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2/9/2009
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LiMo To Ring In Low-Cost Linux Phones

The upcoming devices won't be positioned against more elegant competitors in the smartphone category, such as Apple's iPhone.

Linux is coming to a low-cost phone near you.

The LiMo Foundation, a loose federation of global carriers that includes industry heavyweights such as Verizon and Vodafone, said on Monday that several of its member companies plan to roll out low-cost Linux-based phones by the end of this year.

The upcoming devices won't be positioned against more elegant competitors in the smartphone category such as Apple's iPhone, but instead going after companies that use more obscure, vertical operating systems such as Nucleus and OSE.

The competitive strength of those companies ascribing to the LiMo platform will be in bringing together the reliability and flexibility of Linux with a greater ability to customize their offerings by bundling their own software.

According to Andrew Shikiar, LiMo's director of global marketing, the LiMo platform offers "the ability to do customization on top of a common middleware platform, thereby allowing an individual handset to be tailored to specific requirements of users in their respective markets."

In concert with the announcement of delivering low-cost Linux-based phones, LiMo officials also took the wraps off LiMo Platform R2 along with a number of reference platforms. The core platform is made up of code for carrying out tasks such as device management, providing security, and accessing location-based services. Foundation officials caution, however, that R2 is not a fully equipped operating system.

The foundation plans to show off several reference designs next week at the Mobile World Conference show, including how raw LiMo code can be transformed into commercially viable products. Foundation officials said they believe that R2 code will be in a number of different handsets in large numbers in either the third or fourth quarter of this year.

One of the more anticipated capabilities that will be included in the LiMo platform is Bondi, a technology that will be attempting to create a standard so that Web apps downloaded to phones can then get at data residing on a phone in a consistent manner. Currently, mobile phones and other devices have a variety of browsers and security schemes causing Web apps to be sculpted to the individual technical specifications of a phone. Bondi is designed to eliminate that need, LiMo officials said.

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