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Feature: Handheld Devices

Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

By Murry Shohat on September 17, 2007 (9:00:00 PM)

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This summer, in a perfect storm of activity, the cell phone suddenly became a full-fledged wireless computer. Those prime-time TV commercials promoting the iPhone downplay the telephone application to emphasize data-rich Internet media capabilities -- email, Web surfing, GPS navigation, music, photos, and video -- all on a cell phone. Hard on Apple's heels, a blitz of new handhelds is beginning to vie for attention, led by Motorola's US launch of the Linux-based RAZR2 V8, now taking place. Has Linux become a contending competitive platform, pushing open source to the front of the stage in this market?

It appears so. Market research firm ABI Research, in a late August press announcement entitled "Linux to Be the Fastest-Growing Smartphone OS over the Next 5 Years," predicted a compound annual growth rate "in excess of 75%." By 2012, this growth rate means that Linux will "account for nearly 31% of all smart devices in the market ... representing more than 331 million cumulative shipments over the same period." Research Director Stuart Carlaw said, "Serious initiatives from the likes of Intel and Access are gathering pace and momentum, whilst the carrier community continues to identify Linux as one of the few operating systems that it intends to support in its long-term plans."

The LiMo (Linux Mobile) trade association says in a press release that "worldwide industry experts predict that there are currently two billion mobile subscribers who are consuming one trillion minutes of service and purchasing more than one billion mobile phones annually. Industry analysts project the mobile software and services market to exceed $6B by 2009, with open platforms as the fastest growing sector of the market."

In its Worldwide Mobile Phone 2007-2011 Forecast and Analysis, IDC observed that handset shipments surpassed the one billion mark last year. "The growth in mobile phone shipments will be powered by new users in emerging markets, allowing the market to reach the next billion users," says Chris Hazelton, senior analyst in IDC's Mobile Device Technology and Trends serive. "However, mature markets will also experience growth from users upgrading to mobile phones that offer advances in mobile Internet, navigation, rich messaging, and video."

The IDC forecast sets the global five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 6.9%, leading to shipment of 1.4 billion handsets by 2011. With Linux CAGR in this market forecasted at 75%, gains have to be at the expense of current OS leaders. ABI's Carlaw says, "Linux is benefiting from growing support in the handset OEM community, most notably Motorola, but also Nokia with less traditional types of devices aimed at mobile broadband applications."

Most of those billions of mobile customers don't care which operating system runs their phone. What's really important is the functionality. In addition to voice service, they want video, music, photos, GPS, and camera, plus the Energizer bunny of killer apps: easy email on a handheld. Going forward, companies want even more functionality in two key areas -- corporate applications such as collaboration and calendaring; and genuine security so that a data tunnel established between a wireless handheld and the firm's data does not create a potentially malicious entry door.

David Wood, executive vice president of research at Linux competitor Symbian, aptly says on the company's Web site, "The software that you can obtain from the primary Linux download site, www.kernel.org, is less than 10% of what you need to create a phone. The remaining 90+% of software significantly alters the characterisation of the phone." That 90% is either in the hands of proprietary developers like Symbian and Microsoft or open source stack developers like MontaVista and Access. Leading cell phone vendors such as Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, and LG continue to partner with the proprietary developers and stack vendors. But nonprofit trade associations like LIPS and LiMo -- funded by open-source-minded corporate partners -- suggests that the difficulties of building the 90% portion will be substantially eased by the software platforms that are undergoing collaborative work. LiMo's platform has a tenative phased development schedule that completes in 2009. LIPS, on the other hand, promises release 1.0 by year's end and has published a roadmap through 2008.

In the cell phone market, consumers will pay for content, and corporations need to deliver secure content to applications in the palm of employees' hands. These trends suggest products that are simultaneously more functional and less expensive than a Treo or BlackBerry and more secure than an iPhone. MontaVista Software claims to have deployed Mobilinux on more than 35 million mobile devices worldwide. CEO Tom Kelley says, "Linux is growing rapidly on mobile devices because of its solid reliability, its great flexibility, and because it accelerates the development cycle." Vendors using or contemplating the use of Linux for mobile devices unanimously point to the operating system's footprint, memory usage, and fast growing ecosystem of developers producing software for graphics, multimedia, connectivity, and security.

