The LiMo Foundation announced nine new members today and said that more handsets with its operating system are launching in North America and Japan.
The organization is a leading proponent of an open-source, Linux OS for handsets, and said that its latest members represented key, diverse constituents in the open-source space.
The seven new devices bring to 21 the number of commercially launched handsets with a LiMo-inspired Linux OS.
One leading analyst said that these and other Linux-based handset launches have substantiated mobile Linux’ claim to be a cost-cutting measure for device makers.
The new, LiMo-based handsets include a GSM-based MotoZine Zn5 from Motorola Inc., destined for the United States, and six destined for NTT DoCoMo Inc.’s subscribers in Japan. Four are made by Japanese vendor NEC and two by Panasonic Mobile Communications.
SDK on the way
Andrew Shikiar, director of global marketing for the LiMo Foundation, said that the Japanese launches, in particular, established that LiMo’s Linux OS was robust and market-proven.
“Japan is a fascinating market, as are all Asian markets,” Shikiar said. “The primary means of Internet access, for instance, is through the mobile handset – mobile television, mobile banking, many market-proven value-adds all require subtleties and complexities that are embodied in the LiMo platform.”
Shikiar said that the LiMo Foundation’s growth and the diversity of its membership bodes well for the growth of its Linux platform and for attracting application developers. The Foundation plans to release a software development kit, or SDK, by year’s end. The group’s “collaborative governance” model is attracting new members, as is its addressable market, which Shikiar pegged at 600 million subscribers.
The Foundation’s IPR policy offers a “safe harbor” for sharing patents without reprisal, which presents a “catalyst for engagement” by members, Shikiar said. The goal is to boost hardware innovation by vendors and compelling applications for carriers.
Among the new members are Esmertec (an independent software vendor, or ISV), chip vendor Freescale Semiconductor, operator Telecom Italia, integrator MIZI Research and Longcheer Holdings and ZTE Corp., which are original equipment manufacturers.
Asked about the LiMo Foundation’s rivalry with the Open Handset Alliance, which is focused on Google Inc.’s Android project, Shikiar said “LiMo is very focused on charting our own course and strategy.”
Carl Howe, analyst at Yankee Group, said that the notion of market share wars among OS vendors is now a dated concept.
Players such as Nokia Corp. and Apple Inc. seek to spread their platforms globally – Nokia through an open-source, free Symbian platform, Apple through its proprietary Mac OS on the iPhone and iPod Touch platform – as a means to deliver their next software-and-services play. Google’s Android/Open Handset Alliance project, another Linux-based effort, is widely perceived to be aimed at growing the market for Linux, with benefits assumed for a search giant such as Google. The LiMo Foundation’s efforts also take aim at hardware and service innovations for its members.
“I don’t see this as a market share war between the OSs,” Howe said. “At the end of the day, the OS is a tool, a component. Asian OEMs and ODMs latched onto Linux fairly early as a way to keep costs down. Especially when you have large consortia pursuing open-source Linux platforms, the members seek their own market share, but they aren’t counting Linux’ market share.”
Various players – Motorola, for instance – have an interest in Symbian, offshoot UIQ, Linux and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile, and likely will use each different OS when addressing particular market segments, the analyst said.