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Mobile Linux Group Seen As Possible Defensive Move

Microsoft Corp.'s momentum in the handset market during the last six to 12 months has one analyst suggesting that Thursday's announcement from a group of top mobile carrier and handset makers is a strategy to address recent market-share gains.

Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics and Vodafone plan to pool resources to collaborate on a Linux operating system for mobile phones that would ship by the end of 2007.

The group of handset makers and operators also will form an independent foundation to focus on joint development and marketing of an API specification, architecture, supporting source code-based reference implementation components and tools.

Analysts see the move as a low-risk strategy to help spur new-product development for smarter phones running on open-source platforms, rather than proprietary. "Microsoft is gaining momentum in the handset market, and I would suspect the decision by the group to collaborate is directly reflected at those gains," said Mark Kirstein, vice president of multimedia at research firm iSuppli Corp.

Today, Linux OS operates in a small proportion of the mobile handsets, while Symbian and Microsoft dominate the space. Kirstein expects the open-source Linux OS to have a major impact on the market, estimating that 35.2 million mobile devices running Linux OS will end up in subscribers' hands by the end of 2007, up from 12.6 million this year.

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