This is a market where, if you can change the rules, maybe you can win the game. Apple's iPhone serve came up an ace for the consumer, though not for business, inasmuch as the iPhone lacks the necessary security features to keep CIOs happy. Even before iPhone's launch, analysts were calling it a "nightmare for security teams."

Linux, however, is suited to consumer products because the core or kernel is free and is exceptionally well maintained as a secure operating system under the auspices of groups like The Linux Foundation. Because the open source development environment yields unfettered access to the protocol stack, corporations can devise ways to protect all of those bi-directional bytes flying across the network.

How long will the perfect storm continue? Although Apple may be credited with ratcheting up the activity level with the iPhone, most of the developments on the Linux front have been simmering for a long time. For example, Motorola began launching Linux-based cell phones and smart phones in Asian and European markets several years ago. Consortia like LIPS and LiMo also trace back to around 2000. Consumers are likely to encounter many new products through the normal channels -- the competing carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and others. It's an uphill swim for Linux, of course, given the sheer numbers. However, Linux is poised to achieve about a third of the mobile market by 2012, as predicted by ABI Research. And this bodes well for the use of Linux throughout the consumer markets.

Murry Shohat is a freelance journalist based in Santa Rosa, Calif. He has been writing about Linux since 1997, when he began coverage of open source software used for electronic design automation for Integrated Systems Design magazine. In 2000, Murry helped found the Embedded Linux Consortium, and served as the group's executive director through mid-2005.

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on Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.172.90.47] on September 17, 2007 09:32 PM
Hmm. Artical claims that Linux phones are increasing, yet it can only list one model currently selling

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Re: Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.98.42.76] on September 17, 2007 09:43 PM
There is only one selling in the US, but there have been many selling abroad for at least a couple of years.

Going from zero to one is an increase. Is it not???

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need a full keyboard

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.98.42.76] on September 17, 2007 09:40 PM
All I want is a phone like the Nokia 9300--that flips open to reveal a nice big keyboard and a nice big screen--running Linux.


I want to be able to string together commands and run my own scripts from the command line.


I want to be able to run emacs directly on my phone. Mutt, python, perl, bash, all of these things should work on my phone. And why not some gtk apps as well. How about PidginIM, GnuCash. How about Firefox?


It should have wifi and be able to make VOIP calls with SIP using any SIP compatible provider. It should be able to seamlessly transfer between my VOIP provider and my cellphone provider whenever I go in or out of wifi range.


Is this really too much to ask for with today's technology???

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Re: need a full keyboard

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.74.69.70] on September 18, 2007 11:29 AM
check Nokia N800. It has almost all you need.

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Re(1): need a full keyboard

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.248.63.126] on September 19, 2007 12:29 PM
...except the phone. And the keyboard. But since I'm willing to use a 'soft' (i.e., screen-based) keyboard to get that gorgeous iPhone-sized 800x480 screen, and carry a small bluetooth flip phone for voice and data connect, I personally *love* my N800. Especially the excellent python (includes pyGTK *and* Pygame!). And Ubuntu has adopted the Maemo (Gnome-based) UI libraries for Ubuntu Mobile, which gives me confidence this will be a long-term platform on which to write and collect applications.

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.144.254.237] on September 17, 2007 09:50 PM
Well, from 0 to 1 is increasing :)

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Cell phones are not the only thing up.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 58.179.116.128] on September 18, 2007 12:51 AM
Linux is sitting on over 30 percent of all embedded devices produced. Note to get to 30 percent was over a 200 % increase in 12 months.

So 75% growth for phones is well under the growth rate you would expect. Lets just say the foot is being placed on the gas.

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.77.85.36] on September 18, 2007 04:28 AM
Linux is far behind in the US, only one model is available, the razr v8, but the v9 is based on something else...

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Re: Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 58.179.116.128] on September 18, 2007 06:27 AM
So you don't get top of the line nokia's over there?

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up & Donation!

Posted by: Thimeth on September 18, 2007 07:06 AM
Hi I'm Thimeth.
I like LINUX Operating System .I haven't cell phone to share my language knowledge.
Kind.I request to you!
I like to use Linux OS cellphone
I invite you can donate to me it.
MY HOME Address:-"T.A.Karanayake"
Beliatta road,
Walasgala,
Southern province,
Sri Lanka.

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Motorola doesn't cater for linux users...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.145.89.155] on September 18, 2007 07:10 AM

When Motorola released its smartphone running linux, the Motorola MING (earlier known as the A1200)
I thought that it was a great match for my requirements.
To my dismay I later found that the synchronize options were via 'Exchange ActiveSync' or 'OTA', i.e. Microsoft.



