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Linux stack targets single-core mobile handsets

Feb 6, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Trolltech and VirtualLogix have partnered with the aim of helping handset manufacturers deploy Linux on low-cost, mass-market feature phones powered by single-core processors. The companies are planning a single-core Linux phone demonstration at the 3GSM World Congresss next week in Barcelona.

Trolltech and VirtualLogix say they have successfully integrated Trolltech's Qtopia application stack for Linux-based mobile phones with VirtualLogix's VLX-MH real-time virtualization software for mobile handsets. Their joint 3GSM demonstration will show Linux/Qtopia running alongside an RTOS and a radio modem stack — all on a single ARM9 processor core virtualized by VirtualLogix's VLX-MH product.

Traditionally, mobile phones based on “open” operating systems such as Linux, Symbian, and Windows Mobile have had a dual-processor architecture. The “baseband” processor — typically an ARM7 or other low-powered microcontroller — runs an RTOS (real-time operating system) such as VRTX that handles modem control and signal processing. The “applications” processor — typically an ARM9 — runs the complex open OS.

Dividing “control” and “data” functions between two separate processors is standard practice in networking applications of all kinds, from chassis-based telecom infrastructure equipment to cheap consumer set-top boxes. However, for high-volume mobile devices such as phones, a dual-processor architecture adds complexity, increases materials costs, and reduces battery life — the more so, since each processor needs its own memory and other subsystems.

For that reason, a several companies are working to enable Linux on single-core, single-processor mobile phone hardware, including VirtualLogix (formerly Jaluna), Trango, FSMLabs/Infineon, and MontaVista. To our knowledge, though, no single-processor phone designs have yet shipped with complex, “open” operating systems such as Linux, Symbian, or Windows Mobile.

Trolltech and VirtualLogix say that the cost of dual-core processors has limited handset manufacturers' ability to ship Linux-based mass market feature phones. However, the companies expect Linux to claim 12 percent of the overall feature phone market by 2009, citing figures from Nomura Equity Research.

Trolltech has promised that Linux would enable smartphone features on featurephone hardware ever since it launched Qtopia Phone Edition stack in late 20043. Today, the company calls mass market feature phones “the next ideal segment” for the Linux operating system.

Trolltech co-CEO Haavard Nord stated, “Our partnership and integration with VirtualLogix brings Qtopia to the forefront once again as the mobile Linux platform to watch.”

Mark Milligan, VP of marketing at VirtualLogix, stated, “VirtualLogix VLX speeds the inclusion of Linux on lower cost platforms while providing increased security and reliability.”


The combined VirtualLogix/Trolltech product integration will be demonstrated at 3GSM, at both companies' booths. It will also be demonstrated at the booth of Philips mobile phone spin-off NXP.

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