Eleven companies Monday launched a cross-industry consortium chartered to turn embedded Linux into a plug-and-play mobile phone platform comparable to Microsoft Corp.s Windows Mobile Smartphone OS, but with greater flexibility and lower costs. The LiPS (Linux Phone Standard) Forum intends to help make Linux a more standardized, interoperable mobile phone OS.
Compared to commercial mobile phone stacks from Microsoft and Symbian, embedded Linux is generally considered to be more flexible, but less complete. In contrast Microsoft and Symbian have integrated off-the-shelf mobile phone stacks including kernel, libraries, multimedia and communications protocols, management and security utilities, PIM (personal information management) applications and even graphical branding elements. Additionally, both Windows Mobile and Symbian enjoy healthy third-party software ecosystems.
Linux mobile phones, on the other hand, provide greater branding and differentiation opportunities, and avoid vendor lock-in—high priorities among mobile carriers and phone vendors. However, the use of Linux on mobile phones currently requires carriers and device vendors to assemble and test their own phone software stacks.
To address this shortcoming, embedded Linux software vendors such Trolltech, MontaVista, PalmSource and Wind River have been attempting to assemble more complete, off-the-shelf mobile phone stacks on an ad hoc basis.
But due to the diversity of choices available for graphics environments, C libraries, PIM and utility apps, media handlers, service provisioning schemes, etc., the resulting Linux phone stacks lack interoperability. This, in turn, has stymied the emergence of a third-party software and services ecosystem supporting Linux mobile phones.