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Motorola set for Linux smartphone barrage in 2005

Jan 27, 2005 — by Henry Kingman — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Motorola will introduce eight to 10 Linux smartphones in 2005, according to its Taiwanese division, as quoted by the DigiTimes, an IT-focused daily paper in Taiwan. More than a quarter of the company's new phone launches for the year will be Linux smartphones, the article says.

According to the DigiTimes, Linux smartphones already account for more than 10 percent of Motorola's sales in China. China is the world's largest market for mobile phones, and Motorola is a top mobile phone vendor there.

Motorola Linux smartphones available in China today include the E680, A768i, and A780. Jim Ready, the CEO of MontaVista, which supplies the Linux-based OS used in smartphones from Motorola, NEC, and Panasonic, said in an interview in May, “[Motorola's] ability to pop out three phones based on the same OS is making people in the industry say 'Oh sh*t, how'd they do that?'”

Despite Motorola's success in Asia with Linux smartphones so far, Linux has progressed more slowly than many expected. Few Linux phones are shipping today, relative to those based on Windows Mobile and Symbian, and none are yet available in the US (a Linux feature-phone from Wildseed is available here).

Nevertheless, a MontaVista spokesperson in Europe told BusinessWeek last August that “every single mobile phone maker” is looking at Linux, because it costs less than the $5 to $7 per phone cost of proprietary OSes, an enormously important consideration in the low-margin, high-volume mobile phone market.

Many — including Liz Gasser — expect Linux to eventually become the standard smartphone OS platform. Gasser leads the Linux team at mobile phone software giant (and MontaVista partner) OpenWave. She told IT Manager's Journal last April that Linux smartphones will be a 2006 story.

According to the DigiTimes, worldwide demand for smartphones will reach 50 million units this year, up from 23 million units in 2004. An In-Stat/MDR report last August suggested that the smartphone market will grow 44 percent annually through 2008, reaching its “big breakout period” in the second half of 2005.

Read the DigiTimes story here.

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