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Linux could become leading mobile phone OS

Developers need to prepare for Linux explosion

Linux is heading towards becoming the leading OS in mobiles, according to the executive director of the Linux Foundation.

Speaking at the Open Mobile Exchange section of the O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) in the US, Jim Zemlin, highlighted the trends and technologies that are pushing Linux into a leadership position in mobile systems.

Zemlin said Linux has emerged as a primary platform, even on the desktop, and it has also spread to devices such as gas pumps and medical equipment. Additionally, it is being deployed in Wall Street trading, in consumer electronics, and on Mars in space-based equipment.

"It's clear that Linux is going to be a leader in the mobile space," he said.

Linux, according to Zemlin, offers a unified product platform, flexibility, and a software stack. It also has experienced an increase in the volume of software content, with the lines of Linux handset code doubling every year.

"Really, what's happening in mobile is instead of having a hardware-up approach, you're starting to see a software-down approach," with the software experience driving the mobile marketplace, he said.

By supporting Linux, developers do not have to contend with compatibility issues of supporting different platforms. The industry wants to get away from that, he said.

"It's just a nightmare to support all these different OS' and try to maintain some degree of compatibility," Zemlin said.

Different middleware packages and application development frameworks are available for Linux. "There's a huge freedom to mix the core Linux kernel," he said.

Business drivers for Linux include reduced deployment costs, room to differentiate, and an ecosystem of development around phone platforms. "It's obviously a royalty-free platform. That's a huge business driver," said Zemlin.

"Linux really allows device manufacturers and new people to come in and create their own brand," he said.

Symbian's move to open source has had a negative impact on Windows, leaving it the only royalty-based mobile platform, said Zemlin.

Linux application development is starting to coalesce around initiatives such as Google's Android and Linux Mobile Foundation (LiMo) , he said. Other Linux efforts are afoot such as Openmmoko, to create a smartphone platform, and Ubuntu Mobile, said Zemlin.

"There really isn't any major player from a corporate point of view who doesn't have their foot in some way in the Linux camp, other than Microsoft," said Zemlin.

Other efforts involve development of Linux mobile devices such as notebook systems. "You're going to see 50 of those companies launch next year," Zemlin added.

NEXT PAGE: Are developers ready for the mobile web explosion?


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