Qualcomm plans to support Linux in its next-generation mobile phone chips. The move will allow handset manufacturers to design new high-end 3G devicesusing the open source platform and the CDMA digital wireless technology it created.
A Gartner report issued this week said a demand for devices with high-end computing features, like PalmOne’s Treo and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry,are driving a comeback in the handheld computing market. PDAs with integrated wireless local area network or cellular capabilities accountedfor approximately 55 percent of all PDAs shipped in the first quarter of 2005, according to Gartner.
“By introducing Linux on the MSM, Qualcomm supports manufacturer partners who wish to leverage existing Linux applications, third-party developers andapplication catalogs to reduce their software development costs and improve time-to-market,” said Dr. Sanjay K. Jha, president of Qualcomm CDMATechnologies. “We are expanding the software development environment of our chipsets to address the growing market interests for Linux as well as otherthird-party operating systems.”
Adopting Open Source
Linux, implemented within a virtual platform on the MSM, is the first third-party operating system supported by Qualcomm. The company saidintegrated, single-chip support for Linux available on the MSM6550 chipset eliminates the need for a separate co-processor and substantially reducesdesign costs and complexity compared to multiple-chip implementations traditionally required to run a third-party operating system.
The MSM6550 chipset includes the BREW solution, supporting preloaded features including user interfaces and enabling Original EquipmentManufacturers and operators to offer content and application downloads to deliver differentiated features and services to consumers. Other chips inthe Enhanced Multimedia Platform are also planned to support Linux.
Calling on Linux
Analysts said Qualcomm’s support of Linux represents a broader acceptance of open-source technologies. Indeed, Linux has moved from computer servers todigital video recorders to wristwatches and now to cell phones. Motorola has already launched a Linux-based phone in Asia and has plans to roll out amodel in the U.S. sometime next year. NEC and Nokia also support Linux.
But can an alternative operating system dominate in a market entrenched by Microsoft and Palm? Time will tell. But Stacey Quandt, senior businessanalyst and Open Source Practice Leader at the Robert Frances Group said the definite trend is toward device manufacturers and silicon vendors supportingLinux on mobile handsets.
“What the device manufacturers and the network equipment vendors like is that Linux doesn’t lock them into a single operating system. That gives thema lot more flexibility,” Quandt said. “Users of Linux-based phones may find that they have a plethora of features that aren’t available on non-Linuxphones.”