Industry throws weight behind mobile Linux

The growing importance of mobile devices in both business and consumer IT is driving renewed interest in mobile operating systems software among the industry’s largest vendors.

Today saw the public unveiling of a new cooperative effort among suppliers to further develop the open source operating system Linux for use on consumer mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet PCs.

The non-profit joint venture, entitled Linaro, includes IT giant IBM, chip designer ARM Holdings and device manufacturer Samsung. It employs around 100 engineers who are working to optimise device components for use with existing Linux-based mobile operating systems, such as Meego, Google’s Android and WebOS, recently acquired by Hewlett-Packard as part of device maker Palm.

"The dramatic growth of open source software development can now be seen in Internet-based, always-connected mobile and consumer products,” said Linaro CEO Lantzsc in a press statement. Linaro “will help accelerate this trend further by increasing investment on key open source projects and providing industry alignment with the community to deliver the best Linux-based products for the benefit of the consumer."

The significance of mobile operating systems in general, and of Linux-based examples in particular, was highlighted by HP CEO Mark Hurd yesterday. Speaking at the All Things Digital conference in New York, Hurd confirmed that HP’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm was primarily motivated by the company’s ownership of WebOS.

“We didn’t buy Palm to be in the smartphone business”, he said, according to a ZDNet report. “We bought it for the [intellectual property].”

The WebOS operating system, which is based on the Linux kernel but which contains proprietary components. As reflected in its name, it is design specifically for accessing the web from mobile devices.

 “WebOS is one of the two ground-up pieces of software that is built as a web operating environment,” said Hurd. “We have tens of millions of HP small form factor web-connected devices. Now imagine that being a web-connected environment where now you can get a common look and feel and a common set of services laid against that environment. That is a very [strong] value proposition.”

Last month, HP revealed that a version of its tablet PC hardware running on webOS will be available in October. The company indicated that a number of devices could use the operating system in future, including even printers.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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