Android faces a tougher battle, with Verizon and Mozilla backing LiMo

The road ahead for Google's Linux platform for mobile devices just got a little cloudier, with two of the companies whose allegiance it would need to ensure its success, this morning announcing they're backing its principal competitor.

If Google thought it would have a cakewalk in its efforts to advance an open mobile smartphone platform based on Linux, it's realizing now it may need more traction. This morning, the LiMo Foundation -- comprised of both hardware and software vendors with a stake in Linux on cell phones -- added several more powerhouse members to its coalition, including memory maker Infineon, major US telco Verizon, and Firefox browser maker Mozilla.

The deal vastly extends the reach of the LiMo Foundation, which announced last February and released in March its first edition of the LiMo Platform. At that time, it announced it garnered the support of Access, the software maker that absorbed the software assets from PalmSource and now licenses the Palm OS back to Palm. Access has its own mobile Linux platform; and just last March, its open source technologies director David Schlesinger told the AjaxWorld conference that he believed Google's efforts overlapped with those of pre-existing groups, saying, "We don't want Google to reinvent the wheel."

LiMo was founded early last year, mostly through a coalition of cell phone manufacturers Motorola and Samsung, electronics makers NEC and Panasonic, Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo, and European telco and long-time Verizon partner Vodafone. Since then, it's picked up powerful allies in TI, LG, AMD, memory maker STMicroelectronics, and long-time Qualcomm opponent Broadcom.

Mozilla will be, perhaps astonishingly, the first actual incorporated member of the open source software community to join this mobile Linux effort. In a blog post this morning, Mozilla's mobile director Jay Sullivan said his firm was happy to join up, among other reasons, because it wants to see some action in the field of mobile Linux development, as opposed to all this time it sees being wasted around developing some kind of standards specification in the interim.

"Linux has great potential as a mobile platform, but it's been hampered by fragmentation over the last several years," Sullivan wrote. "LiMo brings together many major device manufacturers, network operators and others in the mobile ecosystem to cooperate on building a Linux-based mobile middleware platform. Manufacturers and network operators can develop unique user experiences and differentiate on top of that platform. What makes LiMo especially attractive for Mozilla is that it's all about code, where previous efforts around mobile Linux have been more focused on developing standards."

In an updated LiMo roadmap released just today (PDF available here), the Foundation affirmed that it expects to have SDKs available for mobile Java, Web access, as well as its Native SDK available during the second half of this year. Work on that Native SDK is being provided by Access.

As for Verizon, its declaration earlier this year that it would unilaterally open up many of its wireless services to the consumer's choice of equipment, regardless of whether it won big in the FCC's 700 MHz auction (which it did anyway), had been perceived as perhaps Android's biggest avenue of possible success. Now, however, Android's march down that avenue will likely be joined by a development group that already has direct ties to cell phone manufacturers, and smartphone and PDA manufacturers, as well as the very telco that's responsible for opening the floodgates in the first place.

As a statement from Verizon Vice President Kyle Malady reads this morning, "Verizon Wireless is committed and invested in encouraging innovation, providing developers the opportunity to deliver new wireless choices and expanding the mobile market. We expect our involvement with LiMo to advance these principles."

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