Two Linux-based mobile operating systems made their handset debuts at the Mobile World Congress, pitting open-source LiMo (Mobile Linux) and the Google-led Open Handset Alliance's Android against Symbian and Windows Mobile.
Android appeared on a number of stands, including ARM, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, via prototype handsets. ARM demonstrated Android on a GPRS HTC handset running a low-end 220-MHz ARM9 processor.
"Basically it's got a Linux kernel behind it with Java running on the top," said Simon Hickman, applied systems engineering manager for ARM. "Even though it's running on an ARM9, it's a quite quick and responsive user interface."
ARM isn't a member of the OHA, but rigged up an Android demo because "we're in 90% of all the handsets, so we're showing that we can work with any OS vendor."
Meanwhile, the LiMo Foundation unveiled the first wave of commercially available Mobile Linux handsets Motorola, NEC, Panasonic and Samsung, as well as prototype and reference handsets from LG Electronics, Aplix and Purple Labs.
The LiMo foundation, which has already made its APIs available to developers, also said its R1 LiMo Platform will be completed in March 2008, and its SDK suite will roll out in the second half of this year, providing common Eclipse-based tooling environments for supporting widespread development of software for LiMo handsets coming to market from Q4 2008.
Both LiMo and Android aim to drive Linux as a prominent open-source OS for handsets. Mobile Linux has been around for some time but has lacked a central driver to guide its development.
But where Android is primarily driven by one company that also hopes to use it to drive adoption of mobile Google services, the LiMo Foundation is governed by a collaborative committee, said LiMo Foundation executive director Morgan Gilles.
The LiMo Foundation currently sports 32 members, nine of which officially joined this week, including ACCESS, AMD, FueTrek, Open-Plug, Orange, Renesas Technology, Samsung SDS, SoftBank and STMicroelectronics.
"The other difference is that our technology isn't new, which is why we've gone so quickly. Betting on a new OS can take time," Gilles said.
One advantage Android could have is that it's free of charge, which could be attractive for handset makers looking to save on development costs, said ARM's Hickman.
Hankil Yoon, architectural council chair of the LiMo Foundation and vice president of Samsung Electronics, said Android wasn't necessarily a competitor to Mobile Linux.
"Android is based on Java, so Linux and Java can be seen as complimentary," he told telecomasia.net.
However, he did add that Android's arrival also helped spur the Mobile Linux movement. "LiMo vendors were moving a bit slow before, but Android helped give a sense of urgency," he said.