I contacted Motorola, who told me tough luck:

'Please be informed that the software of Mobile Phone Tools is capable with Windows 2000/XP platform and cannot support Linux OS at this moment.'



While they are happy to use Linux in their phones but at the same time lock out Linux (and Mac) users from backing up their data seems hypocritical and somewhat insidious.

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Re: Motorola doesn't cater for linux users...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.18.128.5] on September 18, 2007 03:03 PM
The A1200 is a strange beast. I own one (got it for free, but that's another story) and at first it was useless. I then change the firmware with a new one that alows multiple JAVA apps to run concurrently, and also enabled EDGE with a hack and add several really usefull applications (like GcalSync that sync the A1200 calendar with Google Calendar). With all the tweaks I added it became really usefull, but it requires A LOT of work though....

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 172.189.217.218] on September 18, 2007 08:25 AM
This is great because Windows can't do networking properly especially wireless networking.....like WPA rarely works with everything and their interface is lame and tries to connect you to whatever it wants to.

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.28.69.5] on September 18, 2007 09:25 AM
I am in love with rashmi, mrashmi@novell.com.


regds,
Bipin
sbipin@novell.com

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.28.69.5] on September 18, 2007 09:26 AM
COOL! why the address? do i need to ping her for u?

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 208.78.62.196] on September 18, 2007 10:02 AM
+2348032528987

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Why no mention of Openmoko?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.150.225.18] on September 18, 2007 10:33 AM
Http://openmoko.com

Completely open. Available in 2 months.

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 163.221.52.141] on September 19, 2007 05:17 AM
Americans; the worlds version of technological Dinosaurs finally consider cell phones as small PC's. What a joke. Perhaps in another 10 years they will announce the usage of fiber optics in their homes?

The rise and fall of America as a technological leader. It no longer is a leader today. Today it is a "has been" with dreams of long ago, just like the rise and fall of the British Empire, another "has been".

Will...

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Ignoring the action

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.240.235.122] on September 19, 2007 11:21 AM
While the article quotes IDC and friends and drops the names of various corporations and alliances, Linux-based phones have already been available at various times in various markets, while developer-oriented devices such as the Greenphone and OpenMoko are available now - the latter coming on sale to all-comers within a few months. Of course, in the Treo, Blackberry and iPhone-obsessed backward American market, it's not a certainty that people will get decent access to such open technology, what with the market's (and the punters') obsession with plans, calling minutes, vendors and general lock-in, but then someone did mention the dinosaurs, after all.

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.146.251.29] on September 24, 2007 12:56 PM
Thanks for very interesting article. Keep up the good work. Regards
<a href="http://www.profesjonalna-reklama.pl" target="_blank">Pozycjonowanie</a>

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.61.253.45] on October 09, 2007 12:50 PM
Thank you, this was very interesting!
<a href="http://www.yellobook.eu" target="_blank">yellowpages</a>

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 61.10.251.131] on October 18, 2007 05:23 AM
"This summer, in a perfect storm of activity, the cell phone suddenly became a full-fledged wireless computer" - I'm assuming the author is referring to the arrival of the iphone. There are plenty of "pre-iphone" phones which does everything that the iphone can do and more. Where is the suddenness in this? Said author did not suddenly woke up from under a rock I hope?

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Where can i Get Linux 4 cellphones?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.15.122.114] on October 22, 2007 11:43 AM
Does anyone have any idea where to find linux for the older generation phones (nokia 3310,3330,6210i etc)?

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Meteko on December 05, 2007 07:28 AM
Currently the demand for cell phones is great and expected to grow larger. More and more people are using cell phone for computing purposes such as surfing the web and sending email. With the world popluation growing at such a fast pace, no doubt there will be a huge market out there. The demand from third world country is blooming thanks to the growing world economy. Hopefully linux is able to tap into this huge cell phone market.

Regards,
<a href="http://www.nhse.org/">Meteko </a>

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.29.165.248] on December 06, 2007 09:34 PM
motorola uses linux in their cells but the design of new motorolas is tragedy :(

view my site in free time <a href="http://www.my-system.pl" title="nowe nieruchomości">nowe nieruchomości</a> ;)

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Linux on cell phones: the trend is up

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forum

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