Red Hat will try to unravel the close-knit wireless handset marketplace with a new open source, license- and royalty-free operating system for next-generation mobile phones. But with all of the major handset manufacturers already committed to the Symbian OS, Red Hat faces a significant challenge in convincing vendors to use the product in 2.5- and third-generation devices.
Compared to Symbian or Micro-softs Stinger, which dont allow developers to access the source code, eCos — Red Hats OS for 2.5/3G mobile devices — would give handset makers more leeway in the design and branding of products, said Paul Beskeen, director of engineering of Red Hats Embedded Runtime group. Red Hat and 3G Lab are working together on the OS, which will be based on Red Hats open source embedded real-time OS — not on Linux.
Symbian — a joint venture of Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic and Psion — said that its solution doesnt need to be open source because it has worked closely with its partners and licensees to develop the OS. "Weve built the product in coordination with them, to match whats going on in the marketplace," said Trevor Strudley, Symbians director of market development.
Some manufacturers dont seem ready to switch course. Nokia, for example, expects that half of its 3G handsets will be Symbian-based by 2004, a spokeswoman said.
Ericsson, however, is more open to the idea. "Open source is a logical next step to the standards work that Ericsson is leading," said Jeremiah Zinn of Ericsson Mobility World, an initiative that operates wireless collaboration centers worldwide.
Naqi Jaffery, senior vice president of The Strategis Group, said that handset vendors may eventually manufacture phones using different OSes. "Even companies like Motorola are not totally wedded to the Symbian platform," he said. "They would certainly consider others if they represent improvements."