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Verizon: Linux to be “preferred” mobile software


Verizon Mobile Cell PhonesAs a former Verizon customer, I must say I’m very surprised. From what I’ve seen of their track record, Verizon of all providers would be the last one I would expect to embrace openness.

Oh, and if you like this sort of news, I can’t help mentioning Openmoko and their upcoming FreeRunner phone. It’s a totally open, configurable, customizable, hackable phone running Linux. Features include touchscreen, gps, wifi, accelerometers, bluetooth. It’s due to be released within a month or so.

(AP) – Verizon Wireless is backing a free operating system that competes with programs from Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. and expects it to become the “preferred” software on its network.

It’s the first U.S. carrier to join the LiMo Foundation, which aims to unite handset makers, software companies and carriers on a software platform that will make it easier and cheaper to create a wide variety of phones.

The carrier’s endorsement Wednesday is an important boost to the stature of LiMo, or Linux Mobile, and its prospects in the U.S. It already has the backing of large Asian and European carriers, as well as handset makers like Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.

“There is now no doubt that LiMo-powered devices will comprise a significant percentage of many operators’ portfolios,” said Stuart Carlaw, cell-phone industry analyst at ABI Research.

Kyle Malady, vice president of network for Verizon, said he expects the company to sell both simple and “smart” phones using LiMo next year. That’s a potential blow to Qualcomm, which supplies the software for most of Verizon’s phones, excluding smart phones.

“We expect that Linux Mobile will rapidly become our preferred operating system,” Malady said. “As the development community looks at how best to bring new applications to the marketplace, they should check out LiMo and Linux Mobile first.”
But the company is not adopting LiMo to the exclusion of other operating systems, he added — it now sells phones with a variety of operating systems, and expects to continue doing so.

Verizon Wireless is also in the process of opening up its network on a wholesale basis to any device that meets basic technical requirements, but Malady made clear that the backing of LiMo is separate from that initiative, and the company plans to sell LiMo devices under its own brand.

While Verizon Wireless expects the adoption of LiMo to speed development, the difference between it and current cell phone software may not be apparent to users. The software package does not include a user interface, so the look and feel of LiMo phones may be borrowed from current phones.

LiMo’s software is based on Linux, a freely distributed operating system that’s mainly used in server computers and in niches like TV set-top boxes, where Microsoft’s dominant Windows system doesn’t reach.

Also joining the LiMo Foundation on Wednesday were SK Telecom Co., the largest carrier in South Korea, and the Mozilla Corp., which puts out the popular Firefox Web browser. Like Linux, Firefox is maintained on an “open source” basis, where everyone has free access to the software’s blueprints.

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