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June 16, 2006

Yet another Linux mobile phone standards effort

Posted by David Hunter at 9:44 AM ET.

Last November, several vendors got together to form a group called the Linux Phone Standard (LiPS) Forum to help their use of Linux on mobile phones better compete with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Symbian’s offerings. Apparently, that wasn’t enough because another group of vendors have gotten together with similar intent – Operators plan to stuff Microsoft, Symbian with mobile Linux:

A powerful bunch of players in the mobile phone sector announced plans to build an open Linux-based operating system for mobile devices.

The group, made up of Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics, and Vodafone, said it would form an independent foundation to promote the platform. In a statement today, the group said the foundation would “leverage the benefits of community-based and proprietary development”.

There’s more from Nancy Gohring at InfoWorld on the as yet unnamed group:

The creation of a common platform might help spur growth of Linux phones, a segment that has been hampered by fragmentation, said Tony Cripps, an analyst at Ovum. The Linux handsets on the market now use unique specifications, making it difficult for developers to create applications that can work across different devices, he said.

The lack of an open, common approach has also meant that Linux handsets haven’t been able to compete directly with leading mobile operating systems from Symbian or Microsoft, each of which nurtures an open application development ecosystem, he said.

The presence of operators like Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo that order large volumes of handsets is significant. If such a large and influential operator as Vodafone adopts a Linux handsets based on this platform, then other operators are likely to adopt the same or similar phones, Cripps said.

This will be the third mobile Linux group to launch within a year, joining the Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum and the Mobile Linux Initiative (MLI). Like the new foundation launched on Friday, the LiPS Forum aims to focus on the creation of APIs to enable interoperability of applications across Linux handsets.

PalmSource Inc., France Telecom SA and Orange SA are among the leaders of LiPS. The MLI, with members that include Motorola and PalmSource, is working on unifying developments around the mobile Linux kernel.

While MLI isn’t involved in the new foundation, it is likely to work with the new organization in the future.

Three groups? I must have missed one.



Filed under Coopetition, Microsoft, Motorola, NTT, PalmSource, Samsung, Symbian, Vodafone, Windows Mobile

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April 4, 2006

New Windows CE feature pack for set-top box vendors

Posted by David Hunter at 12:35 PM ET.

Press release:

Microsoft Corp. today announced the worldwide availability of Windows® CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack, an optional set of software components designed to lower the total cost of development for device-makers wanting to create next-generation networked media devices (NMDs) and Internet protocol set-top boxes (IP STBs), which will become an increasingly integral part of the digital home. The Microsoft® Windows CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack supports a broader range of video formats, PlaysForSure™ certification and digital video recorder (DVR) functionalities, and helps developers focus their time on device differentiation and innovation instead of middleware licensing and integration.

The Windows CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack is being launched with worldwide support from consumer electronics companies such as Amoi Electronics Co. Ltd., HUMAX Co. Ltd., Media Excel Inc., Microsoft TV and Motorola Inc., many of which will bring to market new Windows CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack-based devices this quarter. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across the globe, including U.S.-based Cisco Systems Inc. and Taiwan-based Tatung Co., currently use Windows CE 5.0 to develop STBs supporting the Microsoft TV Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Edition software platform.

The net seems to be that Microsoft is providing these features for free so that their Windows CE OEMs don’t have to integrate a bunch of 3rd party code. Windows CE is also used in a variety of portable consumer electronics devices besides the set-top boxes.



Filed under Cisco, Coopetition, Embedded, IPTV, Microsoft, Microsoft TV, Motorola, PlaysForSure, Service Providers, Tatung, Technologies, Windows CE

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February 13, 2006

Motorola announces Windows Media music phones

Posted by David Hunter at 10:00 AM ET.

In more news from 3GSM, Reuters reports:

Motorola said on Monday it had signed a deal to use Windows Media technology from Microsoft in a new range of music phones that would sell alongside its iTunes phone developed with Apple.

Motorola Inc., the world’s second biggest mobile phone maker behind Nokia (NOK1V.HE), will launch between one and three Windows Media phones in the second half of 2006, said Chris White, the company’s senior director of global product marketing for music handsets.

Motorola, which launched its first iTunes phones last year, will keep Windows Media phones as separate products, he said.

Motorola said the new Windows Media phones have been requested by many operators which want to open their own music stores. Microsoft is willing to sell technology that enables this to operators, while Apple has its iTunes music store to protect.

