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The Mobile Linux Puzzle Comes Together


THE PROMISE / Standardized mobile Linux promises an open phone platform with consistent interfaces across a large number of smartphone handsets, and support from a rich ecosystem of application and middleware vendors.

Handset vendors supporting a standardized implementation of mobile Linux are Motorola, NEC, Panasonic and Samsung. Operators include NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone, which represent a major global presence, but little of one within the United States. Software vendors/integrators working toward mobile Linux include Access/PalmSource, Aplix, Celunite, Enea, Esteemo, FSMLabs, MontaVista Software, OpenMoko, Purple Labs, Trolltech, VirtualLogix, Wind River and Wipro Technologies.

Prospects are mixed, as mobile Linux initiatives are quite fragmented. However, leading players are working to develop reference platforms that, if adopted, could make this a serious contender to existing platforms such as BlackBerry, Palm OS, Symbian OS and Windows Mobile by the end of the decade.

Wondering how long it will be before Linux makes its way onto mobile communications devices in your enterprise? So are a lot of other people.

Mobile Linux is becoming a significant force in the mobile phone arena. Although it hasn't made inroads in the United States, it runs on about a quarter of smartphones globally, according to one estimate. And Asia is especially hot for mobile Linux right now. In the United States, proponents are clearing a path for the operating system on enterprise mobile devices. Motorola's mobile Linux consumer multimedia phone, the Motorizr Z6, will be available later this year. Smartphones won't be far behind.

For IT, mobile Linux promises an open and modular platform, facilitating deployment of Linux client applications that interact with back-end Linux-based enterprise apps. For application vendors, it provides a familiar application environment, unlike other mobile platforms, which can take some time to learn. And the potential benefits for handset vendors are huge--eventually mobile Linux may enable a common handset OS to support not only smartphones, but also the much larger market of multimedia phones, with features such as music and video players.

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