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The Opportunity of Mobile Linux in Danger 50

Eugenia writes "I just posted an editorial on the state of Linux for cellphones. Currently, there are 6 different initiatives and alliances, all completely incompatible between them, and in my opinion this kills a great opportunity for a unified 'Linux platform' that can compete with Windows Mobile and Symbian S60. As for the existing released Linux phones, only MiZi Research has an SDK freely available to create a GUI application for it. Motorola sells thousands more handsets than MiZi does through Samsung, and yet they don't release their EZX SDK. C|Net also wrote today: 'while Linux had a lot to offer in comparison with proprietary systems, such as improved scalability and flexibility, it is lacking in other areas, industry watchers said. Ovum telecommunications analyst Tony Cripps said that Linux-based smart phones are currently inhibited by the lack of a standardized application environment for third parties to write to, unlike Symbian's offerings.'"
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The Opportunity of Mobile Linux in Danger

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  • It is a shame... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JPribe ( 946570 )
    that even in the OSS community there are still too many pissing matches that sound remarkably like "It's my way or the highway."
  • lack of a standardized application environment for third parties to write to

    For Linux? Why? If that's all manufacturers are worried about, can't they bolt on an evironment that isn't so Open? It may be against the FOSS movement, but I can't see manufacturers being particularly cut up about that. You may now flame me for not getting it.
    • by bfree ( 113420 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:04AM (#15627938)
      Welcome to the PalmSource/Access vision. Here you will have a choice of writing programs with GTK, Java or Palm 68k interfaces. The result should be to allow their devices access the full Palm and Java range of programs out there as well as leaving a new open route with GTK (and GStreamer) which should be fairly source compatible with other GTK based systems (e.g. Maemo from the N770). Of course nothing has been released yet so it remains to see how this will pan out in practice.
  • by Mr. Sketch ( 111112 ) <mister.sketch@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:45AM (#15627794)
    Currently, there are 6 different initiatives and alliances, all completely incompatible between them, and in my opinion this kills a great opportunity for a unified 'Linux platform' that can compete with Windows Mobile and Symbian S60

    Now, if only we had this unified 'Linux platform' for the desktop, then maybe we could compete with Windows XP.
    • I think we can delay worrying on that front. Microsoft doesn't even have a unified WinXP platform. There's home, professional, lite . . .
    • Maybe. But one of the good things in Linux is that you can choose from the many different distributions. Choice is good, it's the meaning of freedom.
    • we do (Score:3, Informative)

      by m874t232 ( 973431 )
      Linux effectively has Gnome and KDE, and the two work together very well. That means at most two toolkits, with an active effort to integrate them.

      That makes the situation better than, say, on Mac OS, which has Cocoa, Carbon, some Classic, and a lot of incompatible third party toolkits. And Windows has a baroque mix of 16bit and 32bit applications, various levels of Win32, and soon .NET, Avalon, and Vista.
  • by Homo Stannous ( 756539 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:59AM (#15627899)
    The reason linux distros are so different, on PCs or on cell phones, is that open source apps don't need a standardized environment and linux is made to work with open source apps. If your application uses autoconf, it's pretty darn easy to port to any distro. But have you ever tried installing matlab, lexmark printer drivers, or games? Closed source software like that has arcane installers that only work on red hat and have to be reverse engineered for other distros. The people who want linux to "standardize" are the people who want to sell closed source apps. "Standardization" would hurt those who use only FOSS because it would greatly reduce choice in your distros. FOSS is the core function of linux (that's the GNU in GNU/Linux). Linux should not cripple itself to make room for non-free software.
    • or they're the people who want to market linux to the mainstream. If things WERE standardized, it would be much easier to train people for lower level tech support (i.e. retail level like best buy, circuit city, etc) and to troubleshoot a lot of problems. As it is, you've got to be an expert or ready to spend hours on google figuring out someone's obscure problem. Were everything standardized it would be easier to figure out where everything is and how everything is laid out, etc. You'd be able to easily ha
    • The people who want linux to "standardize" are the people who want to sell closed source apps.

      I had this idea for a totally virus-proof, malware-proof secure computing system. Basically, every single processor has a different instruction set. There's no way to run a binary compiled for anyone else's computer on yours, and no way for anyone except you to compile binaries that will run on your computer. According to which, if a binary is running on your computer then you must, at some stage, have had the

      • Your computer would tank in the marketplace. Nobody (i.e no normal person) would be willing to compile software to use it. It would look (like it rightfully should) like you were putting your ideology and politics above ease of use and sensible operation.

