LiMo wants to make Linux a mobile phone platform

Today at 3GSM in Barcelona, LiMo announced the release of a software development kit with the ultimate goal of providing developers with a completely open, Linux-based alternative to mobile other operating systems.

"To reduce both complexity and time needed for supporting latest mobile software, demand for more sophisticated operating systems on mobile phones has grown," according to a white paper from the Linux Mobile Foundation, which is responsible for LiMo, a standardized Linux distribution for the mobile space. "An operating system that supports applications developed by third parties, and provides an open development and multitasking environment, is a key requirement to fulfill these changes and demands in the mobile market."

Developers will be given access to the foundation's code and APIs after it has been properly tested for bugs. Specifically, developers will be allowed to contribute to the "middleware sector" (the user space) and Linux kernel development. The LiMo Foundation will be responsible for the device drivers and modem interface, along with the middleware and Linux kernel development.

The platform's kernel space has the Linux kernel, modem interface, and device drivers built-in.

The organization will also publish basic guidelines to the operating system, while basic software testing will allow developers and manufacturers to compare their contribution to the overall LiMo software specification.

Developers now have access to the first release APIs of the LiMo Platform, and company organizers say R1 of the LiMo Platform will be available sometime after its completion in March. More LiMo Platform partner developers will be announced later in the year.

Partner company Azingo was previously chosen by the LiMo Foundation to begin support of the Common Integration Environment (CIE) and will also support the SDK.

During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Access and Orange also joined the LiMo organization, hoping to further promote a unified Linux platform for mobile phones. Access garnered major attention after it purchased PalmSource, maker of Palm OS, three years ago.

There are already a number of various Linux and open source platforms available, though this is the first time an organization has been created to unify all the standards. For example, Access has its Access Linux Platform (ALP), but has agreed to join LiMo to share work with the rest of the group.

The new SDK with basic guidelines should help interested companies and developers create good software without stepping on toes.

Linux is becoming more popular among PCs and servers, but has yet to grab a strong hold of the mobile market. The Symbian operating system is the most widely used operating system on mobile phones, with Microsoft Windows Mobile and BlackBerry also popular alternatives over Linux.

LiMo said seven phone manufacturers will offer up to 18 mobile phones using its technology. NTT DoCoMo, Motorola, NEC, Panasonic, and Vodafone also have showed an increased interest in using Linux on future phones.

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