By Marc Jones
A group of the world's mobile operators and handset makers said on
Thursday they are to join together to develop an open-source
Linux-based operating system that could to be used in phones by the
end of 2007.
Mobile network operators Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo and handset makers
Motorola, Samsung, NEC and Panasonic, said they would form an
independent not-for-profit group to share the costs and speed up
mobile software and handsets and cut the number of operating platforms
on the market.
"We expect this initiative to speed time to market for new products
and also enable us to create more personalized products and
applications for consumers," said Vodafone's Global Director of
Terminals, Jens Schulte-Bockum.
Similar to PCs, mobile devices use operating systems onto which
applications such as text messaging and video and music players are
loaded, much like a computer program would be loaded onto Microsoft's
Windows platform or Apple's OS X.
With mobile technology advancing exponentially, the cost of
development is soaring for handset-maker's devices. The problem is
exacerbated by applications required to be written in a variety of
computer codes to enable them to run on the different operating
Linux software currently occupies only a tiny proportion of the mobile
market, mainly in China, while market leaders Symbian and Microsoft
dominate the space.
The attraction of Linux for handset makers is that as the code is not
owned by any one company competition is likely to be fierce between
firms supplying ready-to-use embedded Linux versions for phones,
driving down fees, whereas Symbian and Microsoft can keep prices
Mobile operators are also affected as they want as many of the phones
they offer customers to have the latest must-have features and then
charge for using them.
"The bigger cost saving elements will come from removing the number of
small fragmented proprietary platforms and reducing long lead times
for new services" Vodafone platform development director, Patrick
Chomet, told Reuters.
"We have to adapt them each time we have a new game or a new service
and we have to support ever single phone from every single supplier
and that's huge effort in time and cost."
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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