OSDL Launches Mobile Linux Initiative

The Open Source Development Labs yesterday said it has formed a new working group focused on accelerating the adoption of Linux in the rapidly-growing mobile market.

The OSDL said it is creating the Mobile Linux Initiative in response to input from its membership and the growing global demand for Linux-based mobile platform requirements.

Research firm Ovum reports that worldwide mobile phone sales grew 31 percent in 2004 and that more than 2.8 billion phones are expected to be in use by 2009. As the mobile market continues to explode, handset manufacturers are increasingly turning to Linux as a strategic platform to deliver more capable mobile devices, increase flexibility, speed time-to-market, and lower costs.

“In much the same way that the OSDL Carrier Grade Linux working group helped accelerate Linux adoption in telecommunications network infrastructure, we believe that MLI will create the ideal forum where device manufacturers, network operators and developers can focus specifically on Linux and open source applications to move mobile handsets to the next level of functionality and profitability,” said Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL.

MLI on a Mission

The MLI working group is on a mission to maximize the market opportunity for Linux-based devices. MontaVista Software, Motorola, PalmSource, Trolltech, and Wind River are among the first members to participate in MLI.

MLI participants will work on operating system technical challenges, foster development of applications for Linux-based mobile devices, deliver requirements definition documents and use cases, and host complementary open-source projects that support the initiative.

“Linux has enormous potential in the mobile space as it is well placed to meet growing demand for handsets that deliver both flexibility and advanced features,” said Gary Barnett, research director at Ovum. “OSDL and its members are in a position to help facilitate a shift for handset manufacturers moving to Linux.”

Opportunity Knocks

Burton Group Senior Analyst Mike Disabato told LinuxInsider that he agrees the open-source operating system has potential in the mobile space. Functionality, he said, would be a prime motivating factor for wireless device manufacturers that choose to adopt Linux.

“Right now more enterprises are interested in how wireless devices can be integrated into the enterprise network and the applications that are running there,” Disabato said. “Palm finally got around to offering native exchange integration with its Pocket PC and if Linux comes along and provides that integration then there will be a high level of interest in a fourth operating system for mobile platforms.”

Of course, Disabato said, Linux is already making headway on mobile phones, but much like BSD sits underneath a Mac unbeknownst to Apple users, most wireless consumers won’t know their phones are running Linux.

Banking on Past Success

Michael Kelley, senior vice president, engineering, for PalmSource, said the OSDL is a proven launch pad for Linux technology and collaboration, and pointed to Carrier Grade Linux as a perfect example of an OSDL initiative that has been widely accepted by the industry.

“With OSDL bringing together key players in the mobile market, we believe that it will be possible to provide technically sound Linux implementations for mobile devices; deliver the business benefits we expect; and give our customers more choice and value in the services and products that we can offer,” Kelly said.

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