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LiMo arrives for mobile Linux

Third time lucky for Linux on phones?

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The duopoly of Windows Mobile and Symbian is to face its biggest challenge yet, with six big names in mobile telephony backing the development of a new Linux-based software platform for mobile phones.

The founders of the LiMo Foundation are handset makers Motorola, NEC, Panasonic and Samsung, plus two big operators - NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone. LiMoF said it will be touting for more members at 3GSM in Barcelona next month, with membership fees starting at $40,000 a year.

The Foundation's stated aims include delivering a mobile software platform reference implementation comprising an API specification, and reference code modules, and a test suite to test and demonstrate product conformance.

"For us, the idea is that a common set of APIs will reduce the time to create applications," said Vodafone spokesman Mark Street. He added though that Vodafone is backing Windows Mobile and Nokia S60 too.

LiMoF said it is seeking new members to help develop APIs and architecture and contribute source code for common components of the platform. However, all the software developers who are already selling mobile and embedded Linux were conspicuously missing from LiMoF's launch - companies such as Trolltech, MontaVista Software, Wind River and PalmSource - which seems more than a little odd.

And LiMoF is not the first attempt to push Linux on mobile phones. Two others launched late in 2005 - the Mobile Linux Initiative aimed at creating an efficient, low power Linux kernel for phones, while the Linux Phone Standardisation Forum wanted to build standard APIs.

However, while those groups had the software developers on-board, few handset builders or operators seemed to want to get involved.

LiMoF's founders clearly believe that they have the influence needed to create the sought-after ecosystem of complementary hardware, software and services. Indeed, several of them already have Linux-based phones on sale and in use, especially in the Asian market.

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