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Version 1 Linux ready for mobile phone use

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Writing a software app for mobile phones can be an frustrating experience. What's sauce on one handset, may be poison on another. For compatability across phones, manufacturers and cellcos remains an elusive goal.

Common mobile development was long the promise of Java, as well as Symbian. But the greater the freedom that handset manufacturers enjoy the less compatible the software will be. You can have a completely compatible set of APIs (application programming interfaces), but if every phone has a different screen size and processor speed then applications will still have to be ported between them.

Many Linux-based handsets are in use today, but applications remain incompatible, as the different models share only a common kernel: LiPS aims to compliance-certify handsets with a set of standard application-level APIs, to enable common application development.

Which is where the Linux Phone Standards forum (LiPS) comes in. Today it published version 1 of its standard API set, to provide an interoperability layer for applications to be developed and deployed on Linux-based mobile handsets.

This is the first public document to emerge from LiPS since its inception at the end of 2005; at that time it promised details would be available towards the middle of 2006; but Bill Weinberg, LiPS new general manager, is sanguine: "A year's delay is about average for the industry, so we're OK with that."

The documents published today include APIs for interaction with the address book, text input system, user interface, and the all-important voice-call enabler. LiPS promises full telephony control, messaging, calendar, IM and presence as well as more UI-interface elements by the end of 2007. Unless the organisation has improved its forecasting, expect some slippage.

LiPS has the backing of Orange, and a handful of hardware and software manufacturers, but the most important question will be how the LiMo (Linux Mobile) Foundation responds. LiMo counts Motorola, Samsung, Vodafone and DoCoMo among its members, and is looking to incorporate standards such as LiPS into its Foundation Platform.

The LiPS standard, version 1, is available from its website, which is also where future versions should, eventually, appear.

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