Smart Phones Add Java Apps to Linux Platform

Wireless device makers are jockeying for position with new products featuring support for updated operating systems such as Linux.

Wireless device makers are jockeying for position with new products featuring support for updated operating systems such as Linux. But theres a growing consensus among users that Java support trumps the choice of operating system.

Motorola Inc. this year will ship the first of several planned phones that will run the Java application platform on top of the Linux operating system, according to officials at the Schaumburg, Ill., company.

The phone, called the A760, heralds the companys plan to make Linux its primary operating system for smart phones. The A760 also supports Java, allowing users to download Java applications directly to their phones.

"This will be the first of many," said Scott Durschlag, corporate vice president for strategy and business development for Motorolas personal communications sector. "We will support other operating systems based on specific niche markets, but our primary platform will be Java and Linux."

The A760 will use Linux software from MontaVista Software Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., which announced plans for a cell phone version of Linux last year. The phone includes a digital camera, a video and MP3 player, a speakerphone, advanced messaging capabilities, Internet access, and a color touch-screen. It will be available in Asia by the end of the year, with availability in Europe and North America coming later, officials said.

Motorolas choice of open-source Linux is a move away from the Symbian operating system from Symbian Ltd., a consortium in London that was founded by several cell phone companies, including Motorola, which has a 20 percent investment in Symbian.

"Were part of the consortium," Durschlag said, "but they have not played a big part in our portfolio."

Officials at Nokia Corp., whose Series 60 platform for cell phones is based on Symbian, argued against Linux, which was originally designed as an operating system for servers.

"Symbian was designed with a mobile device firmly in mind," said Bill Plummer, vice president of strategic and external affairs at Nokia, in Washington. "It wasnt taken from another platform and transformed to fit a mobile device."

Durschlag said Motorolas focus has more to do with Java than Linux. "We dont think the OS even matters to some extent," he said. "What matters is whats on top of it."

Nokias Plummer agrees.

"Java certainly is going to be one of the key service enablers going forward," he said.

Among the dissenters is Microsoft Corp., which does not include Java in its Smartphone operating system, preferring to bundle applications with its operating system.

"In order to provide broad compatibility, they have to target the lowest common denominator so that the code runs across all devices," said Ed Suwanjindar, product manager of Microsofts Mobility Group, in Redmond, Wash.

This week, Microsoft and Intel Corp. will announce at 3GSM World Congress, in Cannes, France, the availability of a jointly developed Smartphone handset design. Wistron Corp., of Taiwan, which is best known for designing Dell Computer Corp.s Axim handheld device, is the first to take advantage of the design and will start selling it to carriers later this year.

Its work with Microsoft aside, Intel is also focusing on phones that dont run high-end operating systems. Last week, the company introduced the PXA800F, a high-end processor designed for midrange cell phones.

Previously known by its code name, Manitoba, the PXA800F combines a Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service baseband with a 312MHz Xscale processor, 512KB of synchronous dynamic RAM and 4MB of on-chip flash memory.

Officials at the Santa Clara, Calif., company said Intel is planning additional versions of PXA800F but has no immediate plans for a version that supports Code Division Multiple Access networks, which are prevalent in the United States.

Officials said that Intel will still build separate application chips for high-end phones running Symbian, Linux or Smartphone. But the thrust of the PXA800F is to bring high-end features to phones without a full-featured operating system.