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05 August 2008, 15:28

Linux to dominate mobile Internet devices, according to market researchers

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Market researchers forecast a bright future for open source developers. At the beginning of the Linuxworld Expo in San Francisco, ABI Research has announced that open source will be a big deal in the still fledgling market of portable internet devices. For the first time, the Linux conference includes a three-day Linux mobile conference. This year, the market researchers at ABI expect 305,000 MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices) to be sold and predict that sales will reach 39.6 million by the end of 2012.

ABI's research director Stuart Carlaw says that the Linux variants LiMo, Maemo – which serves as the basis for Nokia's Internet tablets – and Moblin, which is supported by Intel, will clearly be the leaders because their implementation already anticipates important trends. They also forecast that Microsoft's Windows Mobile and other rivals will fall behind the open source operating system, saying "Flexibility and the configurability of Linux compared to Windows Mobile will lower costs considerably, giving the Linux the leadership of this market."

For Intel, Moblin is a crucial component for the success of the upcoming generation of Atom chips. The world's leading processor manufacturer wants to make sure that it succeeds in the pocket-sized Internet sector. It also wants to establish an SoC (System on Chip) platform for entertainment electronics and industrial embedded systems. Intel recently announced its first SoC products for storage and cryptography systems.

The fledgling market for MIDs is highly coveted. In addition to Windows Mobile, established competitors from the smart phone segment also want to put their systems on devices with larger displays, broadband internet access and fully functional browsers. Blackberry manufacturers RIM and Palm are battling Apple for carrier subsidies with a range of models. Google's mobile operating system, Android, is another Linux based competitor. Access, a software firm based in Tokyo, has come up with its own mobile Linux derivative called the Access Linux Platform (ALP), in addition to the Palm operating system it acquired in 2005. Amazon chose ALP for its ebook reader Kindle and Access are looking for other MID vendors to use ALP. At Linuxworld, Access plan to display their ALP touch screen capability and new browser widgets to support social networking functions on mobile devices.

Recently, the LiMo consortium announced 11 new members – including Freescale Semiconductor, Telecom Italia, Chinese cell phone manufacturer ZTE. The LiMo consortium also announced the release of seven new LiMo-compliant telephones.

To make things even more complicated, Nokia have added another player to the game in the form of Symbian. Symbian has 65 per cent of the smart phone market and Nokia plans to make the Symbian source code, open source.

(Erich Bonnert)


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