        I'm sure RMS would wet himself at the chance to sell that machine though :)
      • I had this idea for a totally virus-proof, malware-proof secure computing system. Basically, every single processor has a different instruction set. There's no way to run a binary compiled for anyone else's computer on yours, and no way for anyone except you to compile binaries that will run on your computer.

        Actually, it is close to proprietary software vendors' dream, provided one small change is made to your devised system: "yes way" for someone( and you get to choose who) "to compile binaries that will r

    • No, standardized environments are good. For example, Autoconf is a standard environment. Free Software that uses some other build method is just as much as a pain as anything else, you know (for example, using RPMs on a non-RPM distro or vice-versa).

      Another area where even Free Software apps would benefit from standardization is in GUI libraries -- wouldn't it be nice if your GTK apps could be themed using the same utility as your QT apps?

      A third area -- one where Free Software is actually good -- is in li

      • Another area where even Free Software apps would benefit from standardization is in GUI libraries -- wouldn't it be nice if your GTK apps could be themed using the same utility as your QT apps?

        This exists, but it is crap and looks weird.

        A third area -- one where Free Software is actually good -- is in libraries in general. Isn't it nice how most apps use the same libraries (like, say, OpenGL)? You wouldn't prefer each app to install its own libs, now would you?

        "Whoops, your version of QT has libqt3.so.1! So
    • Linux should not cripple itself to make room for non-free software.

      I would like to have freedom to choose between open or closed source software.

      If your application uses autoconf, it's pretty darn easy to port to any distro

      Are you kidding? the "next, next, next, finish" approach the "arcane installers" uses takes 15 seconds to install something. for 99% of my apps, that's all I need.

      Most linux zealots don't understand that the users wants to use the apps, not the OS
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:00AM (#15627906)

    Haven't all these manufacturers heard of GPE [handhelds.org], Opie [handhelds.org], or even Maemo [maemo.org]? Those ought to be easily adapted to run on phones instead of just PDAs.

    I think the real reason they're all going proprietary (and not providing SDKs) is because the service providers don't want there to be an easy way for anybody but them to make applications for the phones.

    • I think the real reason they're all going proprietary (and not providing SDKs) is because the service providers don't want there to be an easy way for anybody but them to make applications for the phones. Bingo! Just look at the phone services today and how much they're trying to charge for things that users could do for free...

      couple of bucks PER MONTH for privilege of sending text messages

      overage charges if you send too many text messages. Come on! TEXT MESSAGES! This is a miniscule amount of data co

    • "I think the real reason they're all going proprietary (and not providing SDKs) is because the service providers don't want there to be an easy way for anybody but them to make applications for the phones."

      I don't think that's the case, I KNOW that's the case. And, better yet, it's not just that they don't want people making apps, they don't want people copying the apps from one to the next- most of the Mobile Phone vendors gig you each and every time you get a new app for a new phone. That's $2-15 each

      • The big problem is that they can't seem to come to an agreement on how they want to screw all of us

        That's certainly not a big problem from my perspective! The more divided my enemies are, the better off I am.

        From their perspective, of course, the problem is not that they can't come to an agreement, it's that they haven't yet succeeded in screwing over their competitors also by gaining a monopoly on their particular proprietary technology.

    • I think the real reason they're all going proprietary (and not providing SDKs) is because the service providers don't want there to be an easy way for anybody but them to make applications for the phones.

      I agree, but I think that's only part of it. I think primarily, they aren't used to thinking that way AT ALL. In their world, they'll get in trouble using someone else's technology. In their world, if they don't create something unique and protect it like it's their genitals; then a competitor will ki
  • I wonder why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2&earthshod,co,uk> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:26AM (#15628105)
    First let me say how I'd like a Linux smartphone to work. I'd like to plug it into my computer with a USB cable and see various peripherals. A hard drive, that goes without saying. A network adaptor with a DHCP server; a web server on port 80 with the phone's web-based configuration; a database server on port 3306 containing the phone book, call logs and sundry housekeeping information, e.g. remaining talktime; a gateway to the outside world {via GPRS or 3G}; and assorted other servers, possibly including a SIP / IAX gateway. Two sound cards: one being the phone's own mic and speaker, and the other being the phone line.

    Since the business of charging for a call is handled by the base station and not the handset, there are no implications for making things open that benefit the subscriber at the expense of the telephone company {though I can think of some that might benefit the telco at your expense ..... you would have to keep a close watch on how much talktime you bought while developing applications, for fear of eating it all up}.

