By Marguerite Reardon, <maggie.reardon(a)cnet.com> CNET News.com
*Four mobile handset makers are teaming up with two cellular operators to
develop a new Linux software platform for mobile devices.*
Cell phone makers Motorola, NEC, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Samsung
Electronics, along with mobile operators NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone, expect to
announce on Thursday plans to form an independent foundation to develop a
common mobile Linux-based platform. They will use this platform to develop
new products, applications and features.
Linux, an open-source operating system, is already available on a wide range
of mobile handsets.
says it has shipped more than 5 million Linux-based handsets, mostly
on smart phones, such as the Ming model shipped in China. In addition,
Motorola just launched the new Rokr
Asia, which also uses Linux. The Rokr E2 will soon ship in
Other handset makers have shipped a similar volume of Linux-based handsets,
said Christy Wyatt, the vice president of ecosystem and market development
for Motorola and a spokeswoman for the new Linux foundation.
But until now, each handset maker has built its own operating system using
the Linux kernel. This has led to a wide variety of implementations in the
market, each of which must be tested individually by mobile operators.
The six companies forming the foundation believe that by working together,
they can build a common platform that will allow them to develop new
products much faster and cheaper than they've done in the past. Mobile
operators benefit from a common Linux platform, too, because it means they
can test and certify one operating system instead of several.
"While Linux itself is an open kernel, platforms from handset maker to
handset maker vary," Wyatt said. "And when you look at building an ecosystem
of suppliers and developers, it is difficult to support individual Linux
implementations. Pulling resources from multiple companies to develop a
common platform makes Linux more compelling."
Details of how the foundation will be funded and how it will function
haven't yet been released. But the goal of the founding companies is to
develop and market an application programming interface, or API,
specification; architecture; and specifications for third-party software
The foundation also plans to provide a test suite to assess and demonstrate
product conformance to the specification. Other companies will be encouraged
to join the foundation, Wyatt said.
This isn't the first effort to come up with a common Linux operating system
for mobile phones. The Linux Phone Standard
of several companies, including PalmSource and France Telecom's
Orange), the Open Source Development
Consumer Electronics Linux Forum all have been working on efforts to
define requirements or establish specifications.
Wyatt said that unlike traditional standards efforts, the new foundation
will establish a common software platform that all participating
manufacturers will be able to use.
"We're developing a complete platform," she said. "So instead of
developing products based on a published specification or standard, we'll be
innovating and developing a whole platform with our peers."
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