Samsung and LG Electronics on Monday showed new phones using free Linux software from the Mobile Linux foundation, which said in total 18 phones from seven vendors would use its software.
The world’s second-largest mobile phone maker Samsung, which has used Linux in its phones in 2006, launched a new SGH-i800 phone model running on LiMo software at the Mobile World Congress trade show, while LG Electronics showed a prototype phone LG LiMo.
The Linux operating system has so far had little success on mobile phones, but its presence is increasing with LiMo rolling out its software platform, boosting the speed of new models reaching the market. Google is also using Linux to build its Android platform.
“Having the Koreans on board is good news for LiMo as they will drive innovation,” said Ben Wood, research director at consultancy CCS Insight.
“That said, we know that these companies will quickly desert the initiative if it does not deliver against the ambitious expectations it has set,” he said.
Linux is the most popular type of free, or so-called open source, computer operating system, which is available to the public to be used, revised and shared. Linux suppliers earn money selling improvements and technical services, and Linux competes directly with Microsoft, which charges for its Windows software and opposes freely sharing its code.
[cob:Related_Articles]The foundation said it has also signed up nine new members, including France Telecom’s mobile arm Orange, SoftBank and STMicroelectronics.
The market for software platforms on mobile phones is lead by Nokia’s S60, built on Symbian operating system, well ahead of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.
However, many mobile industry heavyweights — including Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo and Huawei — are members of the Mobile Linux foundation.
Struggling U.S. vendor Motorola, which has been the main user of Linux software, plans to use LiMo platform in six phones, while NEC and Matsushita Electric’s Panasonic unit both will use it in four models tailor-made for NTT DoCoMo.
CCS’s Wood said Motorola running LiMo in its old models reflects the looseness of LiMo’s specifications.
“To have a credible platform, a more detailed operating system framework is likely to be required,” he said.
Morgan Gillis, the head of the LiMo Foundation, said the first release of LiMo’s mobile Linux platform uses technology contributed by the founder members, like Motorola, which had already been market-proven.