Amir Majidimehr, in charge of Microsoft’s digital media activities, said the advantage for consumers was that they could now buy online songs either from a PC or a mobile phone and transfer between devices without having to buy tracks twice.

Microsoft now has deals with both Nokia and Motorola. These two handset makers together produced more than half of the 810 million mobile phones that were sold last year.

As described in the article, the Motorola iTunes phones were duds for a variety of reasons including the inability of network operators to sell songs themselves. And that’s important because:

Support of mobile telecoms operators for a handset is crucial, because they choose a limited number of phones they will subsidize and offer to their subscribers — in most markets around the world only 10 to 20 percent of phones are sold in retail stores without operator subsidies.

Next we get to see if consumers will also like the idea.

Update: The Microsoft press release has arrived:

Today at 3GSM World Congress 2006, Motorola Inc. and Microsoft Corp. strengthened their existing relationship by announcing a collaboration to integrate Microsoft ® Windows Media ® technologies on a number of Motorola’s music handsets, which will allow users to access content from the broadest selection of online music stores from around the world.

Motorola’s music handsets will add support for Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM), Windows Media Audio (WMA), the enhanced Windows Media Audio Professional (WMA Pro) codec and Media Transfer Protocol (MTP). These technologies will give consumers the maximum flexibility and options when purchasing and playing back their digital music.

Forthcoming Motorola music handsets will enable seamless connectivity to Windows ® -based PCs via the USB 2.0 high-speed protocol. By supporting MTP, Windows Media Player will automatically recognize Motorola handsets and enable users to quickly and easily sync their music from their PC to their phone. Music acquired from any pay-per-download or subscription store using Windows Media technology will transfer and play back on Motorola handsets.

In addition to making Motorola handsets interoperable with PCs, Motorola and Microsoft plan to provide mobile handset offerings that are tailored for discovering and acquiring music over an operator’s 3G network.



Filed under 3GSM06, Alliances, Apple, Conferences, Coopetition, DRM, Digital Media, Media Player, Motorola, Technologies

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November 14, 2005

New Linux phone standards effort

Posted by David Hunter at 7:48 AM ET.

Stephen Shankland at CNET:

PalmSource, France Telecom’s Orange and several other companies plan on Monday to announce an effort to standardize aspects of Linux running on mobile phones.

The Linux Phone Standard (Lips) Forum wants to standardize Linux interfaces so that higher-level software won’t have to be customized for each variation of the open-source operating system appearing in different cell phone models. If successful, the allies believe they’ll make Linux a better competitor the fast-growing market.

“There’s a need for an alternative to Microsoft and Symbian,” said John Ostrem, a Lips board member, founder of China Mobilesoft and now lead scientist at PalmSource. “We’re interested in reducing fragmentation and introducing a standard Linux platform that will allow people to make Linux phones faster, at lower cost, and with greater interoperability.”

An interesting profile of the usage of Linux in mobile phones was provided last week by Sarah Lacy in Business WeekLinux Answers Phone Makers’ Call:

Since then, Motorola has sold more than 3 million Linux phones in Asia. It’s now starting to ship three models globally, with another scheduled to debut in 2006. The world’s No. 2 cell-phone maker plans to refashion the majority of its handsets around Linux over time, says Greg Besio, Motorola’s head of mobile-device software.

It’s not hard to see the appeal of Linux for cell-phone makers (see BW Online, 9/6/04, “Cell Phones: Don’t Count Linux Out”). It’s cheap, malleable, and supported by millions of programmers the world over. Panasonic (MC) and NEC (NEC) earlier this year started shipping Linux-based phones through Japan’s pioneering telecom giant NTT DoCoMo. And other big phone makers, such as Samsung, are dabbling (see BW Online, 11/8/05, “Dialing Up Linux”).

So far, Linux is mainly running so-called smart phones, high-end handsets that retail for $300 or more. The percentage of smart phones with Linux has leapt to 26% in the second quarter of 2005, from just 6% the year before, according to researcher Gartner. Smart phones are a tiny — but important — slice of the phone business, accounting for about 6% of phone units sold every year.

Smart phones make up 14%, however, of the $300 billion in mobile phones produced annually. They’re also an indicator of where mass-market handsets are headed. Gains for Linux are a potential bane for Symbian, a software consortium that dominates the smart-phone market, with a 65% share. The rising popularity of Linux on cell phones could also stymie efforts by Microsoft (MSFT) to widen its share, currently less than 5%.

Much more by following the link.



Filed under Coopetition, Linux, Motorola, Open Source, PalmSource, Standards, Windows Mobile

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