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Linux making more and more sense in the mobile segment

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March 8, 2009

IMS Research says that, since September 2008, and with the rapidly worsening economic meltdown making its impact felt in the wireless industry, handset OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and mobile network operators are looking to Linux-based operating systems in an effort to drastically reduce costs and diversify their handset portfolios.

For the past few years, and while Linux-based operating systems have had a fairly notable presence in the mobile handset market, growth has been slow but steady until recently.

But recent announcements from Motorola, Vodafone, HTC and Huawei among others, all stating that Linux-based operating systems will figure in to their upcoming handset releases, this clearly demonstrate that OEMs and wireless operators are ready to embrace Linux software on a larger scale, according to the research firm.

Meanwhile, consolidation in the Linux market and work by standards groups like the LiMo Foundation, Open Mobile Terminal Platform, the Open Handset Alliance, and the Open Mobile Alliance have gone a long way in removing the traditional fragmentation that had hindered market growth.

Overall, most agree that the end result is a mobile market driven to Linux to save on development costs and a Linux developer community more capable of meeting that demand than ever before.

IMS Research analyst Chris Schreck says “there are many factors driving the growth of the market for Linux and open source in mobile handsets. In the current economy, the need to cut costs has pushed OEMs and operators toward the potential licensing and royalty savings available with Linux."

In the smartphone market alone, IMS Research expects Linux-based operating systems to penetrate more than 31 percent of the market in less than five years from now.

According to IMS Research, and as mobile handset shipments continue to fall victim to the gloomy economic climate, it's likely that OEMs and wireless network operators will still continue to look closely at Linux as a very serious contender, bypassing the traditional licensing model, and further reducing development costs in the process.

IMS Research says that the Linux mobile developer community will continue to grow, as Linux and open source solutions boost their presence in the marketplace.

The emergence of successful alternative distribution channels for mobile handset applications has provided a powerful incentive for third-party developers, and consequently, they will play an increasingly important role in the mobile handset market.

As OEMs and mobile service operators continue to fight to associate their handset with the latest and greatest applications, they will need to consider the broader development community’s preference for Linux and open-source platforms.

Those in the Linux community are hoping that this initial surge in mobile handsets featuring Linux-based operating systems is only the beginning of a rapidly growing trend.

Source: IMS Research.

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