Verizon a Partner on Linux Mobile OS

Verizon Wireless said on Wednesday it joined a consortium working on a Linux-based mobile operating system expected to rival a mobile system being developed by a group headed by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).

The announcement that the No. 2 U.S. mobile service joined the LiMo Foundation follows signals last month that AT&T (NYSE: T) would support Android, the Linux operating system being developed by Google and about 30 partners.

Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone Group (NYSE: VOD), said it would take a seat on the foundation’s board and expects to sell its first phones based on the LiMo operating system in 2009.

“We’ll start with a few simpler devices and work our way up,” Verizon Wireless Network Vice President Kyle Malady said on a conference call with reporters.

Malady said that while Verizon would continue to support other operating systems such as that used in Research In Motion’s (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry devices, the LiMo system would be the company’s operating system of choice.

Malady said Verizon, which is putting financial and personnel resources into the system, expects to eventually have an array of LiMo devices ranging from the high end to the low end. He did not say how much the company was spending on developing the LiMo system.

He said the company is putting its weight behind LiMo rather than Android because of LiMo’s inclusive governing structure as well as its diverse set of members. But he would not rule out selling phones based on Android.

“If devices come along that are interesting to us and our customers, we’d absolutely look at that,” said Malady, who also noted that third parties could sell Android devices to Verizon Wireless customers if they can work on its network.

The LiMo Foundation said it has about 40 members, including Verizon Wireless handset suppliers Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. It said that Korea’s SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM) has also joined the consortium.

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