February 11, 2008 / 8:04 AM / 12 years ago

LG, Samsung bet on new mobile Linux platform

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Samsung (005930.KS) and LG Electronics (066570.KS) on Monday showed new phones using free Linux software from Mobile Linux foundation, which said in total 18 phones from seven vendors would use its software.

A woman uses her mobile phone behind a logo of Samsung Group in Seoul January 31, 2008. REUTERS/Han Jae-Ho

The world’s second largest cellphone maker Samsung, which has used Linux in its phones in 2006, launched new SGH-i800 phone model running on LiMo software at the Mobile World Congress trade show, while LG Electronics showed a prototype phone LG LiMo.

The Linux operating system has so far had little success on cellphones but its presence is increasing with LiMo rolling out its software platform, boosting the speed of new models reaching the market. Google (GOOG.O) is also using Linux to build its Android platform on.

“Having the Koreans on board is good news for LiMo as they will drive innovation,” said Ben Wood, research director at consultancy CCS Insight.

“That said, we know that these companies will quickly desert the initiative if it does not deliver against the ambitious expectations it has set,” he said.

Linux is the most popular type of free, or so-called open source, computer operating system which is available to the public to be used, revised and shared. Linux suppliers earn money selling improvements and technical services, and Linux competes directly with Microsoft (MSFT.O), which charges for its Windows software and opposes freely sharing its code.

The foundation said it has also signed up 9 new members, including France Telecom’s FTE.PA mobile arm Orange, SoftBank (9984.T) and STMicroelectronics (STM.PA).

The market for software platforms on cellphones is lead by Nokia’s NOK1V.HE S60, built on Symbian operating system, well ahead of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.

However, many mobile industry heavyweights — also Vodafone (VOD.L), NTT DoCoMo (9437.T) and Huawei HWT.UL — are members of Mobile Linux foundation.

Struggling U.S. vendor Motorola, which has been the main user of Linux software also before, plans to use LiMo platform in six phones, while NEC and Matsushita Electric’s (6752.T) Panasonic unit both will use it in four models tailor-made for NTT DoCoMo.

CCS’s Wood said Motorola running LiMo in its old models reflects the looseness of LiMo’s specifications.

“To have a credible platform, a more detailed operating system framework is likely to be required,” he said.

Morgan Gillis, the head of the LiMo Foundation, said the first release of LiMo’s mobile Linux platform uses technology contributed by the founder members, like Motorola, which had already been market proven.

Editing by Lincoln Feast

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