Trolltech Launches Reprogrammable Mobile Linux Phone

In a move to make mobile Linux applications easier to build, Trolltech on Tuesday launched a reprogrammable phone based on the Linux operating system.

The Qtopia Greenphone lets developers and handset manufacturers create, modify and test Linux-based mobile phone applications on a working GSM/GPRS device.

Greenphone is a functioning mobile camera phone that offers developers the ability to reprogram the device’s applications. It is the first in a series of open mobile devices the company plans to make available in cooperation with its partners.

“Developers can create applications to suit the evolving needs of carriers and end users with a dramatically reduced development cycle,” said Eirik Chambe-Eng, co-CEO, Trolltech.

Create, Integrate and Test

Trolltech is offering the Greenphone as part of a complete software development kit.

Although not intended as a commercial mobile phone, Trolltech said Greenphone has many of the communication functions and features found in today’s sophisticated smartphones. Developers can exploit these features and functions in developing their own unique applications.

Combined with Qtopia Phone Edition licensing, Trolltech said a developer has the freedom to create and then integrate and test the results right on the device. Full documentation and a highly productive suite of tools are provided for customization and extension of Qtopia Phone Edition.

Leading the Way

Qtopia is already used in 52 different device types of which 11 are mobile phone models. To date, there are more than 4 million Qtopia-based mobile phones in the marketplace, including mobile phones from Motorola, ZTE and Cellon.

“The introduction of Greenphone will strengthen Trolltech’s position as a leading Linux middleware provider and should be taken seriously as a software reference for building an open Linux ecosystem capable of competing with other established OS platforms,” said Dominic Lee, research analyst, Informa Telecoms & Media.

Addressing Mobile Linux Fragmentations

Avi Greengart, principal analyst for mobile devices at Current Analysis, agreed that Trolltech’s initiative is significant because it will help some mobile players get to the market faster by offering a real development base. However, he told LinuxInsider, there is still more work to be done.

“This doesn’t do anything to address my main concerns in the mobile Linux market, which is the incredible amount of fragmentation,” Greengart said. “If you are a software developer, it’s tough to figure out which one of these flavors you are going to support. Right now, everyone is waiting to see if there will be any volume generated with any of these.”

Ones to Watch

Greengart has his eye on Motorola, which is developing its own iteration of mobile Linux. Motorola’s operating system could become the de facto standard, based on the sheer volume of shipments of its hot mobile device designs such as the Razr and the Q.

For its part, Trolltech boasts a large customer base compared to smaller competitors coming on the fragmented mobile Linux development scene.

“Not only does Trolltech have Qtopia and the Greenphone, but it has some traction, so developers looking for a mobile Linux platform may find its track record and reputation attractive,” Greengart concluded.

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