Linux Poised To Make Inroads In Mobile Phone Market - InformationWeek

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Linux Poised To Make Inroads In Mobile Phone Market

By 2011, the number of advanced cell phones running Linux is expect to increase to 127 million from 8.1 million this year, according to ABI Research.

The use of Linux in mobile phones could grow rapidly over the next few years as carriers look for the lowest-priced smart phones, a market researcher said.

By 2011, the number of advanced cell phones running Linux, as opposed to commercial operating systems, is expect to increase to 127 million from 8.1 million this year, according to ABI Research.

As an indication of how little Linux is used today, nearly a billion handsets were sold worldwide last year, according to Gartner. The majority of smart phones run Symbian, which is promoted by Nokia, or Microsoft's Windows Mobile. Symbian has 56% of the global market for smart phones, ABI said.

In cellular phones with real-time operating systems, Linux use is expected to increase to more than 76 million handsets in 2012 from nearly zero this year, according to ABI. A real-time operating system is an OS with more limited capabilities that's hard-wired to the phone's processor.

For Linux use to grow in the market, however, supporters will have to overcome several of its weaknesses, such as the fact that Linux is slow and uses too much memory. Other issues include a lack of development tools and standardized application programming interfaces, ABI said in a report released this week.

Linux also has some strong positives. As open source software, the OS is available at no charge, and has more flexible options. Other pluses include a large number of developers within the open source community.

Carriers could eventually see Linux as a way to counteract Symbian's dominance of the smart phone market, and to keep Microsoft from becoming too strong. In addition, carriers could developer their own OS software to sit on white-label products, thereby negating some of their dependence on large handset manufacturers.

"Mobile Linux looks set to provide the only viable solution available to counter the weight of the Windows Mobile and Symbian duopoly in the smart-phone area," ABI analyst David Halperin said in the report. "Its low-cost base will be attractive to carriers that are looking to squeeze every last cent out of device costs."

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