Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ovum: Wireless giants point Linux at the mobile mainstream

Ovum's Tony Cripps adds his two cents on "Motorola (MOT), Samsung, NEC and Panasonic joining forces with mobile operators Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo (DCM) to create a consistent Linux-based platform for mobile handsets." Cripps notes that:

Linux's prospects of making a real impression on the mobile telecoms industry have previously been hindered by the inability of its supporters to offer a consistent, natively-programmable platform for developers and service providers to target. Some efforts at achieving consistency in Linux handsets have been apparent, notably the efforts by NTT DoCoMo and handset partners Panasonic and NEC in Japan, and Motorola in the rest of the world. But these have concentrated more on improving Linux's scalability across a range of handsets than on making it an attractive application platform for developers.
He then goes on to state:
Fragmentation at the application layer has been the rule, and the incentive to build a coherent developer ecosystem has been missing. As such, Linux handsets have remained effectively 'closed' to third-party developers - except where courted directly by manufacturers or their operator customers. It has not been possible to compare them directly with genuinely "open" mobile platforms such as Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Nokia's Symbian-based S60.
Cripps concludes with:
With heavy hitters such as Vodafone, Motorola, Samsung and DoCoMo (in particular) backing this initiative, it has to be taken seriously. It may also begin to test manufacturer loyalty to commercial handset software platform players such as Microsoft and Symbian once the first devices come on stream. Nonetheless, considerable challenges remain. Spokespeople for the group said the legal aspects surrounding the technology licensing are not yet settled. What is open source and what is not has not yet been decided. Nor are certification and application testing procedures yet firm. These are not trivial matters and as such Microsoft, Symbian, Nokia and others will not be panicking just yet. But they will be looking over their shoulders.