Its only been about two years since Linux started becoming a significant factor in mobile phones, an arena that has been dominated by Symbian, Microsoft and proprietary operating systems.
With the burgeoning complexity of mobile phones, feature phones and smart phones—plus increasing time-to-market pressures—theres a clear movement toward off-the-shelf, third-party operating systems based on industry standards, and Linux figures to be a major beneficiary of that trend.
How rosy is the mobile communications picture for Linux? Early indications in just the first two months of this year are that it will be very positive indeed.
Consider Motorola, for example, one of the big three in mobile handsets, which brought its first Linux phone to market in 2003.
Motorola is expecting to introduce between eight and 10 new Linux phones in 2005, according to the Taiwanese daily newspaper DigiTimes. This represents more than 25 percent of the companys planned introductions for the year.
Smart phones running Linux now represent more than 10 percent of Motorolas mobile phone sales in China, where Motorola enjoys the No. 1 market position.
And China, of course, is the biggest market for mobile phones today.
Motorola sources its Linux from MontaVista, as do two other major mobile phone vendors: NEC and Panasonic.
Yet Linux has had virtually no impact on the mobile phones being sold in the United States.
Nevertheless, with the Model E680, a heavily multimedia-oriented device, Motorola recently bowed its first Linux phone for the U.S. market, which may presage more to come.
Trolltech certainly thinks so. That company is the provider of the Qtopia development environment and graphical user interface used by many Linux mobile phone makers.
Earlier this month, Trolltech Inc. CEO Haavard Nord told LinuxDevices.com that 2005 would be a "breakout" year for Linux mobile phones and predicted that more than 20 new devices were on the way, representing a new market "surge" for Linux handsets.