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Avo Reid

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Mobile Linux ...The Other OS

January 29, 2008

Linux will become one of the leading mobile platforms by 2012 when it is expected to be running on more than 127 million mobile phones, up from 8.1 million in 2007 according to ABI Research. Another 76 million units will be deployed as real-time operating system replacements for devices up from nearly 0 in 2007. So carriers worldwide will support these major mobile operating systems -- iPhone, MS Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Symbian, Linux, and Palm OS. Linux is a popular mobile OS in China and Japan but has small market share everywhere else including North America.

Linux has the capacity to be a disruptive technology in the mobile market place. New mobile device makers may find Linux an attractive alternative with fewer development cycles, lower licensing fee's and faster time to market.

Let's look at some of the recent industry activity around Linux:

Google introduced Android which is built on the open Linux Kernel. HTC already has declared it will bring Android-powered handsets to market this year, probably through Open Handset Alliance partner T-Mobile. By the way the latest rumor floating around about the gPhone involves Dell building the first Android phone.

Nokia just this week entered into an agreement to acuire TrollTech. Trolltech provides cross-platform software development frameworks and tools (Qt) and application platforms (Qtopia). Trolltech’s Qt is used in popular software such as Skype, Google Earth, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Lucasfilm and by more than 5000 customers worldwide. Qt supports embedded Linux, Windows CE, Windows Desktop, Mac Desktop, and Linux X11/Desktop. On top of Qt Trolltech has developed Qtopia an application framework for the efficient creation of Linux-based devices. Trolltech’s Qtopia has enabled a new generation of consumer devices such as mobile handsets, video-phones, set-top boxes and media players. Trolltech’s software has shipped in more than 10 million devices.

Red Bend Software this week announced MAST, a concept phone (an abbreviation for Master Key), to symbolize a new milestone in Open Access, where any software on any mobile device can be customized at any time during the device lifecycle. MAST is the industry's first Linux mobile phone with Software 100% customizable over the air. MAST is based on the Trolltech® Qtopia® application platform for Linux and is implemented on Trolltech’s Qtopia Greenphone™. “Until now, the entire mobile value chain has struggled to find a solution to enable post-sale, over-the-air customization of mobile software, especially for feature phones where core applications and services are embedded in ROM,” said Yoram Salinger, CEO of Red Bend Software. “vRapid Mobile solves this need today, and we have joined efforts with major players in the industry to show how new revenue streams can be realized through mobile software management.” Red Bend will demonstrate MAST live during Mobile World Congress 2008, February 11-14 in Barcelona, Spain.

NXP Semiconductors, the independent semiconductor company founded by Philips, and Purple Labs, a leading supplier of embedded Linux solutions for mobile phones, jointly announced this week the release of a 3G Linux reference feature phone offering video telephony, music playback, high-speed Internet browsing and video streaming at a price below US$100. The new Purple Magic phone serves as a reference design for phone manufacturers creating entry-level 3G handsets.

This week Azingo Mobile announced a comprehensive suite of open mobile software and services designed to help companies deliver web 2.0 applications, music, video, vivid graphics and more to a wide range of mobile phones. The Azingo Mobile platform enables handset manufacturers and operators to leverage a rich suite of "out of the box" mobile applications and enables OEM, operators and ISVs to build and customize new innovative services and user experiences. Azingo Mobile's one-stop-shop approach reduces development costs, shortens the time to bring new handset designs to market, and enables lower cost phones offering the latest multimedia and UI innovations.

2008 looks to be a big year for Linux in the Mobile OS market. The OS market is still fragmented in North America and this trend seems to be continuing. This year the iPhone came from nowhere to take second place from MS Windows Mobile, leaving it a distant third. Cross platform frameworks like TrollTech are the order of the day.

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