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Analyst Questions Mobile Linux Impact

In the short term, operating systems suppliers including Microsoft won't really see any fallout from the recent announcement by a vendor consortium to create a version of Linux for mobile devices.
LONDON — Mobile operating system suppliers such as Symbian and Microsoft are unlikely to be affected in the short term by the latest initiative to create a Linux-based OS for such devices, according to a leading analyst tracking the sector.

"This is simply a framework arrangement at this stage, and the announcement raises more questions than it answers," Richard Windsor, senior communications equipment analyst at Nomura Securities, told EE Times .

Windsor was commenting on the announcement late last week that Motorola, NEC Corp., NTT Docomo Inc., Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics and Vodafone Group plan to collaborate to establish an open Linux-based software platform for mobile handsets.

"Will the software be aimed at higher-end devices competing with Symbian and Microsoft, or will it be for midtier competing with s40, OSE and other proprietary software implementations? Will an entire OS be offered or just an application framework?" queried Windsor, adding "there are many, many other questions raised about this."

Windsor said that the brief announcement of the group's intentions suggests the main product will be an application framework targeted at smartphones.

"The biggest challenge will be maintaining platform integrity. Flexibility will be key to gain traction. However the option to include, exclude or swap out certain elements will come at the cost of interoperability and consistency," said Windsor.

Symbian and Microsoft will face a bigger challenge from the Linux consortium, but not for a while. "Linux must first sort out its fragmentation, cost issues and then catch up technologically," said Windsor.

He added that the exclusion of Access is worrisome. Access has its own Linux development but also has the PalmSource developer community. "This would be an ideal target from which to create the crucial developer ecosystem around this platform. No developers means that the platform will probably fail."

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