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Motorola to Sell Java-Linux Handset

Motorola Thursday said it would begin shipping the world's first handset combining a Linux operating system (OS) and Java by the end of the year.

The Schaumburg, Ill.-based mobile chipmaker said it is making the Linux operating system a "key pillar of its handset software strategy." The world's second-largest mobile phone maker previously used either its own operating system or the Symbian OS, which it co-developed.

The new A760 combines a mobile phone with personal digital assistant (PDA) functions, digital camera, video player, MP3 player, speakerphone, advanced messaging, Internet access and Bluetooth .

The devices are expected to first launch in the Asia Pacific region. Price points were not disclosed.

"This handset is special because it features one of the most open and flexible software platforms that exists," said Motorola corporate vice president Rob Shaddock. "By supporting the open source Linux OS and Java technology, Motorola is creating the most open and flexible environment possible to help drive the development of compelling applications for rich, customized mobile experiences."

The move to Linux could spell trouble for proprietary smartphone players like Microsoft (Windows Smartphone, CE and .NET) and QUALCOMM (BREW). More and more companies are exploring Linux as a low-cost non-proprietary alternative for their handsets and PDAs. Big-name players like IBM , Hewlett-Packard and Sharp with its Zaurus line have Linux in their handheld devices but they are not phones. Some companies like SK Telecom (IMT2000) have Web phones that run Linux, but the form factor is more of a PDA than a handset.

But it may also point to a rift between Symbian and Motorola. Mobile phone giants Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens teamed up to build the holding company to develop and license a software operating system (OS) for mobile phones and handheld devices.

A spokesman for Symbian told IDG that there is "no change in our competitive landscape" since the company's licenses are not exclusive.

Looking forward, Motorola Thursday also released its i.Smart smartphone reference design. Based on the company's i.250 Innovative Convergence Platform and the i.MX media extension applications processor, Motorola said its GSM/GPRS platform can help get OEMs' design concepts up and running on a 2.5G network in a relatively short amount of time.

The platform is capable of supporting leading open operating systems such as eLinux, Symbian OS, Microsoft WindowsCE, and PalmOS. Motorola expects to ship the software in the second half of 2003.