Seeking to push adoption of Linux in the growing smartphone market, the Open Source Development Labs has launched the Mobile Linux Initiative (MLI), a working group whose mission is to address the needs of vendors creating next-generation, voice-data handhelds.
Taking a page from the OSDL Carrier Grade Linux working group that helped accelerate Linux adoption in the telecommunications industry, the MLI will focus on mobile versions of Linux and open-source applications to help boost adoption in the wireless industry.
Among the group's members are Intel, Motorola, PalmSource, British Telecom, MontaVista Software, Trolltech, and Wind River. Their focus areas include power management, security, faster boot-up, and a multimedia framework for advanced mobile hardware.
MLI plans to identify gaps in Linux kernel capabilities, create real-world usage scenarios for Linux in handheld mobile applications, and publish specifications to describe the form and function of a standards-based platform upon which handset manufacturers can build their phones.
According to Stephen Drake, program director for mobile software at IDC, there is an opportunity for Linux to make inroads in the smartphone operating-system space, given its proven reliability on the server side.
Opportunity for Linux
"There is no definitive mobile OS yet, although Microsoft and Symbian are dominating at the moment," he said. Because smartphones are primarily a business tool, Linux could gain ground on the basis of its foothold in the enterprise, he added.
And with the backing of wireless firms, such as Motorola and PalmSource, both of whom are supporting Linux, open source becomes a more viable option, said Drake. PalmSource, for example, announced last year that it would build its new applications framework on and port its Palm OS platform to run on Linux.
Linux does offer some advantages over mobile software from the likes of Microsoft and Symbian, said Forrester analyst Michael Goulde, who cited better security and a large applications developer community.
That said, OSDL is up against several established mobile-software providers and will have to persuade hardware vendors to make the switch to Linux by demonstrating that its claims regarding performance are legitimate, Goulde said.
According to a recent report from IDC, Symbian dominates the converged mobile-device market with a 56 percent share. IDC expects that share to grow to some 60 percent in 2009. The Microsoft Windows Mobile platform holds 13 percent of the market. Linux has an 11 percent share and is expected to capture nearly 17 percent of the market in the next four years.