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MontaVista Linux phones heading for US and Europe

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The first mobile handsets running MontaVista’s Linux operating system should hit the US and Europe within the next year, the embedded OS vendor said this week.

MontaVista launched the first tailor-made version of its operating system for handsets on Wednesday and said it is working with providers in Asian markets and that these companies now expect to bring products to the US and Europe.

MontaVista would not provide further details, although its embedded Linux is currently licensed to at least three handset manufactures – Motorola, NEC and Panasonic in Asia.

MontaVista is touting Linux’s familiar advantages of cost of ownership; however, the company seems to have picked a tough battle.

ABI Research said last year it expects Microsoft to sew-up the wireless handset market by 2009, relegating Symbian to less than 50 per cent market share. IDC also expects Symbian to lose ground to Microsoft during the next two years, although it will stay above 50 per cent.

According to MontaVista, handset manufacturers serving Asia prefer Linux because it enables them to use a single operating system on different devices, from high-end smart phones to mass-market voice-only phones.

An added advantage is that handset manufacturers and carriers can avoid becoming locked-into Microsoft’s technology roadmap. Vendors also have greater freedom to customize the software on devices and differentiate their services than if they’d used Windows, according to MontaVista.

“There is concern over putting too much control in the hands of a proprietary operating system vendor who will have control over them,” MontaVista product manager for wireless and mobile Jacob Lehrbaum said.

With 2.5m mobile devices running its software in Asian markets, MontaVista claims it is out-shipping both Microsoft and Symbian in the region.

MontaVista is now launching Mobilinux 4.0, its first version of the general purpose MontaVista Linux customized for small footprint devices. Improvements include better power management and performance with half-second start-times and the ability to make calls within 10 seconds of turning-on the device. Mobilinux 4.0 can run on devices running 12Mb of flash or less, the company said.®

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