back to article Linux on mobiles will put the squeeze on MS, says Zemlin

Once it was the desktop, now mobile phones and embedded devices represent the future of Linux, according to open source fans. Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, painted a future of Linux's manifest destiny - running everything from aerospace systems to the phone in your pocket. According to Zemlin, Linux …


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  1. kain preacher


    When is linux going to knock off windows ???

  2. Lodewijk Bonebakker
    Thumb Down

    Linux will take mobiles just as it did the desktop

    It won't! Zemlin already illustrated the main reason why Linux won't be 'manna from heaven' for mobile developers, I quote: 'Linux lets handset and service providers differentiate through customization...' Customization and more options is exactly what we don't need, neither in the Desktop space, nor the Mobile space.

    Standardization, API stability and global compatibility. Now if only the mobile service providers would understand that value is in the services *on* the network instead of *owning* the network, then we could also have one, global system for all mobiles - *that* would be 'manna from heaven'!

  3. Doug Glass

    Here's Hoping

    As much as I want the squeeze put on M$, what would you expect the executive director of the Linux Foundation to say? That in the end Linux will turn out to be the loser? I don't think so.

    Don't get me wrong, I want M$ in thumb screws and I want the screws drawn down. Waaaaayyy down. But this is one of those situations where I'll believe it when I see it. And, frankly, I think I've see it to some degree. But nowhere near what I want to see.

  4. David
    Gates Horns

    Android is Linux

    With Google pushing Android into the market, that could make Linux the biggest mobile OS.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Linux on mobiles will put the squeeze on MS ...

    Oh no it won't!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ohh, it is not all about market share, and for Linux it doesn't really matter.

    The challenge was to make it usable, and that was on install to full basic application suites, which was done quite a few years back.

    The manufacturers have finally woken up, it has been the year of the Linux desktop for many years, now usability has surpassed windows for the average user, we are seeing the market share move up in bounds.

    Unix systems are just better for the enterprise, and developers. The openmoko is set to be a big hit in tech circles, and the effects will be seen by other handset manufacturers as they get more involved.

    If the development platform is open it is much easier to develop solutions, platform agnostics are really just closed source monkeys; you choose the best tool for the job, and in so many cases that is an open source development environment. That way you can get at the internals and really produce some interesting stuff, no such luck on closed platforms.

    The GPL can hold stuff back, but most of the stuff is either LGPL or BSD style licensing when it comes to development. Which is fair enough, allows for proprietary applications but keeps the base open, which is important. It would be nice to see proprietary applications on the phones running Linux, at that point the experiment will have worked.

  7. Jeremy


    Some of you don't understand the mobile market. Stop comparing it to the desktop, its a different ballgame.

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Why would customers want providers to differentiate?

    Challenge: The first is the ability to build and sustain an ecosystem of applications that - on mobile phones, at least - will let handset and service providers differentiate and attract customers.

    The differentiation drives away customers. Providers have made their phones so hard to use that some users struggle to learn the basic feature of a modern phone. If they stopped farting around with differentiation, users could sensibly expect to use the same interface on their new phone as on their old phone. Users would have some incentive to take the time to learn how to use all the revenue generating features of a new phone.

    Who is challenged? Linux or some marketing drones trying to justify their existence?

  9. EmperorFromage

    Don't believe the hype...

    Carriers are carried away (bad pun) by a Linux pipe dream. Android, and iPhone have been a clarion call - They can no longer control the users experience in their little walled gardens, and thus they risk being commoditized and made into dumb pipes.

    But the fact of the matter is that there is no credible Linux platform for application development today. Android mind you is just a glorified java phone.

    GTK has prooved to be to heavy to run on small ARM devices, thus it has been bitched by the OpenMoko effort. The LiMo foundation is still sticking to it, but will get badly burned when they fail to provide a secure sandboxed 3rd party application environment.

    So as a Smartfone platform Linux is quite lethargic, but that is not to say that it is dead in the water. It is still a very good OS to run a phone on, especially compared to e.x. what Qualcomm has to offer. The Qualcomm platform is so decrepit that there is now talk about running a user space Linux on top of it. Not that this will turn it into a "Smartphone" platform that the carriers can control, but it should make development easier.

  10. Hugh_Pym

    Linux has already won

    The burgeoning mobile market is being talked about in terms of which OS can suit the needs of the developer best. Any one of the current crop could do it. No one system will capture the whole of the market because there is no overwhelming advantage in one over another. No one system will become dominant enough to allow the manufacturer to use it as a lever to control its customers because there are so many viable alternatives. In the early PC market the cost of not doing what MS said was bankruptcy. In the mobile market it is a few months development and most manufacturers are keeping their options open to limit that.

    What Linux has done is given us choice. It has already done it's job of preventing lock down. 'Winning' market share is a moot point. Keeping the market open is the battleground because that is what benefits us, the end users.

  11. Andrew Hurdle
    Dead Vulture

    Someones smoking pot

    Linux for mobile handsets has had its chance, all the people mentioned backing the LinMo foundation having phones shipping with Symbian. Anyone can join a club.

    With 200M devices in the market already and the backing of the worlds largest mobile handset makers, and a proven application eco-system I know which OS I will choose to develop on first.

    I dont beleive WinMo is dead either - there will always be a significant precentage of the market that prefers to pay an extra $20 for a device that is a true enterprise product.

