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Motorola Rings up MontaVista for Linux-Java Phone

When Motorola launches its A760 handset later this year, it won't be running the company's usual Symbian operating system.

The Schaumburg, Ill.-based wireless giant Wednesday confirmed that instead it would be using Sunnyvale, Calif.-based MontaVista Software's consumer version of Linux to power its new PDA-phone.

As previously reported, the new A760 is the first handset based on Linux and Java technology and combines a mobile phone with personal digital assistant (PDA) functions, digital camera, video player, MP3 player, speakerphone, advanced messaging, Internet access and Bluetooth .

The world's second-largest mobile phone maker professed the Linux operating system a "key pillar of its handset software strategy."

"This handset is special because it features one of the most open and flexible software platforms," said Motorola senior global marketing manager Terence Lam. "By supporting the open source Linux OS along with Java technology, Motorola is providing the most creative and fertile environment possible to set the stage for a 'best experiences win' environment."

The A760 handsets are expected to first launch in the Asia Pacific region. Retail prices have not been disclosed.

MontaVista said its Linux operating system Consumer Electronics Edition (CEE), is specifically designed for consumer electronics devices, including mobile phones, high definition digital television, set-top boxes and automotive telematics. CEE includes power management and networking support, while supporting XIP (eXecute In Place) of the kernel and applications as well as streaming media optimizations.

Hundreds of products are already in development using MontaVista Linux, including mobile phones, PDAs, advanced remote controls, high definition televisions, HDTV, PVRs, set-top boxes, digital receivers, automotive telematics, musical instruments, gaming machines and karaoke systems. Recently, Sony and NEC released new consumer products built on MontaVista Linux.

"As mobile phones rapidly evolve, the supporting software needs to be more robust to support their rich functionality and networking capabilities," said MonteVista CEO Jim Ready.

The company senses that it's making the right moves embedding Linux in handsets. According to an IDC report, the Embedded Operating System Environment market should reach $1.4 billion by 2006, a growth rate of 18.6 percent.

But the move to Linux could spell trouble for other proprietary smartphone players like Microsoft (Windows Smartphone, CE and .NET) and QUALCOMM (BREW) as 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 Korean Palm Palm Technology, and SK Telecom (IMT2000) have Web phones that run Linux, but the form factor is more of a PDA than a handset.

Choosing Linux and Java to power its A760 handset 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.

Symbian has denied any problems in their relationship with Motorola told that there is "no change in our competitive landscape" since the company's licenses are not exclusive.