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Toshiba phone runs Linux-friendly virtual platform

Jul 9, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 9 views

[Updated Jun. 11] — Open Kernel Labs (OK Labs) says its open source real-time virtualizing microkernel was used by Toshiba in a mobile phone widely available in Japan and Australia. Toshiba's W47T phone runs OK's OKL4 microkernel, and is distributed by KDDI, Japan's second-largest wireless carrier.

(Click for larger view of the Toshiba W47T)

The W47T has been available since late last year in both Japan and Australia. If the phone runs Linux on top of OKL4, it would be the first Linux phone promoted by mobile operator KDDI, Japan's second-largest mobile operator. The largest, NTT DoCoMo, sells about 20 million phones per year based on the “MOAP” Linux implementation co-created by phone suppliers Matsushita (Panasonic's parent company) and NEC.

KDDI positions the W47T as a “high-end communication phone,” touting features that include:

  • 2.6-inch color display
  • 3.24 megapixel camera
  • 100MB of user storage, expandable via SD cards
  • “E-shaberi Mail,” with still image movement meant to suggest talking
  • “EZ Channel-plus” video-on-demand
  • Music videos from LISMO “Video Clips” service
  • Osaifu-Keitai and QUICPay electronic wallet services
  • Videophone and group videophone conferencing
  • Japanese-English dictionary
  • Call time of 190 minutes, or 100 using videophone function
  • Standby time of up to 290 hours
  • 127 grams
  • 4.1 x 2 x 0.8 inches (107 x 51 x 21mm)

OKL4 microkernel

The OKL4 microkernel includes a real-time POSIX execution environment, and can run various guest OSes including Linux. According to OK Labs, OKL4 offers virtualization, security, legacy reuse, IP protection, and license separation. Additionally, the product reportedly “protects communications firmware from interference through fault containment.”

An OK Labs spokesperson confirmed that the Toshiba W47T phone runs Linux. However, the confirmation was later retracted, with the explanation, “We can't speak on behalf of Toshiba in terms of whether or not they are using Linux in the phone.”

The spokesperson added, “Linux is the most popular guest OS used by OKL4 customers.”

OK Labs spun out in April of this year from NICTA (National Information/Communication Technology, Australia), an Australian government-sponsored think tank. NICTA previously supplied an “L4” microkernel to phone chip giant Qualcomm (story), suggesting that the W47T could be based on a Qualcomm design. Qualcomm previously touted a Linux- and BREW-based reference design based on its MSM6550 mobile phone processor.

OK Labs CEO Steve Subar stated, “This represents the first end-user deployment of modern virtualization technology on mobile-phone handsets. It demonstrates OK's position as the leading provider of OS and virtualization technology for mobile wireless devices.”

CTO Gernot Heiser added, “This deployment shows that OK combines innovation with industrial-strength implementation and support. It demonstrates OK's ability to turn research leadership into customer benefits.”

OK Labs competitor VirtualLogix, meanwhile, offers a mobile phone virtualization plaform that recently shipped in a Grundig mobile phone. VirtualLogix recently shipped a 2.0 version of its virtualization technology said to support unmodified Linux kernels. However, the technology is available initially only on the company's “Network Infrastructure” version.

Trango, another vendor offering virtualization software aimed at mobile Linux devices, recently touted ARMv6 (ARM11) support.

Interestingly, the U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) last week enacted Cisco-promoted regulations all but forbidding the commercial use of open source software in some software-defined radio (SDR) applications. Depending on their interpretation, the FCC's new regulations might mandate the use of virtualization platforms such as these, in order to prevent access to SDR resources by Linux and applications residing on Linux in devices such as mobile phones.


Toshiba's W47T mobile phone has been available since late last year, and is currently promoted by KDDI and KDDI-Australia. Additional details on the W47T can be found on KDDI's website, here.

The OKL4 microkernel appears to be commercially available now for the ARM v4/v5 architectures (ARM9 and XScale). Support is planned later this year for ARM v6 (ARM11), x86 in 32- and 64-bit versions, and MIPS32 and MIPS64. Supported guest OSes include “OK Linux,” apparently a modified version of Linux 2.6.10, along with the open source eCos RTOS and “a number of” other RTOSes. OKL4 is available under commercial and open source licenses. Additional details on OKL4 are available on OK Labs's website, here.

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