    Excluding Android my view for Linux for Mobile Handsets is that there will be a smattering of low cost devices for the far east market and no one will want to download apps. If Android can give operators some control over their identity then it may stand a chance - I dont see it.

    Cheers Andrew

  12. Jamie

    I have a dream....

    That one day I will be able to have a phone that I can hook up to my computer without installing crappy software. (Microsoft Mobile Centre on a Vista PC for Windows Mobile 6 phone)

    I have a dream that one day I will be able to purchase a phone that will allow me to use it with the software I want, that I can download through Open Source licensing and use as I see fit.

    I have a dream that one day when I purchase a phone it will be mine, and it will truly allow me to be free.

  13. Georges

    I don't see how

    to be successful on the mobile scene, no OS cost is just one aspect of the mobile economy. Developers need to make money above anything else. Average Joe does not care what is running on his mobile, but he would like to go to handango or Pocketgeras and install the latest application seamlessly and transparently. He would like to go to his desktop and sync his contacts and emails and do backups. Average Joe does not care if there is a text shell or command line. He does not care about kernel, recompilation and packages. He does nto give a dime and will run away faster than a cheetah.

    The first thing my daughter will ask, can I access the tube :-), can I put the latest tones, can I buy and play music (well I know she can burn the music she wants for free, but come one which kid will do that), my space too.

    For power users (minority in the world of mobile phone consumers), I don't think the idea of running Java applications on top of Linux makes any sense (most phones I have seen so far including Google phone). I will never use such a phone. Maybe on my desktop I will run java. Even on my desktop I might entertain myself of downloading a package and try to make it run but not on my phone, unlesss I can afford a spare one to play with which in fact i have (O2 XDA Universal. and linux so far sucks on that).

    There is no economy for Linux on mobile phones until someone hides all of linux in an Iphone like shell (the gui).

    There is so much missing, I cannot see it happening any soon now. There is no threat ot Microsoft in near future. But when that threat comes, the post would have moved miles away by the likes of Apple, HTC, M$, Nokia etc... etc.. etc...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux reality distortion field

    This thread is clear evidence that Linux, too, has its own reality distortion field.

  15. Arnold Lieberman


    ...and not of the Eastern European variety.

    The problem with Linux, OK , one of the problems with Linux is that it's reputation (on the desktop, on PDAs) has been damaged by the efforts of small groups of individuals who with the best intentions have tried to create their own distributions. They are either doing it for their owm pleasure, which is fine but means that they are usually not interested in the "customer experience" or they underestimate the amount of effort required to get software of this nature into a useable state before members drift away to other shinier projects. OpenMoko/whatever the previous handset is a good example in the mobile space, OpenZaurus in the PDA space. I have a Zaurus SL5500 that stopped being useful in 2006 as that was really the last time that the OZ developers produced a relatively stable OS. Sharp abandoned the product some time in 2005.

    Without a large commercial organisation (and yes, that does include the like of Redhat etc.) controlling and co-ordinating development efforts then all you get left with is gigabytes of WiKi pages to navigate in oredr to get things working, which is great for hackers (in the old sense) but the general public just aren't interested.

    Even when commercial pressures are brought to bare, the end result usuall sucks because turnover of new models is more important than fixing old bugs.

    To be honest, I don't know what the answer is, and I'm not changing my (crap) handset until something geneuinely better comes along that doesn't come with it's own set of show stopping issues.

  16. Neil

    @ Coward

    "The manufacturers have finally woken up, it has been the year of the Linux desktop for many years, now usability has surpassed windows for the average user, we are seeing the market share move up in bounds."

    I hear there is a job going for a new Iraqi information minister, you'd make a good candidate.

  17. Geoff Mackenzie

    Like the sound of Linux on mobile devices

    although I have to admit I'm more excited about an open source Symbian. I liked EPOC in its day and I don't think Symbian is all that bad for little devices. I've just always wished developing for it was more approachable.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Linux usability

    In my experience, usability for the /average/ user is much better on Linux.

    By average user in this context I mean people that just want to turn on a preconfigured system and have it work and have no preconceptions based on the way the operating system works. For example, my Mum and my Girlfriend really like using my Linux laptop never have to ask me how to do something Linux specific - that's to say, they ask the same kind of questions regardless of the operating system.

    However, more the more 'computer literate' people are the more problems they tend to have with Linux because their extra expertise over the average user is based heavily on knowledge of the Windows operating system paradigm, or even just knowledge of where certain tick boxes are, rather than an operating system agnostic understanding of how computers work. Just because the 'Start' button is in the top left instead of the bottom left and isn't labelled 'Start' doesn't make it harder to use per se.

    Now I'm not saying Linux is the one true way, but just because it's not what you are used to and you 'know computers' it doesn't mean it's objectively harder to use for everyone.

  19. Mage Silver badge

    Win Mo

    HTC is biggest Win Mo/Ce vendor. They are looking at Linux and symbian. The same people own Via and interested in Linux Netbook/EeeePC market

    US is by far biggest WinMo Market and most affected by iPhone.

    WinMo on SMART phones will be 4th place behind Symbian, OS X mobile and Linux.

    Android while using Linux as OS, is indeed a Java Platform.

    Qualcomm's Brew OS is I think a mid range platform, not high end Smart phone like the other 4. Qualcomm (as do Nokia) also use Linux.

    Most phones of course aren't Smart Phones.

    Linux is probably already #1 on setboxes. You'd be amazed which use Linux.

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