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Linux To Challenge Symbian, Microsoft In Mobile Phone Market

Purple Magic is a 3G Linux reference feature phone that costs less than $100 and combines video telephony, music playback, high-speed Internet browsing, and video streaming.

As the smartphone market matures, Linux will become one of the leading mobile platforms, ABI Research predicted at its press event in New York City on Thursday, the same day as NXP Semiconductors and Purple Labs unveiled what they claim to be the first 3G Linux phone under $100.

Carriers worldwide will support three major mobile operating systems -- Symbian, Linux, and Microsoft, said Stuart Carlaw, a mobile and wireless analyst at ABI.

"Linux has an incredible destabilizing effect on this market. It will be a way a new entrant can come into market without signing up for the development cycles of Symbian or Microsoft," Carlaw said.

Linux developers differentiate themselves by introducing a lot of firsts to the smartphone and cell phone market, or so they claim.

OpenMoko last year began selling the first Linux smartphone based completely on open standards. The Neo1973 smartphone, developed in partnership with First International Computer, a manufacturer of motherboards and notebook, PC, and PDA peripherals, uses OpenMoko's mobile communications platform. All parts of the platform are open sourced, including the user interface layer.

More recently, Red Bend Software introduced the first concept Linux-based mobile phone that can be customized and updated with software and applications over-the-air. Red Bend, a developer of firmware over-the-air mobile client software, partnered with several companies, including Digital Airways, Opera Software, Synchronica, Trolltech, and Zi to create the necessary components for the phone, called Mast.

And this week, NXP Semiconductors, an independent semiconductor company founded by Philips, and Purple Labs, a supplier of embedded mobile Linux components, said they have jointly developed a 3G Linux reference feature phone that combines video telephony, music playback, high-speed Internet browsing, and video streaming, and it costs less than $100. Most multimedia phones with similar capabilities come with a much heftier price tag. The phone, called Purple Magic, will be showcased at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona next month.

This year is expected to be big for mobile Linux, with important developments like Google choosing Linux as the backbone for its Android platform and international organizations promoting it as the technology of choice.

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