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NTT DoCoMo Backs Linux, Symbian

Japanese wireless giant NTT DoCoMo has decided to use embedded Linux and Symbian operating systems in future 3G phones, company officials said Thursday.

The decision, which officials said was driven by a need to cut costs and hew to open standards, is a blow to Microsoft , which is trying to get major 3G wireless carriers to support its operating system.

DoCoMo is expected to introduce new 3G handsets in 2004. The phones will be lighter than previous models and contain a mega-pixel camera.

Fujitsu and Matsushita are building 3G handsets based on the Symbian wireless platform, while DoCoMo is already working with NEC on 3G Linux-based version.

DoCoMo's rival in the 3G market is Japan's KDDI, which claims close to 11 million 3G subscribers for its advanced wireless service that runs on CDMA2000, a competing 3G standard. DoCoMo's version of 3G is known as Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA).

Last week, KDDI said it will offer 3G customers flat-rate pricing on an advanced 3G service that includes unlimited data usage such as Web access and photo messaging.

In other DoCoMo news, the company, which currently has about 1.6 million 3G users, won't back off its ambitious growth forecasts. It believes it will have 2 million 3G subscribers by March 2004. After that, adoption will accelerate further.

"We expect our total users to be around 50 million in 2006 and half of them will be 3G users," NTT DoCoMo CEO Keiji Tachikawa said at news conference Thursday.

The optimistic forecast comes more than two years after it launched its 3G service, which has received some criticism over coverage area, handset design and short batter life.

Beyond plans for rolling out improved handsets, DoCoMo is also spying High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) service in 2005. HSDPA offers customers broadband speeds supported by the 802.11b wireless standard.

In addition to NEC, NTT DoCoMo is working with MontaVista Carrier Grade Linux for operation with its network. Motorola has also launched the A760 smart phone, a Linux-based handset, also equipped with Sun Microsystem's Java programming language.

DoCoMo has also developed a prototype of a dual mode handset that works 3G and wireless local area networks. Wireless LAN is capable of transmission speeds of 11 Mbps, compared with DoCoMo's 3G network which has a top speed of 384 Kbps.