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Linux’s phone success surprises LinuxWorld attendees

Aug 16, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Within the next couple of years, Linux will power more than half of the phones shipped by number two global handset vendor Motorola, according to the company's VP of mobile device software, Greg Besio, who delivered a keynote address at LinuxWorld in San Francisco this week.

Additionally, Linux is expected to pass current phone OS marketshare leader Symbian by 2010, Besio said. LinuxWorld attendees seemed uniformly surprised to learn how far Linux is penetrating into the mobile phone market, and how central the open source OS has become to Motorola's mobile phone strategy.

So far, Motorola has shipped only about five million Linux-based phones, most in Asia, where its A1200 or “Ming” model is China's top-selling smartphone, Besio said, with about a million units shipped last quarter.

Motorola announced plans last month to use Linux in mainstream phones priced between $100 and $300. These include a new Scpl (“scalpel”) model (pictured top-of-page) that will succeed the top-selling Razr.

Additionally, Motorola has already used Linux in its fourth-generation music phone, the Rokr E2. Despite a smartphone-like feature set, the Rokr E2 is considered a mass-market phone, in part because its user interface is based on a keypad, rather than a touchscreen. The Rokr E2 is already available in China, and may also be distributed in the U.S.

Motorola began adopting Linux six years ago, Besio said, although the company first publicly revealed its Linux strategy on Valentine's Day, 2003, about six months before unveiling the A760, its first Linux-based phone.

Motorola currently bases its Linux phones on a MontaVista kernel, although the company is considering Wind River's kernel as well, Besio said, as quoted by CNET. Motorola recently joined, with intentions to contribute to the DSDP (device software development platform) co-founded by Wind River.

Besio also mentioned the alliance announced last month by Motorola, along with leading Linux phone vendors and carriers. The alliance — which in addition to Motorola includes NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Vodafone — is now apparently known as the “Open Platform Initiative” (OPI); however, details about what it intends to do remain unclear.

Additional details about Besio's keynote are available in reports from CNET and Red Herring.

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