    But it's unlikely to happen without government intervention, because keeping things closed and proprietary benefits the handset manufacturers {to a limited extent} and the telcos {to a greater extent}. The easier it is for the likes of me and thee to muck about with our phones, the harder it is for the corporations to charge us money for cheesy applications.
    • the harder it is for the corporations to charge us money for cheesy applications.

      Just think of how many cell phones lock down Blue-Tooth capabilities so you can't add your own ringtone unless you buy/download them on-line. Its one of the things at least, that T-Mobile got right.

      Offer applications, and upgrade contents, but don't treat your customers like convicts.
      • Fortunately, I have a Sony-Ericsson k750i {forerunner of the Walkman w810i; uses the same recharger and accessories} so I can get all the ringing tones I like, for free! You can record any sound you can hear through the built-in mic, and use that as a ringing tone. Being an application where fidelity is less importance than volume, this works much better than one might suspect.
        • It's not a function of the phone, it's a function of the service provider and the firmware they load on the phone. For example, I guarantee that if you had bought that K750i through Verizon that the ability to use recorded sounds as a ringtone -- or indeed get them from any other source but VCast -- would have been disabled.

          • For example, I guarantee that if you had bought that K750i through Verizon that the ability to use recorded sounds as a ringtone -- or indeed get them from any other source but VCast -- would have been disabled.

            I would have to agree, I use Verizon now, and previously I had been on Tmobile. Verizon to me seemed very much more directed at controlling what one can/can't do with their phone. For instance having to purchase a service just to be able to sync the phonebook to your computer, uhh no thanks. Than

          • You do know that you can flash the firmware in a phone, don't you? Once the first year is up, you own the instrument, and so aren't damaging someone else's property. You might technically be invalidating regulatory approval {since it's no longer strictly identical to the type-approval sample}, but as long as your phone doesn't hog the airwaves or make unattended calls, that shouldn't be a problem -- you have to actually do something illegal to get caught, and ringing tones and so forth are beyond the re
            • Yes, I know. However, it would be infinitely preferable to have a phone without the stupid restrictions in the first place (which is why I'm not a Verizon customer, although Bellsouth isn't all that much better).
    • I completely agree with you on what the mythological "ideal" Linux smartphone would be, but realistically I'd just be happy even if it didn't have the fancy servers, as long as the information was available in a standardized file format in an externally-accessible directory.
    • MySQL (port 3306) and all those other apps on a phone? That would be a pricey phone. Phone != PC just because it's running linux.
  • by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:52AM (#15628288)
    I assumed from the headline that the story would be about the opportunity for Danger Inc., the company that developed the Sidekick handsets and operates its data services, to leverage Mobile Linux on a future version of their device.

    It actually may not be a bad idea for them -- their current platform of a custom J2ME implementation on ARM7 doesn't seem to have much of a future. Few developers are producing software for it due to its differences from other handsets (and its restricted distribution model). It's falling behind even less expensive handsets in the market in terms of hardware support for things like Bluetooth and EDGE.

    Opening up the platform and making it a tiny Linux box could give Danger a whole new market for the device: techies who don't care much for Blackberries or Treos.

    But as long as Paris Hilton and P. Diddy are happy with theirs, that may never happen.
  • by digitalgiblet ( 530309 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:57AM (#15628327) Homepage Journal
    "Ovum telecommunications analyst Tony Cripps said..."

    In a tragic side-note, Tony Cripps was gunned down in an apparent drive by shooting by Billy Bloods...

    Damn it, I warned you it was a bad joke.

  • i was hoping this would be something related to using a DataPilot kit with my linux laptop to connect to the internet.

    anyone know about any such projects?
  • I don't like this kind of articles... I mean the kind that make a big deal out of nothing... Well it's not exactly nothing but I think it's at least exaggerated: all new technologies are not really compatible at some stage.. Of course all the cell phone manufacturers will agree on some compatibility issues as soon as they realize they need to... But for now they don't because linux is still "emerging" on this market and each company is pushing forward it's own things.. It's all a competition and this
  • Open source is rarely first to market. It has taken years for open source to start to displace other vendors in other markets, and it's going to take patience for cell phones as well.

    If Palm gets it right, Palm may well change the tide. If not, some other company will.

    What is pretty clear already is that the current crop of Linux phones based on some Linux+J2ME or Linux+Qt/Embedded is not going to cut it. Why? Because none of those phones are going to offer compelling advantages for mainstream users, an

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