Motorola to Sell Linux-Java Handset

Motorola is coming out with a new color-screen
handset that will include the Linux operating system and Sun’s Java software.

The new Motorola A760 handset will come out in Asia first, and elsewhere
around the world, thereafter. The phone will contain a built-in
camera, MP3 and video players, and may hit the market some time in the third
quarter.

The move by Motorola is being seen as a threat to Microsoft’s next
generation wireless device aspirations, and potentially a blow to Symbian. Motorola is a member of the Symbian consortium to the tune of 20
percent, but this move is a snub to Symbian, and its biggest proponent: Nokia.

Motorola has said it’s going with Linux, but appears to be amenable to
partnerships with Symbian, Palm, Microsoft and other vendors for the phone’s
primary software layer. Motorola said its platform will be “capable of
supporting leading open operating systems such as eLinux, Symbian OS,
Microsoft Windows CE, and PalmOS.”

Nevertheless, an intense competition is unfolding for the software inside
the next generation of wireless handsets. That battle is going to play
itself out in Asia and parts of Europe later this year, before reaching the
U.S. in late 2003, or more likely in 2004.

Microsoft has already cinched a deal with France Telecom’s Orange, and has
had a new handset out for a few months in Europe. Motorola’s pact with Linux
and Sun’s Java clearly shows a new rivalry is emerging between Motorola,
Nokia and other device makers, who will try to differentiate in terms of
functionality and price.

Handset makers like Motorola, Nokia and several other manufacturers,
including Samsung, are in a race to bring a range of new souped-up phones with
high-speed data features. Part of Motorola’s strategy is to utilize the
Linux operating system, and in the process, bring new products to market
that are less expensive for it to manufacture.

By using Linux, Motorola expects to lower licensing costs, which in turn,
will improve its margins on the sale of each handset. Motorola also said it
likes the speed of Linux and the open source nature of the programming
modules.

From its press release it is clear that Motorola will be going with Linux
both with this new high-end phone, and some of its lower-end models, as
well. What remains to be seen is whether other wireless handset
manufacturers will adopt Linux, or if Microsoft, Palmsource or Symbian
software will win out with carriers around the world.

IDC says that by 2006 Symbian will increase its market share in the next
generation wireless phones, followed by Microsoft, Palmsouce and Linux. But
as the battle is just starting, it is far from clear, which system will win
out.

In addition to the new Motorola phone running Linux, it will also run the
Java programming language, which is agnostic to processor and operating
system differences. Motorola is working to define the Java specifications
for advanced wireless handsets and other portable computing and
communications devices. Motorola has rallied Nokia, Vodafone, Samsung, NTT
DoCoMo and Symbian to agree on wireless Java standards, indicating strong
support for Sun’s move into the wireless software market.

Motorola is hoping that the tandem of Linux and Java will empower
applications developers to create new business applications, games and other
programs for this new generation of devices.

Motorola will use MontaVista Software’s version of Linux for cell phones,
and it is not clear if Red Hat will compete for
future deals. MontaVista generates revenues by selling Linux programming
tool, and because it doesn’t charge royalties, it could provide other
wireless manufacturers a low-cost software solution. Microsoft will make a
strong case that its operating system, programming tool and more integrated
software package will be a key part of its .Net mobile strategy. Microsoft’s
mobile software include Pocket PC Phone Edition and .Net Compact Framework,
with the strategy that developers will play a key role in driving
applications for the new generation of wireless devices.


In the coming months, other wireless handset manufacturers are expected to
weigh-in on whether they will go with Linux, or competing operating systems
from Microsoft, Symbian and Palmsource. NEC is the only wireless device
manufacturer to come out in support of the Linux operating system.

The Motorola A760 not only is a wireless phone with personal digital
assistant (PDA) features, but also has a digital camera, video player, MP3
player, speakerphone, advanced messaging, instant Internet access and
Bluetooth wireless technology.


On Thursday, Motorola also said it is releasing a 2.5G reference design for
OEM’s to be able to quickly design concepts for the GSM/GPRS platform. The
i.Smart smartphone reference design “supports open operating systems and
offers fully integrated hardware, software and support services allowing
manufacturers to concentrate on production differentiation and accelerate
time-to-market.”

The reference design is based on Motorola’s i.250 Innovative Convergence
Platform and the i.MX media extension applications processor.

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