that the powerful platform we're unveiling will power thousands of different phone models.”

Wind River CEO Ken Klein stated, “As a Linux commercialization partner for the Alliance, we've made significant contributions to ensure an optimized Linux distribution, and to provide the Linux services necessary for OEMs to quickly create Android-based handsets.”

In a brief discussion with LinuxDevices, MontaVista CTO Jim Ready confirmed that the OHA's Android stack should work with MontaVista's recently refreshed Mobilinux OS and tools, while CEO Tom Kelly added, “We have supplied the OS for 90 percent of Linux phones. I'm sure we will join the OHA.”

Meanwhile, Wind River CMO John Bruggeman told LinuxDevices, “[Wind River has] done two dozen or more phone wins in the last twelve months, and you will see those announced in 2008. Some will be LiMo based, some OHA based, some Celunite based, some Access based.”

Bruggeman added, “The group that really understands how to build the phone is LiMo. Google knows how to build a developer community, and excite innovation. Wouldn't it be cool if somehow there was a compatible foundation? Well, the common thread would have to be at Linux.”

Morgan Gillis, executive director of LiMo, stated, “The LiMo Foundation welcomes the news of Google's mobile initiative. We believe Google's entry into the mobile industry and the launch of the Open Handset Alliance further validate mobile Linux as the foundation technology enabling convergence within and beyond mobile.”

The new organization's website is here.

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