The Mobile Linux War

A recent report from ABI Research highlights the rise of mobile Linux, estimating that 23 percent of the world’s smartphones will have a Linux operating system by 2013. It appears that much of that growth will come at the expense of Nokia’s Symbian, and that LiMo and Android will be the main beneficiaries. What the report doesn’t note is that last year ABI predicted that 31 percent of smartphones will have Linux by 2012.

Either there’s something to explain the change in numbers, or we should perhaps take our analyst reports with a grain of salt. However, Linux is undoubtedly moving fast: 15 handsets were launched earlier this year with LiMo, and after several demos and prototypes, anticipation for the Android is running high. But the jury is still out on which framework will win out with carriers and application developers.

LiMo has the backing of NEC, Motorola and Samsung as well as SK Telecom and Verizon. Android, through the Open Handset Alliance, has T-Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, China Telecom, Telefonica, Google and several others. The stated goal behind both efforts is to eliminate some of the costs associated with developing mobile applications for multiple operating systems by using open source. It’s a laudable goal, but the fight between the two for market share demonstrates how hard it will be to lower costs, as developers will still have to build for multiple platforms.

photo courtesy of the LiMo Foundation and NTT DoCoMo