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Japanese tech giants tip Linux-compatible mobile OS

Apr 27, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Six Japanese technology firms have announced they are developing a new application platform for mobile phones that will be compatible with Linux, Symbian, and possibly Android. Developed by NTT DoCoMo, Renesas, Fujitsu, NEC, Panasonic, and Sharp, the unnamed, multimedia-focused mobile platform is scheduled for arrival in phones in early 2012, say the partners.

According to the nameless consortium of Japanese tech giants, the new platform will offer improved processing speeds for high-quality video, as well as enhanced 3D graphics processing for advanced mobile multimedia functions. No further explanation of these claims was provided, however.

The platform will be offered to mobile phone manufacturers worldwide, and will be applied to existing platforms that run either Linux or Symbian, say the partners. In addition, compatibility with Android is said to be "under consideration."

The platform will enable mobile phone manufacturers Fujitsu, NEC, Panasonic Mobile Communications, and Sharp "to avoid having to develop basic application-processing functions on their own," says the consortium. As a result, the manufacturers can "significantly reduce development time and costs and conversely invest more time and resources in the development of manufacturer-specific handset features." says the group.

In addition to the aforementioned phone manufacturers, the other two members are NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile carrier, and semiconductor vendor Renesas, which has long offered Linux-ready mobile processors such as its RISC-based SH-Mobile R Series system-on-chips.

 A Japanese "Bada"?

The new mobile platform appears to be somewhat similar in scope and strategy to Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung's Bada operating system. According to Samsung in a February announcement, Bada will first appear in a high-end Samsung Wave smartphone (pictured) starting this month. Samsung has said that the kernel-configurable Bada platform can be based on a Linux kernel or another real-time OS (RTOS).

When the new Japanese mobile consortium refers to "compatibility" with Linux or Symbian, they may be suggesting that its stack may be configurable to multiple kernels. It is unclear, however, how much compatibility there will be between the different platforms in app development or porting.

Whatever the eventual technological components, the new platform appears to be, like Bada, another attempt to tap into the mobile app market without relinquishing control to U.S. and European-based tech giants. In particular, the companies may want to offset the influence of Google with Android, as well as Apple with its iPhone.

Nokia, meanwhile, is hoping to get on the app gravy train with an open source Symbian, as well as its collaboration with Intel on the Linux-based MeeGo project. And later this year, Microsoft will jump in with its Windows Phone 7.

Will LiMo play a role?

One of the many intriguing questions raised by the announcement is what role — if any — the LiMo Foundation's Linux-based LiMo Platform will play in the new application platform. NTT DoCoMo was a major backer of LiMo, and the vast majority of LiMo phones to ship to date have been LiMo-compatible phones from NEC and Panasonic, aimed at NTT DoCoMo's 3G network in Japan. Renesas is another LiMo member.

Along with Motorola's shift from LiMo to Android, and LiMo member Samsung sojourning off on its own with Bada, while also pumping out Android phones, the new consortium could signal the end of the road for LiMo. Either that, or the platform may focus on a regional presence in Europe with Vodafone, Orange, and other carriers.


Commercial launch of mobile phones incorporating the new Japanese mobile platform is scheduled in the second half of the fiscal year ending in March 2012, say the partners. No website appears to be open yet for the unnamed group.

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