As the number of Android-based smartphones continues to grow, both consumers and manufacturers have enjoyed the increasing popularity of open-source-based mobile devices. In a June 1 report, ABI Research predicted that such growth will continue-and not based on the success of Google's Android operating system alone.
Citing Google's figure of 60,000 Android smartphones currently shipping each day (though at a May 13 shareholders' meeting, Google CEO Eric Schmidt raised the number to 65,000), ABI said it expects Linux-enabled smartphones to outstrip the growth of the rest of the worldwide smartphone market and win a 33 percent share of the market by 2015.
"Due to its low cost and ability to be easily modified, Linux in the mobile market today is nearly as disruptive as Linux was in the server markets a decade ago," ABI analyst Victoria Fodale said in a statement.
Fodale noted that much of operators' interest in Android has come thanks to its flexibility. Motorola, for example, has built its Motoblur functionality on top of Android, and HTC similarly built its Sense interface on Android.
"The Android platform can be modified so that OEMs can differentiate their products," Fodale continued, "and the licensing terms allow OEMs to innovate while still protecting proprietary work."
While Google is surely the frontrunner, Fodale noted, "Android is not without competition."
At the Mobile World Congress in February, for example, Samsung introduced the Linux-based Bada operating system, with Samsung Electronics Executive Vice President Ho Soo Lee saying Bada offered "a powerful opportunity for developers to get their applications onto an unprecedented number of Samsung devices across the world."
ABI described Bada as being "kernel-configurable," meaning that it can run on the Linux kernel or on a real-time operating system kernel, which means it can run on a variety of other devices as well as on smartphones.
The same week as the Bada debut, Nokia and Intel introduced the Linux-based MeeGo platform, which offers an application development environment called Qt.
"Applications and other content are not in a walled garden; rather the ecosystem is more like an open frontier," Kai Öistämö, Nokia executive vice president of devices, said in the announcement.
In a June 2 report, however, analysis company Ovum questioned how viable a competitor MeeGo will actually be, unless Nokia and Intel start selling far more smartphones.
"From the perspective of most third-party developers, MeeGo remains an unknown and unproven quantity that is entering an already highly competitive and crowded landscape," wrote Ovum analyst and report author Tony Cripps, adding that in the short term Nokia and Intel should focus not on smartphones but on other devices. They could then "capitalize on any successes to 'cross-sell' the benefits of Qt development onto Nokia's Qt-enabled feature [phones] and smartphones."
Cripps added, "Doing so may not prove easy, and will require considerable investment. We have yet to see whether MeeGo and its backers have the stomach for the fight, but it would be wrong to write off its changes until we see the merchandise."
For now, it's still Android that will be pushing Linux-based mobile phone growth forward. In a May 19 report, Gartner announced that Google's OS put in a phenomenal showing in the first quarter of 2010, with a 707 percent year-over-year increase in North America.