LiMo mobile Linux takes on Google and Nokia

LiMo’s Linux open software platform seems to be cleaning up as the main mobile phone operating system despite the best efforts of Nokia and Google to convince the market of their open platform credentials.

The LiMo Foundation, a grouping of mobile companies including Motorola, Samsung, NTT DoCoMo and Orange, has scored a success with another wave of handsets using the LiMo platform. The seven new devices from Motorola, NEC and Panasonic Mobile Communications confirm LiMo as the one to watch in the mobile Linux market. There are now more than 20 handsets supporting the LiMo standard OS.

The latest launches come only weeks after Nokia’s decision to move the Symbian OS to an open platform.

Two of the top three mobile phone companies formed the LiMo Foundation to promote the standard Linux platform in January. It now has more than 50 members, including operators, software and semiconductor suppliers as well as handset manufacturers.
The LiMo companies seemed supportive of Nokia’s decision to move the Symbian mobile OS to open source. But they must see it as a competitive threat that is unlikely to go away given Nokia’s strength in the handset market.

“Taking Symbian out of proprietary ownership is a natural evolution for the organisation because the future of the handset OS is far more about governance than technology,” said the LiMo Foundation.

But there is a difference: the LiMo platform is licensed through Collaborative Source using the FPL licence, while Symbian OS is licensed through the Eclipse Public licence. The LiMo platform is also based on the Linux kernel, which has significant development resources behind it.

Meanwhile Google’s Android open source mobile platform is also gaining support in the handset market.

“Strong support from mobile operators shows the popularity of the LiMo platform; however, Android’s momentum in the developer community, backed by Google’s brand strength, should almost guarantee its acceptance,” said Sravan Kundojjala, an analyst at market watcher Strategy Analytics.

So who is lining up behind Android? At present all we have is a market rumour that T-Mobile will offer an Android-based handset from an unnamed manufacturer in the US this autumn. But despite the comparative lack of manufacturer support, the belief is that with Google behind it Android is a serious alternative.

So despite the traditional view that only one Linux-based OS can succeed, the reality is that a multistandard approach looks the most likely outcome. And it looks certain that Linux-based platforms will put significant competitive pressure on the proprietary mobile operating systems of Microsoft, RIM and Apple.

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