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Android alternative delivers partial Linux package

Supporters spread bets

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CTIA '08 The LiMo Foundation has announced the first version of its Linux based mobile alternative to Google's Android is "complete". Except that it isn't.

Although release 1.0 - announced at CTIA in Las Vegas, Nevada - provides a basic mobile Linux platform, it comes with limitations. It includes C and C++ versions of the middleware software development kit. Those who want Native, Webkit and Java SDK's will have to wait until later in the year.

Release 1.0 also falls short of one of LiMo's main goals - full application portability across mobile Linux devices - and it provides only limited multimedia features. Both of these problems should be resolved in release 2.0, due to be published in late 2008 and completed early in 2009.

LiMo's goal is to deliver a hardware independent, Linux based mobile platform that’s capable of overcoming the complex maze of different handset specifications. Version 1.0 came as analyst Strategy Analytics claimed 25 million Linux-based cellphones have shipped worldwide to date with Linux accounting for 15 per cent of the smartphone market.

Linux currently is apparently "well poised" to succeed in the smartphone market thanks to its potential for customization, its relatively low cost, strong presence in the developer community, security and fact Linux is supported by multiple chipsets.

The big question is, of course, which Linux will fare best, given there are two major efforts underway? LiMo has been around since January 2007, its grown from a core membership of six carriers and handset providers, and seen 18 handsets produced. The Google-led Android, though, is challenging LiMo. Android has generated a great deal of interest and attracted 34 official backers since it was kicked off almost a year later by Google.

Interestingly, a growing band of companies that includes Motorola, Samsung, NTT DoCoMo and Broadcom are backing both Android and LiMo. This indicates the handset makers, carriers and semiconductor makers responsible for today’s confusing diversity of hardware and services are spreading their bets, waiting to see which succeeds or potentially helping both in different markets.

Texas Instruments this week became the latest to commit to both, announcing it had joined LiMo as a board member. The hardware and chip manufacturer, already a member of the Open Handset Alliance backing Android, said it shared LiMo’s commitment to “new avenues of choice.” ®

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For all the news on the CTIA Wireless trade show see our CTIA roundup.

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