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Linux phone stack targets dual-mode handsets

Mar 14, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Linux mobile phone software stack vendor a la Mobile has moved toward a vertical-market product strategy, beginning with the launch of a stack specifically aimed at dual-mode phones. The company's first “Made-Ready Linux” stack includes a SIP-based VoIP stack from HelloSoft, and is “designed for market entry readiness,” the company says.

Gupp “Phreedom”
(Click for details)

A la Mobile emerged from stealth mode last June, with the stated goal of offering the industry's first “complete,” pre-integrated Linux-based mobile phone operating system. Three months later, the company shipped its Convergent Linux Platform, which was subsequently licensed by Malaysian phone vendor Gupp for a dual-mode Linux phone with a Treo-style hardware keyboard (pictured at right).

First “Made-Ready Linux” stack — focused on dual-mode phones

A la Mobile says its Made-Ready Linux stack for dual-mode phones supports both GSM and WiFi networks. It is based on a 2.6.12 Linux kernel featuring a “Hardware Mobility Engine” aimed at facilitating rapid porting to new mobile phone hardware. In addition to HelloSoft's VoIP stack, other touted components from software partners include:

  • Firmware OTA (over-the-air) update technology from Red Bend
  • Trolltech's Qt graphics framework
  • Teleca browser
  • Sun Java
  • Adobe Flash
  • Core application suite, including phonetop, media, messaging, and email

Ultimately, a la Mobile hopes to expand its partner network, in order to offer customers a choice of software components, CEO Pauline Lo Alker told LinuxDevices. “Everything we do is exchangeable,” she said.

The company is bullish on dual-mode phones, citing Juniper Research forecasts of a $70 billion dual-mode phone market in the U.S. alone by 2012. In a statement, Lo Alker said, “With the increasing market interests in dual-mode phones tuned for VoIP, it is a 'no brainer' for us to offer it as the first of our Made-Ready series of function-centric Linux solutions. In the upcoming months, we expect to introduce additional Made-Ready Linux solutions tuned for other function-centric mobile handsets.”

A la Mobile's strategic shift

Lo Alker hinted that the company's next Made-Ready stack might target enterprise application developers. She admitted that “Dual-mode is a little horizontal,” and added, “We may go more vertical next time, with something tuned for enterprise field and sales force workers. We are looking at different vendor partners that have application solutions — companies such as Sybase.”

“We believe that in the future, vertical market phones will be built quickly around application 'solution packs' on top of solid commercial-grade Linux platforms,” added Lo Alker.

Conventional wisdom has suggested that Microsoft could prove a tough opponent in the enterprise smartphone market, due to its impressive installed base in the server room and on the desktop. Nonetheless, Lo Alker suggests that Linux may also win enterprise fans, due to simple developer preferences for unrestricted source code access, among other Linux benefits.

Asked about prospective customers, Lo Alker confirmed that companies such as Novell and Red Hat, with their “devices to desktops” strategies, could one day find themselves in the market for pre-integrated Linux mobile phone stacks capable of being integrated with their respective enterprise application development environments. Still, she voiced a conservative view toward native Linux application development on the phone itself — the strategy being pursued perhaps most aggressively by Access (formerly PalmSource) — due to ongoing carrier concerns about phone application security. Presumably this means that initially, at least, a la Mobile's vertical market application tools will be based on Java.

Ultimately, a la Mobile is probably wise to turn toward higher-margin vertical markets, given that the low-margin, high-volume market for Linux-based phone stacks has already become the darling of several larger, more established companies, including Grundig/Purple Labs, Infineon/Comneon, and Motorola and MontaVista, to name several. Additionally, the mobile phone market appears to be undergoing consolidation, with the top six vendors now controlling 86 percent of the market, up from 81 percent last year — making it tougher than ever to break into the high-volume market.


A la Mobile says its Made-Ready stack for dual-mode phones is available immediately. Pricing was not disclosed.

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