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Your next phone could run Linux

By   |  February 13, 2008

Linux seems to have chosen the 2008 Mobile World Congress to quietly make its way onto the new consumer devices so in abundance at the annual mobile Mecca.


Texas Instruments “G-Phone”

Stalwarts like Symbian and Microsoft have been somewhat upstaged by the rough-and-tough technology concept demonstrations of Google’s mobile platform, Android. Both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments showed impressive demos of the platform, with developer boards and some concept devices on show.

Texas Instruments showed off a development board, a development handset and – the show-stopper – Android running on a mobile form factor device. Qualcomm’s demo, on a development board, featured a touch screen and a custom-made mole-whacking game – apparently created in 60 minutes on Google’s Android software development kit (SDK).

Android offers cell phone manufacturers a “stack” of software for rolling out on their mobile phones. Manufacturers will be able to utilise the software to give them a firm base – including operating system, middleware and typical cell phone applications like SMS, contacts, voice and web browser.


Qualcomm’s Android offering

It is hoped that the Linux stack and good SDKs will promote application developers to create more apps for the mobile platform. Vodafone’s CEO, Arun Sarin, stated that he believed there should be no more than four or five operating systems for mobile phones, compared to the 40 in the market currently. The proliferation of mobile platforms has severly hamstrung the roll-out of applications for the “fourth screen”.

While Android offers a full stack, the LiMo (Linux Mobile) Foundation delivers a unified middleware and OS layer – the manufacturers build all the applications on top of the platform. Some manufacturers clearly prefer this model, giving them the ability to completely customise the user experience on their platforms. LiMo is significantly more advanced than Android after its year in the market – the LiMo Foundation showed off phones from the likes of Motorola, LG, NEC, Panasonic and Samsung.


Motorola’s Motorokr E8 LiMo phone

Thanks to Google’s lead in the software, the Android phones have been slugged “G-Phones”, in response to Apple’s phone nomenclature, although more than 30 technology companies are part of the Open Handset Alliance, the group backing Android.

LiMo representatives stated that Android would not compete directly with its foundation, although Android’s promoters told Tectonic that they believed that Android’s full solution will prove more popular over time.

Since Android has been demo’d running live on processors and chipsets from TI and Qualcomm, the platform is technically ready for manufacturers to develop and prototype the solution. We can expect some Android devices at next year’s MWC. Should Sarin’s vision of four or five operating systems come true, Linux is a safe bet as one of them.

Linux seems to have chosen the 2008 Mobile World Congress to quietly make its way onto the new consumer devices so in abundance at the annual mobile Mecca.

Texas Instruments “G-Phone”
Texas Instruments “G-Phone”

Stalwarts like Symbian and Microsoft have been somewhat upstaged by the rough-and-tough technology concept demonstrations of Google’s mobile platform, Android. Both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments showed impressive demos of the platform, with developer boards and some concept devices on show.

Texas Instruments showed off a development board, a development handset and – the show-stopper – Android running on a mobile form factor device. Qualcomm’s demo, on a development board, featured a touch screen and a custom-made mole-whacking game – apparently created in 60 minutes on Google’s Android software development kit (SDK).

Android offers cell phone manufacturers a “stack” of software for rolling out on their mobile phones. Manufacturers will be able to utilise the software to give them a firm base – including operating system, middleware and typical cell phone applications like SMS, contacts, voice and web browser.

Qualcomm’s Android offering
Qualcomm’s Android offering

It is hoped that the Linux stack and good SDKs will promote application developers to create more apps for the mobile platform. Vodafone’s CEO, Arun Sarin, stated that he believed there should be no more than four or five operating systems for mobile phones, compared to the 40 in the market currently. The proliferation of mobile platforms has severly hamstrung the roll-out of applications for the “fourth screen”.

While Android offers a full stack, the LiMo (Linux Mobile) Foundation delivers a unified middleware and OS layer – the manufacturers build all the applications on top of the platform. Some manufacturers clearly prefer this model, giving them the ability to completely customise the user experience on their platforms. LiMo is significantly more advanced than Android after its year in the market – the LiMo Foundation showed off phones from the likes of Motorola, LG, NEC, Panasonic and Samsung.

Motorola’s Motorokr E8 LiMo phone
Motorola’s Motorokr E8 LiMo phone

Thanks to Google’s lead in the software, the Android phones have been slugged “G-Phones”, in response to Apple’s phone nomenclature, although more than 30 technology companies are part of the Open Handset Alliance, the group backing Android.

LiMo representatives stated that Android would not compete directly with its foundation, although Android’s promoters told Tectonic that they believed that Android’s full solution will prove more popular over time.

Since Android has been demo’d running live on processors and chipsets from TI and Qualcomm, the platform is technically ready for manufacturers to develop and prototype the solution. We can expect some Android devices at next year’s MWC. Should Sarin’s vision of four or five operating systems come true, Linux is a safe bet as one of them.

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Comments

2 Responses to “Your next phone could run Linux”

  1. Jonathan
    February 13th, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

    “Next” phone? The last three phones I bought ran Linux :)

    Although, I will admit that only two of them are production phones (Motorola Z3 and Motorola V8). I think many people are already using Linux on their phones and devices without even realising it.

  2. Alastair Otter
    February 13th, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

    Jonathan,

    I think we’re on the cusp of a boom in Linux-powered mobile devices. Platforms such as Android are going really going open up the market for Linux applications for phones. And there is a sense of a growing momentum around Linux on mobile (companies such as Orange joining LiMo this week for example).

    Motorola has always been a big backer of Linux for mobile phones and they’ve consistently had a good handful of Linux-based phones in the market. But most of the (popular) other makers have never invested significantly Linux as a platform. Perhaps they’ll change their minds as the movement grows?

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