More vendors abandon LiPS mobile Linux platform for LiMo

Several more members of the mobile Linux LiPS Forum are switching allegiance to the LiMo Foundation, this time including board and executive committee members, indicating that LiPS is losing steam.

Orange and its parent France Telecom, Access and Open-Plug all plan to announce at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday that they are joining LiMo. More vendors uniting behind LiMo could help to speed up the rate at which the companies can bring Linux-based devices to market.

"We probably will move out of LiPS at some point because it doesn't make sense to keep two different initiatives on the same topic," said Yves Christol, director of device development at Orange. Access and Orange will both join the board of LiMo. LiPS president Haila Wang works for France Telecom, and Access and Open-Plug both have members on the LiPS board and executive committee.

MontaVista Software Inc. and Purple Labs have recently joined LiMo, though they appear to be staying active in LiPS as well. Trolltech ASA recently quit LiPS in favor of LiMo, and more may follow. "We believe some of them [other LiPS members] will share the same vision and will follow us and join LiMo," Christol said.

LiPS appears to be holding out hope that some companies may continue to work with both groups. "To the best of my knowledge, membership in one or any of these [organizations] is not an exclusive commitment," said Bill Weinberg, general manager of the LiPS Forum.

Because the two groups take different approaches, they aren't in competition and are working toward a common goal, Weinberg said. "Both organizations strive to fight fragmentation by improving interoperability of mobile applications and services across handsets and operators," he said.

Timing appears to be driving many of these companies to gravitate toward LiMo. "LiPS is essentially a standards-based organization," said Michel Piquemal, general manager at Access in France and director of strategic planning for the company in Europe. Most standards-setting processes take years to complete.

LiMo, by contrast, has created a software stack made out of components contributed by various members. The first release of LiMo is expected in March. Although LiPS has recently released a specification for some basic phone functions, LiMo plans to announce 18 LiMo phones in Barcelona, including some that are already on the market.

"Our approach is extremely fast and direct," said Morgan Gillis, executive director of LiMo. "The mobile industry, particularly in this phase, is dynamic and fast-moving -- and therefore, in order to make an impression, we have to do something that is practical and produces deliverables and is immediately usable by the industry."

Other companies that planned to announce membership in LiMo on Monday include Advanced Micro Devices, Renasas Technology, SoftBank and STMicroelectronics, bringing the number of members in the group to 32.

LiPS and LiMo operate in addition to the Open Handset Alliance, the group Google Inc. started with its Android mobile software platform. Some companies have membership in both OHA and LiMo. So far, there isn't any indication that Google might try to align its efforts with LiMo.

"LiMo is fully open, and we would be very receptive if Google expressed direct interest in working with us," said Gillis. "LiMo is not in direct discussions with Google about Android joining LiMo."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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