These LiPS are made for talking ... and texting ... and ...
Version 1 Linux ready for mobile phone use
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.
Standards - a few handsets around.
Back to 2004 - Motorola A780 Linux handset with mini('micro')-USB, and 2.5mil audio jack, too - not to mention GPS. Not purfect, but been happy with mine for years. Point taken, though - I wish more vendors would follow.suit.
Now all we need is...
some sane hardware standards for things like data, power and headset connectors. Oh, wait, there's such a thing as Micro-USB. Is there any reason (besides vendor locking) for not using it?
Where's the progress?
You assert that "if every phone has a different screen size and processor speed then applications will still have to be ported between them" but that is definitely not always the case. A good OS and GUI manager should be able to manage screen size and processor speed dependency and provide applications with knowledge of available resources. This works quite well for Symbian + Series 60. I think the real problems come with version changes, ie. moving to Symbian 9.1 - much better access to the hardware but breaking backward compatability and, of course, developing for Series 60 is not the same as doing UIQ.
As for LIPS - it's unclear from your article whether the spec is high-level - how applications should work with each other - or low-level - you can use these libraries, like this. Will LIPS work across the various competing GUIs (QTopia, et al.)? In any case how big is the market for apps for phones?
My understanding is that Linux is only getting support from manufacturers because Symbian is too slow and too bad at supporting the new hardware and no manufacturer really wants to be dependent upon Microsoft. But all they really want is the kernel and drivers.