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|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] That's Linux on the Line
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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] That's Linux on the Line
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 19:54:20 -0000
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19)
NOVEMBER 22, 2005
By Stuart Cohen
That's Linux on the Line
>From smartphones to servers, the open-source system is turning up in an
ever-expanding variety of products. For consumers, that's good news
Most Linux headlines focus on desktops and servers. Indeed, this month the
leading supercomputer industry group released new figures showing that more
than three quarters of the world's top 500 supercomputers now run Linux.
But the really exciting action, where billions of consumers will first
experience Linux, is in wireless handheld devices. Yes, that means mobile
phones. Linux is going small, big time.
Industry analysts estimate that mobile phones are a $300 billion annual
market. However, most major industry players today build and ship handheld
devices comprised almost exclusively of proprietary software.
OUTPACING THE FIELD. For the 1.5 billion consumers globally who have mobile
phones, whether the software embedded in the plastic, metal, and silicon is
open or closed doesn't matter (except when it breaks!). Of the 680 million
handsets sold last year, only 20 million were so-called "smartphones" --
devices that act like "little PCs," with Web browsing and multimedia, as
well as software to manage calendars, contacts, and e-mail.
Now, Linux is gaining traction in a new wave of smartphones. Just a year
ago, fewer than one in 20 smartphones ran Linux. But by June of this year,
the open-source operating system had grabbed more than a quarter of the
smartphone business, far ahead of Microsoft (MSFT ) Windows Mobile, PalmOS
(PALM ), or BlackBerry RIM (RIMM ), according to market-research firm
This head-spinning growth matters because smartphones are the future and
comprise by far the fastest-growing segment of the industry -- 85% compound
annual growth, according to Gartner, compared with overall cell-phone sales
gaining 35% a year.
ELECTRONICS PUSH. For the global giants competing in this mobile market,
the operating system matters a lot, too. Household brands -- from Microsoft
(MSFT ), Samsung, and Nokia (NOK ) to Motorola (MOT ), LG Electronics, Palm,
and Research in Motion -- are placing major bets on mobile devices (in some
instances literally wagering the company).
Linux going small isn't just a mobile phenomenon. It's already in your TiVo
(TIVO ) and many new Sony (SNE ) televisions, for example. Look at the
Consumer Electronics Linux Forum (CELF). There you can find many of the
world's biggest consumer brands -- LG Electronics, Panasonic, Philips (PHG
), Samsung, Sharp, Sanyo, Toshiba (TOSBF ) -- all working together to push
more Linux into more consumer products.
To accelerate the momentum behind Linux in mobile, the consortium that I
lead, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), recently launched a new
initiative to bring vendors together to work on addressing the mobile
industry's shared challenges. The Mobile Linux Initiative (MLI) had its
first meeting, appropriately, in Beijing, where more than 30 vendors
gathered from five continents. China has led the world in shipping
LESSONS FROM REDMOND. Ironically, the goal of the MLI is to accomplish
something very similar to what Microsoft pulled off in the early 1980s with
personal computers. Apple (AAPL ) at that time was No. 1 in the PC industry,
with a product bundle of proprietary hardware and software. By the end of
the decade, Microsoft led the industry and quickly consolidated what many
now consider a monopoly on the desktop.
But Redmond critics forget sometimes why Microsoft won. Hardware makers
rushed into a market with products that were compatible with Windows. By
building "open systems" on Windows, IBM (IBM ), Compaq, and others were able
to compete with and beat Apple on the desktop. Open won over closed.
Linux holds the same promise for the mobile industry, with none of the
downside. No single vendor owns Linux, so you won't hear that horrible
sucking sound of all the value flowing to one monopoly operating-system
supplier. What crimped innovation on the desktop will not happen with mobile
phones running Linux.
ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT. And it's not just Linux from the open-source software camp
that's threatening to disrupt the mobile market. New industry startups such
as Funambol, developers of open-source software that keeps mobile devices
always synchronized, are directly challenging proprietary incumbents like
Good, Microsoft, RIM, and Visto.
Open-source software is good for almost every player in the mobile-industry
food chain. PalmSource, makers of the PalmOS, recently embraced Linux as
their future operating-system platform. They figured out that Linux offered
one open operating system to run across multiple-processor
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