February 13, 2003
Motorola Moving Cell Phones to Linux
By Carmen Nobel
Motorola Inc. later this year will start selling what the company says will be the first of many phones based on the Linux operating system. The phone, called the A760, marks the company's plan to make Linux its primary operating system for smart phones. It also includes support for Java, meaning users can download Java applications directly to their phones.
"This will be the first of many," said Scott Durschlag, corporate vice president for strategy and business development for Motorola's personal communications sector in Libertyville, Ill. "We will support other operating systems based on specific niche markets, but our primary platform will be Java and Linux."
The A760 is a high-end phone with a digital camera, a video and MP3 player, a speakerphone, advanced messaging capabilities, Internet access, and a color touch screen.
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It will be available in Asia by the end of the year and in Europe and North America eventually, officials said.
Motorola's choice of the open-source Linux operating system is also a choice to move away from the Symbian operating system from Symbian Ltd., a consortium in London that was founded by several cell phone companies. Motorola has a 20 percent investment in Symbian.
"We're part of the consortium," Durschlag said, "but they have not played a big part in our portfolio."
The company will be using software from MontaVista Software Inc., which announced plans for a cell phone version of Linux last year. Durschlag said that using an open-source operating system will mean a freer development environment than using Symbian or Microsoft Corp.'s Smartphone platform, which comes standard with a set of applications that users don't necessarily want.
But he added that Motorola's focus is really more about Java than about Linux.
"For speed of development, open source tends to work faster; it's really easy to use," Durschlag said. "But we don't think the OS even matters to some extent. What matters is what's on top of it."