Mobile Linux group releases first specification

It has a different approach to mobile Linux than Google's Android

While Google Inc.'s Linux mobile phone platform, Android, has been stealing the spotlight, another longer-standing mobile Linux group is also moving ahead.

The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum, whose members include Orange, France Telecom, MontaVista Software Inc. and Access Co., among others, announced today that it completed the first release of its mobile Linux specification. The group released half of the specification in June and has now added components, including application programming interfaces (API) for telephony, messaging, calendar, instant messaging and presence functions, as well as new user-interface components.

The specification covers all the key components for building a feature phone or a smart phone but is not meant to be a specification for a complete phone stack, said Bill Weinberg, general manager for the LiPS Forum. The idea is to allow developers to create applications that will work on all phones that use the LiPS specification.

The telephony API is a particularly important feature of the specification because it allows developers to create applications around the voice telephony functionality of the device, Weinberg said. That's a capability developers won't have with some other phone platforms, such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone, which isn't expected to support development around telephony, he said.

The LiPS Forum expects to see multiple implementations of the standard in commercial phones, possibly quite soon, Weinberg said. In the next six months, the group should release some revisions to the specification based on real-world experience. Beyond that, the organization should begin releasing additional enabling technologies for the specification, he said.

The market greeted the launch of the LiPS Forum in 2005 with some fanfare, but nothing like the excitement around Google's recent announcement of Android. LiPS is different from the Open Handset Alliance, the group supporting Google's Android, because it is a specification that allows users to create different interoperable implementations, while Android is itself one implementation of Linux, Weinberg said.

"The basic notion of what OHA and Android put forth is an implementation of a phone stack that is Java-based and a given implementation," Weinberg said. "If that implementation is broadly accepted and devices are built on it, it could constitute a de facto standard. Our approach is a traditional one of standardization."

The various mobile Linux groups are essentially after the same thing, he said. "I'd say LiPS and OHA and for that matter LiMo are all attempting to unify what some people say is a fragmented market, but we're going about it in different fashions," Weinberg said. The LiMo Foundation is a group founded by Motorola Inc., NTT DoCoMo Inc., Vodafone, Samsung Electronics Co. and others to build a mobile Linux platform.

Weinberg acknowledged that the groups are competitive in at least one sense: They're all competing for resources to work on their respective projects. "They aren't competitive outright; they're just different approaches to the same problem," he said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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