Chipmakers form mobile Linux consortium

Electronic chip designer ARM has teamed up with five of its major partners to boost the use of free Linux software on cellphones, challenging Nokia’s Symbian and Microsoft.

The chip companies said on Thursday they have set up a joint venture, called Linaro, to cut duplicate development in using numerous Linux versions and to speed up rollout of new phones -- hoping that would boost take-up of more advanced handsets. That would enable them to ship more advanced chipsets and increase the average sales prices of their platforms. In the first quarter Linux phones’ total market share rose to 14 per cent from 8.5 per cent a year ago, according to Gartner.

“Linux’s trajectory has been established. Its momentum is growing,” said ARM chief executive Warren East, adding he felt it was “inevitable” for Linux versions to have a very strong position in mobile phones.

The largest Linux version, Android, has beaten Microsoft to become the fourth most popular operating system on smartphones, according to research firm Gartner, after Nokia’s Symbian, RIM and Apple

“This is testament to the progress Linux and Android in particular has achieved in an exceptionally short period,” CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber said on Thursday. “Linaro promises to simplify and accelerate Android and MeeGo device development which will be a huge advantage to both communities.”

Texas Instruments, Freescale, IBM, Samsung and ST-Ericsson are also taking stakes in Linaro, a not-for-profit joint venture, alongside ARM. “We expect more companies to join as we go forward,” East said.

Tom Lantzsch, Linaro’s executive officer, said in a statement: “The dramatic growth of open-source software development can now be seen in Internet-based, always-connected mobile and consumer products.”

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