LiMo Revs Up for R2 Handset Drive

The LiMo Foundation, a consortium dedicated to creating an open, hardware-independent, Linux-based operating system for mobile devices delivered a one- two- punch to the mobile industry Thursday. First, Morgan Gillis, executive director, announced that consortium members are “moving into full commercialization mode” and all operator members on the LiMo Board have “reaffirmed their intent to bring LiMo R2 devices and associated services to market during 2009/2010.” Operators that intend to bring these handsets to market include NTT DoCoMo, Orange, SK Telecom, Telefonica, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone.

“This will be the first globally competitive Linux platform,” said Gillis. “The six major operators that will produce R2 devices and services are in all regions of the global market.”

‘Center of Gravity’

The LiMo Platform contains best-in-breed IP contributions of major stakeholders across the mobile industry, which in turn enables operators to leverage a common, pre-integrated software platform across many devices while providing deeply customized experiences to their customers. The platform allows more choice in regard to application distribution paths and business terms so that mobile applications and services can be brought to market through a variety of channels, including current and emerging application stores and customer portals. Operators will be able to work with application providers and other participants in the LiMo ecosystem.

Handsets for the upcoming operator deployments will be sourced from LiMo OEMs who have worked collaboratively with other LiMo members to develop and refine the platform, according to the organization. OEMs within the LiMo Foundation include board members LG, NEC, Panasonic and Samsung, core member Casio Hitachi, and also associate members Huawei and ZTE.

“In addition to serving as a market-proven codebase upon which OEMs can produce handsets of varying form factors, the LiMo platform provides a fully independent and pervasive foundation from which operators can freely deploy and monetize their own visions for compelling, next-generation applications and services for their consumers around the globe,” said Gillis. “As the value line continues to move further up the mobile software stack, LiMo is playing a critical role as the center of gravity for industry collaboration within device software.”

“Services will be available on many devices in upcoming launches,” added Gillis. “Over time, 100 devices can download services from the site, both mobile and PC.”

R2 Shows Up

This news of a major coordinated market play by LiMo was immediately followed by the announcement of the launch of the first LiMo Release 2 (R2) handset. The Samsung device, known as “Vodafone 360 H1,” supports the brand-new Vodafone 360 service.

“The launch of H1 is imminent as one of our Christmas handsets,” said Glenn Harris, senior business development manager of Vodafone. The first wave, he said, will be across eight networks in Europe, to be quickly followed by a second wave, again on networks in Europe.

Vodafone’s 360 service integrates content and contacts from virtually any source into a single mobile experience. A catalog of over 1,000 apps at launch will be available to different handsets, downloadable through the Vodafone Shop. However, perhaps the most interesting development is the ability for non-Vodafone customers to access some of the range of services, linking them to their social networks via mobile. This would open Vodafone to an expanding customer base.

As Samsung’s first LiMo-based product, the Vodafone 360 H1 comes with an ultra brilliant 3.5-inch WVGA AMOLED display and a wide range of advanced features including 720p HD video recording as well as exclusive Vodafone services. The Vodafone 360 service includes a universal contact list that integrates information from address books within various services and a 3-D zoom feature that enables users to browse through their latest interaction in chronological order.

“The interface takes the hassle out of using a mobile device for nearly any purpose,” said Harris. “And the devices can be synced through the cloud, wirelessly.”

The H1’s screen is multi-touch but “not equipped for multi-touch gesture” yet according to Hankil Yoon, vice president of Global GSM Product Planning at Samsung. Even so, it promises to be an impressive device for mobile gaming.

Combined, these announcements herald a concerted and aggressive push in a recessed market.

“The collaboration between Vodafone and Samsung that resulted in the 360 H1 device is a ringing endorsement of LiMo’s uniquely independent and collaborative approach to realizing key technology for the benefit of the whole industry and signals the first of a wave of R2 LiMo handsets due in the coming months,” said Gillis.

We’ll see if customers also give it a ringing endorsement around New Year’s, after they unwrap the package and play with it a bit.

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