October 14, 2005 1:48 PM PDT

Linux calling: Are cell phones ready?

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electricity consumption and waste heat in servers. But what makes power management hard to handle is that processor makers are all using different interfaces, Weinberg said.

"That kind of hardware divergence needs to be captured in a single umbrella technology more aligned with the mainstream kernel," Weinberg said.

Another challenge the group will tackle will be to handle mobile phone "baseband" processors, the part of the chip that deals with radio communication tasks. Today, a "real-time" operating system with a very fast response time to high-priority interruptions is most often used in the baseband component, but OSDL wants Linux to arrive there, too. Right now, Weinberg said, Linux can keep up with the 800-microsecond response time necessary--but not on a chip that slows down to conserve power or that juggles many different tasks.

Being able to support baseband processors' software will help Linux spread into mainstream phones, Weinberg said.

Political considerations
Setting up industry consortia can involve a lot of diplomacy, and the Mobile Linux Initiative is no exception.

One problem is that at least two similar projects already are under way: one at the Consumer Electronics Linux Forum and the Linux Phone Software Forum, set up by France Telecom and its allies.

ODSL's Cohen said the three groups are working closely together to sidestep turf problems.

"We spent a lot of time in the last 60 days to make sure there's a minimum amount of duplication of effort, no competitive issues, and that what we and they are doing is consistent and complementary," Cohen said.

Another potentially touchy area is the participation of MontaVista. It's not uncommon for a company that has an edge over competitors in a particular market to resist helping out consortia that will erode its advantage.

But MontaVista wanted to participate for a number of reasons, said Peder Ulander, MontaVista's vice president of marketing. For one thing, the initiative could help pull together many hardware and software companies into a united front--and bring MontaVista's brand to new partners. For another, settling down basic software will help MontaVista concentrate on higher-level services such as support of TV and video.

If the effort succeeds, the result will be a simpler softwre environment for mobile phone makers and more widespread use of Linux, Weinberg said. "The handset manufacturers would like to see a single operating system, and Linux is a strong candidate," he said.

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finally, about time
forget useless windows mobile, we need linux on cell phones, imagine, tons of open source appz, i cant wait
Posted by digitallysick (103 comments )
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sound as a pound
i'll second that. can't wait to compile a gentoo kernel on my mobile.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
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