Motorola calls on Linux for smart phone

Motorola will launch a mobile phone running Linux later this year, introducing yet another software platform for mobile phones.

Motorola will launch a mobile phone running Linux later this year, introducing yet another software platform for mobile phones.

However, there is concern that the number of platforms available could raise interoperability questions. Already users in Europe have trouble sending multimedia messages from one handset to another, even on the same network.

The Motorola's A760 phone will run the open-source Linux operating system and support Java. The handset will feature a colour touch screen and digital camera and will offer full PDA functionality.

The applications on the phone will allow developers to create software for it. The device will support Bluetooth radio technology, USB, infrared and over-the-air connections for synchronisation with a PC.

Motorola's announcement could be a blow to Symbian, the consortium founded in 1998 by Motorola, Nokia, Ericsson and Psion to create a software platform for smart mobile telephones.

"It is no change in our competitive landscape," Peter Bancroft, a Symbian spokesman said. "Symbian's licences are not exclusive and all our licensees have other products in development."

Chris Jones, a senior analyst, at research company had doubts about Motorola's commitment to Symbian.

"There is a big question mark over the future of Motorola within the Symbian consortium. It is surprising that there is no Symbian-based device announced yet from Motorola," he said.

Besides Symbian's software, the Linux platform also competes with mobile phone software from PalmSource and Microsoft.

"Linux is still unproven on mobile phones. I think there will definitely be concerns over interoperability," said Jones. "If there is any doubt in the consumer's mind, it may put them off using these devices."

Linux may have some star power, but Motorola may be too small a force on the global handset market to make it succeed as a platform for mobile phones, Jones said.

"It will be difficult  for Motorola to be the first to come out with a device on a brand new platform and to establish that platform. If it were Nokia, it would be different."

Ben Wood, a senior analyst with Dataquest, believes Motorola would have success in Asia, but did not see Linux on phones coming to Europe or the Americas soon.

"Motorola is market leader in China, and clearly that is the market that they are targeting initially with this product," said Wood.

"It looks as though Motorola may be moving to a regional approach, with Linux for Asia, Symbian for Europe, and something else for the US, Microsoft perhaps."

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