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 Week – Linux 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.