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From LiPS to LiMo: The Mobile Linux Divide?

While backers of mobile Linux are all trying to increase Linux adoption, the question for vendors has been which mobile Linux effort they should back among the crowd of mobile Linux organizations.

In the case of Trolltech, maker of the popular Qtopia mobile Linux platform, they've chosen to move from the LiPS (The Linux Phone Standards) effort to the Motorola backed LiMo Foundation effort. The Trolltech move could be a sign of consolidation within the mobile Linux market or it could be a sign the multi-billion dollar mobile Linux market will remain fragmented.

Benoit Schillings, Trolltech CTO told InternetNews.com that his company did not renew its membership within LiPS because in his opinion LiMo is now superseding what LiPS is trying to do.

The LiMo Foundation was launched back in January of 2007 with Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics, and Vodafone. Today they added Trolltech Acrodea, ETRI, Huawei and Purple Labs s members.

While Trolltech's Schillings noted there is some overlap in the membership of LiPS and LiMo, he expects that the learning's from LiPS will eventually be part of LiMo. Overall, Schillings agreed that there are a lot of different mobile Linux groups today, though in his view there is currently a degree of consolidation taking place.

"It was tempting for a number of organizations to get into mobile Linux and try and start a standard platform initiative but in the end it is much more work than most anybody envisioned," Schillings said. "It's easy to start but hard to finish."

Schillings argued that if all a Mobile Linux standards group does is focus on the framework, then they're missing something. In his view that's where he sees LiMo's difference - in that they understand what operators want.

There is also an issue on what part of the broader mobile Linux ecosystem will be part of a mobile Linux standards effort. Trolltech's flagship product is the Linux GUI technology Qt and its mobile companion Qtopia which compete against GTK.

The LiPS Foundation and Trolltech disagreed about which to use, with LiPS opting for GTK as part of the LiPS 1.0 specification issued in June of 2007. Schillings argued that the GTK versus Qt argument is only a point of detail.

In fact the GTK versus Qt argument extends beyond the mobile handset space and has been the subject for what Schillings referred to as a 'religious issue' for the desktop as well. The popular GNOME Linux desktop GUI uses GTK while KDE uses Qt. In his view mobile Linux isn't about that argument.