How the Nokia-Microsoft Deal Could Boost Linux

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Smartphone maker Nokia may have snubbed both Android and MeeGo through its recently announced deal with Microsoft, but at least one Linux-based group sees good news for its own platform as a result.

"With Microsoft and Nokia now in lockstep and the Android arena rapidly becoming commoditized, other handset vendors must look elsewhere to avoid the irreversible margin collapse that befell PC manufacturers," Morgan Gillis, executive director of the LiMo Foundation, told Reuters recently.

Both Android and MeeGo are built upon the open source Linux operating system, of course, but an alternative option is LiMo, a Linux-based platform that focuses on providing flexibility and choice for both vendors and operators.

'Free of Brand Conflicts'

The LiMo Foundation on Monday released LiMo 4, a new release of the platform that offers a number of enhancements.

Included in LiMo 4 are a flexible and powerful user interface, extended widget libraries, 3D window effects, advanced multimedia, social networking and location-based service frameworks, sensor frameworks, multitasking and multitouch capabilities. With support for scalable screen resolution and consistent APIs, meanwhile, the platform can deliver a consistent user experience across a broad range of device types and form factors, LiMo says.

Using the platform, "operators and device manufacturers can more freely shape attractive user propositions and secure sustainable long-term value," Gillis said in a statement. "LiMo 4 represents a timely milestone in the advancement of a uniquely open and independent device platform that is completely free of inherent brand and business model conflicts."

Panasonic, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Samsung, SKT Telecom, Telefonica and Vodafone are all on the board of the LiMo Foundation. LiMo 4 code is expected to become available for public download starting in July, followed by the launch of LiMo 4-based devices in the second half of this year.

The MeeGo Movement

Though LiMo itself has not yet seen significant adoption outside Japan, as Reuters notes, the idea that vendors will increasingly need ways to differentiate themselves makes intuitive sense.

Meanwhile, Nokia's defection notwithstanding, development also continues on MeeGo. Fujitsu just unveiled the first MeeGo netbook, for example, and Intel is readying a series of MeeGo-based tablets for shipment later this year, with handsets following after that.

Advanced Micro Devices, Texas Instruments, ST Ericsson, Orange, Telefonica, Sprint, Novell and Wind River are all among companies currently working with the MeeGo platform.

The Customizable Choice

I remain in a state of shock that Nokia would pin its fortunes to those of Microsoft and Windows Phone 7, given Android's success and Redmond's lackluster performance in the mobile realm.

Faced with the prospect of a market dominated by Apple, Android and--maybe--the new Nokia-Microsoft behemoth, however, I like the notion of a potential boost for some of the smaller players based on Linux. Differentiation is what it's going to be about, and there's no platform more customizable than Linux.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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