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Leading mobile phone players converge on Linux

Jun 15, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Four large mobile phone vendors, together with two major wireless operators, will create an open Linux implementation for mobile phones. Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Vodafone say their Linux implementation will provide a global standard, and prevent the “fragmentation” of mobile phone… Linux.

Most of the companies involved already have considerable experience implementing Linux for mobile phones. NEC and Panasonic have long collaborated on a Linux implementation for 3G Linux phones sold by NTT DoCoMo. DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile phone company, adopted Linux for 3G phones in late 2003. Motorola, meanwhile, was among the first phone vendors to add Linux to its strategic roadmap, and it has since shipped about a dozen Linux-based phone models.

The companies plan to create an “independent foundation,” as yet unnamed. The foundation will develop and market an open Linux implementation, including an API specification, architecture, and source code-based reference implementations of components and tools. It will also publish specifications for referenced third party software, along with test suites aimed at helping adopters assess and demonstrate product conformance to the platform specification.

Additional goals of the foundation include:

  • Implement a fair, balanced, transparent contribution and participation process for current and future members
  • Establish safeguards to minimize fragmentation
  • Collaborate on a mobile Linux developer ecosystem
  • Coordinate with existing industry organizations
  • Seek participation from all interested companies across the value chain, including device manufacturers, operators, chipset manufacturers, independent software vendors, integrators and third-party developers

According to a press release issued by Motorola today, the foundation will “leverage the benefits of community-based and proprietary development.” Initial foundation members will take responsibility for delivering the first reference implementation, and the foundation will also actively encourage other companies to participate.


The unnamed foundation is by no means the first industry group aiming to standardize Linux for use on mobile phones. Recent notable efforts include LiPS (Linux Phone Standards) and the OSDL-sponsored Mobile Linux Initiative, as well as Scope, which focuses on standardizing Linux on the infrastructure side. However, this new group appears to comprise the most successful mobile phone Linux users to date, and as a result, could have a large impact on Linux adoption and standardization.

Interestingly, the new foundation does not appear to include MontaVista, the company that supplied the Linux OS used in mobile phones from Motorola, NEC, and Panasonic. MontaVista early last year launched its own “Mobilinux” ecosystem for mobile phone Linux.

Industry quotes

Greg Besio, CVP of mobile devices software at Motorola, stated, “Motorola is a firm believer in the power of open platforms and the promise of Linux for mobile. As such, we are very pleased to be part of this new, coordinated group effort to accelerate the creation of a universal, mobile Linux platform which we believe will unleash the tremendous innovation opportunities for developers, device makers, operators and consumers alike.”

Yoshiharu Tamura, EGM of mobile terminals at NEC, stated, “We expect the foundation activities will accelerate further expansion of mobile Linux application developer participation as well as global market growth of 3G mobile handsets.”

Kiyohito Nagata, VP of NTT DoCoMo's product department, stated, “DoCoMo strongly supports this foundation's activities of specifying APIs and enabling powerful tools for application and middleware developers. This will ensure the creation of an ecosystem to achieve our goals.”

Osamu Waki, managing director of Panasonic Mobile Communications, stated, “Linux sits at the core of Panasonic Group's software strategy, and to date we have shipped nearly 8 million Linux based handsets in the highly competitive Japanese market. We intend to leverage our experience to accelerate the realization of a truly global Linux-based software platform and ecosystem.”

Lee Chulhwan, SVP of mobile R&D at Samsung, stated, “Samsung truly believes that this effort will be a significant step to offering a cost-effective and unified software platform for mobile phones based on the Linux operating system.”

Jens Schulte-Bockum, global director of terminals at Vodafone, stated, “Vodafone is excited to be a founder member of this major industry initiative which aims to reduce fragmentation of Linux based mobile phone software platforms, and in turn enable us to offer our customers more innovative new services.”

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