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Motorola's launches Linux-based phone with Intel chip

Motorola has launched its long-awaited mobile phone featuring both a Linux-based operating system and chips from Intel.

The A760 smart phone, marks the first time the company has used both Java and Linux in a handset. The phone is also notable for its use of a chip by Intel, the PXA262 processor, which uses stacked flash memory and a smaller design than previous chips.

The A760 combines a personal information management software application, digital camera, a video player, MP3 music player and an instant-messaging tool.

The phone uses a Motorola chip, the i250, to handle the communications function of the phone while the Intel chip deals with the computing aspect. The Intel processor runs at 200MHz and stacks two StrataFlash memory chips for 256Mbytes of memory.

On the Linux side, the phone uses the application development framework Qt/Embedded from Oslo software company Trolltech.

 "Linux and QtEmbedded has a lot of technical advantages to other operating systems, such as the low memory requirement that Linux demands, as well as having a strong open source, third-party developer community," said Eirik Chambe-Eng, president and co-founder of Trolltech.

There are already thousands of mobile applications created for Trolltech's platform that can be ported to the A760, Chambe-Eng said, and with Motorola backing Linux he expected more applications to become quickly available as acceptance for the Linux OS in mobile phones grows.

"We've been seeing a lot of interest in Linux from manufacturers for the past couple of years, but we've now seen much more interest because Motorola is coming out with the phone," Chambe-Eng said.

Trolltech is now in talks with four other companies, which Chambe-Eng declined to name, for bringing out Linux-based smart phones in the Asian Pacific markets.

"There are very few details about Motorola's plans for the A760," said Rachel Lashford, an analyst at research company Canalys.com. "I can understand what Motorola is trying to do by launching the phone in China as it's a huge market and the company is trying to roll back some of the worldwide market share it's lost elsewhere."

The move is also positive for Intel as it will get its processors into a market that is expected to see widespread growth in mobile phone use.

"Linux has been gaining ground in China and perhaps Motorola is trying to launch a platform that offers an open and flexible environment where developers can create compelling applications for the handset, which is the key for any real success," she said.

Motorola may be taking a wait and see approach to the A760, first gauging the phone popularity in China before moving it to other markets, Lashford said.

"It looks like in Europe and the US, Motorola has decided to concentrate on its smart phone using the Windows OS," she said.

Motorola has already begun selling its MPx200 in the US and Europe, a clam-shell format mobile phone based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2002 Smartphone software.

The MPx200 is the first Microsoft-based phone to be offered by a major handset maker, and is seen by analysts as an important move for helping Microsoft establish its credibility in a mobile phone market dominated by Nokia and smart phone OS developer Symbian.

Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service


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