Linux on cell phones moves up the stack

Those who follow the development of Linux as an operating system for running mobile phones, voice-enabled PDAs and other communications gadgets should keep an eye on LiPS.

The Linux Phone Standardization Forum (LiPS), which will debut later this month, is a consortium of cell phone and handheld vendors including France Telecom, Motorola, PalmSource and Trolltech. The group's goal is to promote the use of Linux as a platform for running intelligent phone-like devices.

But unlike the Open Source Development Lab's Mobile Linux (OSDL) project, which is concerned about the nuts-and-bolts issues of running Linux on small form-factor devices with mobile processors, the focus of LiPS will be on the application layer of Linux mobile phone devices. LiPS member companies say its efforts will complement the lower-layer work of the OSDL on getting Linux to run on mobiles.

Cell phone and smart phone industry watchers say the use of Linux on such devices will be a big shakeup in the industry over the next several years, just as Linux has been a disruptive force in the server operating system market. Currently, most intelligent mobile devices run Symbian OS or Windows CE. But Linux on cell phones has made strides in Asia, where Motorola is reported to have sold more than three million Linux-based phones.

The fact that LiPS is in existence, and considering some of its powerful members, is a good sign for the future of Linux on cell phones. It appears this industry has already gotten past the initial hurdle of shrinking the kernel to run on small devices; now comes the more advanced work of smoothing out the applications running on such gadgets.

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More about France TelecomMotorolaOpen Source Development LabPalmsourceSymbianTrolltech

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