Panasonic and NEC announced nine new cell phone on Tuesday that use the open-source, Linux-based mobile operating system called LiMo.
As the mobile phone market evolves, software is becoming more crucial to handset development.
Apple set the bar high with its iPhone, which uses a form of Apple's own proprietary operating system used in its computers. Other companies have followed suit with advanced software of their own, namely Google with its Android mobile software. Like LiMo, Android is based on open source Linux. So far only two devices have been introduced running the Android software, but several handset makers including Motorola and Samsung are expected to release new Android-based devices.
Still, Nokia, the number one handset maker in the world, leads the market with its Symbian software platform.
Linux is the most popular type of free or open source computer software available. And it has had some success in the computer environment where Linux suppliers are earn revenue by selling improvements and technical services to support Linux. This is a very different model from Microsoft, which licenses its Windows operating system and does not share its code openly with developers.
Now Linux is coming to the mobile market, where it promises to help lower costs for handset makers. The LiMo foundation, which is made up of a consortium of companies, has been shepherding development for mobile devices in the hopes that it can become one of the major operating systems used in the handset market. So far, LiMo has not been a huge success, as competition from other software and handset makers has been fierce.
The announcement of the new Panasonic and NEC phones is seen as a positive sign that handset makers are starting to support the new software. Other handset makers, such as Samsung and LG Electronics, are also members of the LiMo Foundation. But so far these companies haven't introduced phones using the LiMo software. In 2008, Motorola introduced some devices using LiMo.
Meanwhile, most of the world's largest cell phone makers, including Samsung, LG, Nokia, and Motorola, have said that they will soon introduce phones using the Android operating system.
Still, LiMo does have support from some of the world's biggest mobile carriers, including Vodafone, France Telecom SA's Orange, Japan's NTT DoCoMo, South Korea's SK Telecom, Telefonica and U.S. operator Verizon Wireless, which is jointly owned by Vodafone and Verizon Communications. LiMo also said Japanese mobile carrier KDDI Corp and touch screen company Immersion Corp have joined the not-for-profit foundation.