LiMo Foundation to Launch Phone Platform in March

The LiMo Foundation plans to release the first version of its Linux software platform for mobile phones this march. LiMo’s goal is to offer handset manufacturers and operators a hardware-independent software platform that is safe for downloadable applications.

LiMo Foundation executive director Morgan Gillis isn’t happy with just publishing the code on time. He wants to put handsets into consumers’ hands and says that will happen very soon.

The LiMo Foundation will publish a beta version of the software’s APIs (application programming interfaces) today so that developers can begin writing applications to run on it. The API’s will remain beta versions because there may be minor changes made to the software before it is launched in March.

The LiMo Foundation is focusing on phones’ middleware so mobile phone manufacturers and operators can write their own user interface and content applications. Gillis says this freedom is important to manufactures and operators because “the cost of developing the first phone on a platform can be as high as half a billion dollars.”

Phone manufactures may be unwilling to invest that much money in a new operating system if it will also leave them tied to another company’s interface and content applications, Gillis said.

“That’s why Windows Mobile and Series 60 didn’t gain broad traction; suppliers didn’t feel comfortable,” he said.

Even though the LiMo Foundation’s code has a few things to be worked out, it has already been proven in handsets sold or distributed by founder members Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung Electronics and Vodafone, Gillis said.

LiMo is in competition with Google’s Android code, which is supported by the Open Handset Alliance. This year could see the opening shots of a battle for market share between the LiMo foundation and the Open Source Handset Alliance.