The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum plans to release its first mobile phone specifications today, in a bid to encourage more applications for Linux phones.
The specifications, which include a reference model, address book, voice call enabler, text input method application programming interfaces (APIs) and user interface services such as widget sets, are expected to be posted on the LiPS website.
The forum, launched in late 2005, is working to standardise a layer of software in Linux phones that will make it easier for developers to create a mobile application once that can operate across many phones. "The reality of the market is it's coincidental that different phones run Linux because an application developer wouldn't be in the position to write something... to work on all of them," said Bill Weinberg, general manager for business development at the LiPS Forum. "The LiPS standard is designed to solve that."
The LiPS Forum chose to base the user interface framework on Gnome's GTK user interface toolkit, dealing a blow to Trolltech ASA and showing that the efforts to standardise the mobile Linux industry offer opportunities to some companies while having the potential to shut others out. Trolltech offers an application platform and user interface for Linux mobile phones.
Weinberg said more companies are using Gnome, however. "Trolltech has done well in the mobile space but we're seeing a trend toward Gnome," he said. Companies that are part of the LiPS Forum including Purple Labs, Access Co and Open-Plug are all Gnome-based, he said.
The forum defined APIs on top of Gnome's GTK, optimising it for the mobile usage model, he said.
The next set of specifications for the forum will deal with functions like instant messaging and allowing users or operators the ability to change the phone's user interface. The third wave of specifications, expected to come out next year, will have more to do with how applications use different phone resources, he said. "These are all things for which there are existing processes but there are too many different ways to do it, so having a set of specifications is important," he said.
While a host of global initiatives like the LiPS Forum continue to strive to bring focus to the mobile Linux environment, the US continues to lag behind other regions of the globe in adoption of mobile Linux. China and Japan are the biggest users of Linux phones while the US has a reputation for being "cautious”, in part due to the tight control the US operators like to keep on the market, Weinberg said.