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Mobile Phones and Linux

Yes, Linux is now powering a number of brand name mobile phones, but there’s a great deal yet to do to transform Linux into a credible alternative to proprietary mobile operating systems. Here’s a look at the challenges ahead– and a dark horse entering the mobile race this month.

Almost immediately, the mobile phone will become the primary vehicle for content consumption. Communication, entertainment, and information in the form of mobile television, push email, and software radio, among others, will be delivered as a software service. In many instances, these services are already available to the public.

Computing’s old friend, Moore’s Law, is one of the trends that has enabled the mobile phone to become the capable device that it is. In the last year alone, RAM has increased from 64 MB to 128 MB in popular high-end devices, while processor speeds have gone from 208 to 312 MHz in those same models.

Additionally, mobile network operators are now focusing on growing revenue from new services. Because the market for traditional voice services is now saturated, future revenues must come from selling existing customers new kinds of services. New services mean new and increasingly complex software. Talk about a revolution.

In general, the mobile telephone is a classic embedded device. In a phone, a small, highly tuned real-time executive, often proprietary to the handset vendor, is augmented with a small number of special purpose applications, and is then baked as a whole into the device.

Practically speaking, there is no opportunity to modify or add software once the handset ships. Indeed, the whole software package can be extraordinarily brittle, requiring significant time and expense to change or add features to applications, introduce new applications to the mix, or port the software to a new device or platform architecture. Even Java ME– which…

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