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Linux to Garner 33% Smartphone Market

Linux to Garner 33% Smartphone Market

Linux-based mobile operating systems, led by Android, will own 33 per cent of the global smartphone market by 2015, growing faster than the smartphone market at large, says ABI Research. In addition to examining Android's fast rise, the report looks at WebOS, MeeGo, Bada, LiMo, and ALP versions of mobile Linux.

Linux-enabled smartphones are on the rise, says ABI Research. Led by Android, Linux will increase to more than a third of the global market within five years, reaching 33 per cent share in 2015, says the research firm in its report, "Mobile Linux in Smartphones." The study claims that Android is now loaded onto more than 60,000 newly shipping smartphones every day.

Although ABI did not publish an estimation of current Linux smartphone share, the projected growth rate is said to outpace the growth of smartphones in general.

According to a recent Gartner smartphone report, Android rose to 9.6 per cent of the global smartphone market, with Linux diminishing to a 3.7 per cent share. Combined, this would represent 13.3 per cent of the market.

Android now stretches across dozens of handsets, from high-end smartphones like the HTC Incredible to budget-minded entries like Motorola's new Flipout (pictured).

"Due to its low cost and ability to be easily modified, Linux in the mobile market today is nearly as disruptive as Linux was in server markets a decade ago," stated ABI senior analyst Victoria Fodale, who suggests that Android's Linux and open source underpinnings are key to its success. "The Android platform can be modified so that OEMs can differentiate their products, and the licensing terms allow OEMs to innovate while still protecting proprietary work."

Although Google has built early momentum, Android is "not without competition," says ABI. Other Linux-based platforms analyzed in the study include WebOS, MeeGo, Bada, LiMo, and Access' LiMo-compliant Access Linux Platform (ALP).

The WebOS operating system (OS) is currently offered by Palm for its Palm Pre and Pixi phones. HP's pending acquisition of Palm passed another hurdle this week, with the Federal Trade Commission offering its approval. While HP is seen to be especially interested in using WebOS in tablets, the company recently stated that it would also continue to push WebOS on smartphones, as well as on other devices such as printers.

The Intel- and Nokia-backed MeeGo open source OS meanwhile, also spans multiple device formats, ranging from smartphones to netbooks. The format combines the former Moblin and Maemo projects, which started out focusing on MIDs and other small tablet devices. The Nokia N900 is expected to be one of the first models to run MeeGo when the handset configuration of MeeGo is released later this year.

Samsung's more proprietary Bada, currently found only on the Samsung Wave (pictured) also made the list, despite the fact that, as noted by ABI, Bada is "kernel-configurable so that it can run either on the Linux kernel or a real-time operating system (RTOS) kernel."

The oldest platform on the list is the open source LiMo, a fairly loosely defined, carrier-friendly spec that has reached some 50 phones in the last two years. Most are feature phones, but there are a few high-end smartphones as well, including the Samsung-manufactured Vodafone 360 H1.

Interestingly, ABI breaks out Access' ALP as a separate category, despite the fact that the OS stack is said to be compliant with LiMo. A version of ALP is found on Else Ltd's upcoming LiMo-compliant First Else phone (pictured at right). With its Japanese roots, it is possible that ALP could play a role in an upcoming Linux mobile standard being prepped by NTT DoCoMo, NEC, Panasonic, and other Japanese firms.

The ABI study is said to highlight the strengths and weakness of each mobile Linux platform, including architecture, development, applications, and governance models. The report also offers detailed regional forecasts of shipments by each Linux-enabled platform, as well as a look at potential use cases for virtualization, says ABI.

The report is also said to offer focused analyses of MeeGo and Bada. This would suggest that the research firm believes these two platforms have the greatest momentum of the Linux contenders trailing Android.


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