February 14, 2008

LiMo Strives to Compete with Google’s Android

Just two days after chip makers from Texas Instruments Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. showed off their earliest prototypes utilizing Google Inc.'s Android at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, The LiMo Foundation displayed 18 handsets, some of which they say are ready for the market, thus setting the stage for a race between Android and LiMo operating systems.

Overall, there are 32 companies who are developing devices designed to compete with Android's operating system, and the number continues to grow.

The LiMo Foundation, which earns its name from Linux and mobile phones, includes software companies McAfee Corp. and Purple Labs as well as telecommunications companies such as Samsung. The foundation was started in an effort to bring more mobile devices together using a similar platform.

The handsets shown on Wednesday using LiMo operating systems include models from Samsung, Motorola, Panasonic Mobile Communications, and NEC Corp. Each model uses aspects of the new platform, as it continues to progress.

"The platform is made up of existing, proven components." "Part of the effort is to provide a cost-effective platform for everyone involved." said John Rizzo, a LiMo board member who is vice president for research and development strategy for the U.S. branch of Japan's Aplix Corp.

There is no evidence that groups such as LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung, or Texas Instruments will combine their efforts.

Rizzo noted that while Android is being marketed as a completed operating system, LiMo is working together with various partners to complete a project that will work better across the board.

However, it's hard to overlook Nokia, who owns about 40 percent of the handheld market, and uses Symbian, an operating system which it partially owns.

"LiMo is just a group of people trying to create an alternative to Symbian and Microsoft. But Microsoft gets out to more phones and has a bigger development community," said Consultant John Strand of Strand Consulting in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Antivirus software maker McAfee is excited at the chance to work on the ground floor of an operating system with LiMo, which is something it has been unable to do before. Victor Kouznetsov, senior vice president for McAfee's mobile security solutions said that the company hopes to get a leg up on its competitors.

"This is a unique opportunity for us to be involved from day one. We've been half a step behind the bad guys, now we can be half a step ahead," said Kouznetsov.

He also noted that data security on handhelds becomes equally important with the rising interest in Internet applications for mobile phones.

"Digital was supposed to change our lives. It hasn't happened yet," said Martin Cooper, CEO of wireless company ArrayComm Inc. and an early developer of mobile phone technology. "I'm here to say that the revolution has started. It will take a long time. Believe it or not, revolution takes about a generation. This generation has started now."


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