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Monday, August 30, 2004

Cell Phones: Don't Count Linux Out via Bweek

Motorola announced the world's first handset built around the Linux operating system in early 2003and unveiled plans to use the populist software in consumer phones from then on. Pundits saw this as a slap at Symbian Ltd., the London software consortium Motorola co-founded five years earlier with Nokia Corp. (NOK ) and Ericsson to develop software for feature-rich smart phones. It was also a major lift for Linux, the grassroots operating system that until then was used mainly on servers. Today, every single mobile-phone maker is looking at Linux.Downsizing Linux to fit into mobile phones took longer than predicted, and the software has a ways to go before it equals the sophistication of Symbian's package or the mobile phone version of Microsoft Windows. Motorola nevertheless remains a believer and says that,"Linux is more flexible and opens up to the innovation of developers around the world".But only 1.1 million Linux-based phones are expected to ship this year, vs. 14 million using Symbian system, estimates researcher Strategy Analytics in London.Cellphone makers like Samsung, Datang and DoCoMo have actively embraced Linux.And Sunnyvale (Calif.)-based MontaVista Software Inc., which supplies the version of Linux used in most phones, says it has won 10 contracts for handsets using Linux, including several from European makers.Top-of-the-line smart phones that can replace a laptop PC and connect to corporate data systems will likely still use Symbian or Windows. But thanks to its lower cost, Linux could become the de facto standard for less-sophisticated "feature" phones that add cameras, games, and music -- a market that analyst Richard Windsor of Nomura Securities International Inc. (NMR ) in London pegs at 145 million units this year. Clearly, we are beginning to see substantial linux centered action in the mobile market and this is all set to intensify in the days to come.
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