LiMo Foundation and Open Source Mobile Phones

The history of mobile phones has traditionally been a history characterised by closed development. In other words, mobile phone handset makers and carriers have offered the features and options that they wanted to make available and consumers have had to pick and choose between the best of what is out there to get a phone that satisfies them. However, we are seeing a movement in the mobile world towards a more open source trend. If this trend takes hold, it will mean that mobile phone consumers can play a more active role in designing their own phones and can therefore have the features that they truly want instead of settling for those that are offered by handset makers. One of the leading organisations in this movement towards mobile phone freedom is the LiMo Foundation.


What Is LiMo Foundation?

LiMo Foundation (short for Linux Mobile Foundation) is a mobile phone alliance or industry consortium which was formed for the purpose of creating an open-source mobile phone platform based on the Linux operating system. It was formed in 2007 by a group of seven businesses including Vodafone and Samsung. It has since added a significant number of both core members and associate members who are all committed to the development of this hardware-independent, open-source mobile platform.

What LiMo Software Would Mean For Mobile Phones

The groups that have joined the LiMo Foundation strongly believe that the development of this operating system is crucial to the true growth of the mobile phone industry. Essentially, what is happening right now is that there is no standard for the mobile phone operating system; each handset maker operates off of its own operating system. This means that handset makers are only invested in their own technology which leaves the mobile phone industry fragmented. As a result makers of software applications for mobile phones have to pitch their concepts to separate handset makers and ultimately this means that the mobile phone handsets lack variety in comparison to what they could potentially have.

The goal of the LiMo Foundation is to create an open-source, hardware-independent mobile phone operating system that would unify this fragmented industry. This platform could then be used by all different handset makers. The result of this would be that these businesses could then afford to invest in the development of more creative third party software applications that wouldn’t be unique to the handset maker. Ultimately, this means that mobile phones would have more function, more opportunities for personalization and more choices in general for the people who purchase them. This means that it’s more likely that you as a consumer would be able to find a phone that truly had features you wanted rather than having to settle for those made available by your carrier.

Open Source Trends for Mobile Phones

What the LiMo Foundation is doing is right in line with what consumers are beginning to really want from their mobile phones. In the past, it was widely accepted that the mobile phone consumer would have to buy what was made available in the market. However, consumers are less and less willing to settle when it comes to their cell phones. This is due to a number of factors, the most common of which include:

- Increased desire for a personalized phone. People don’t use their mobile phones just to make phone calls these days. They use their mobile phones for text messaging, instant messaging, data and file transfers, photographing and photo sharing, microblogging, social networking and surfing the web. The more activities that a person does on the mobile phone, the stronger the desire to have a personalized phone with the features specifically desired by that individual. This level of mobile phone personalization is likely to be made more possible with the mobile phone platform desired by the LiMo Foundation than it is in the existing fragmented industry.
- Increased acceptance of open source. Open source technology used to be something that was primarily appealing to nerds who were highly familiar with computer programming. It is now something that is becoming more and more commonly used; Linux has really gained some serious attention from more mainstream consumers in recent years. This means that more people than in the past could be willing to accept and understand an open source mobile phone platform.
- Prices of handsets have soared. People are paying more than ever before for handsets that have the features that they desire. When people are paying these kind of prices, they are much less interested in settling for a mediocre phone. The increase in rates drives up the desire for additional features.


Google Steals Spotlight from LiMo Foundation

When people talk about this kind of open source software, they are typically talking about the Open Handset Alliance by Google. This is a separate alliance that has many of the same goals as the LiMo Foundation. It was announced by Google when Google released the idea for the Android phone platform and therefore it gained significantly more media attention than the LiMo Foundation had despite the similarity of their goals. Google’s Android is an open source mobile phone platform based on the Linux operating system which allows for the addition of a variety of different applications. This is similar to what would be possible with the LiMo Foundation platform but LiMo Foundation is truly devoted to creating an open-source product that would be open for use across all networks and devices.

History of Product Development by LiMo Foundation

LiMo Foundation was launched in the beginning of 2007 and grew rapidly within its first year. By February 2008, the foundation was able to provide a demonstration of LiMo platform technology implemented in eighteen different handsets provided by seven different mobile phone vendors. This points to the intended widespread function of the platform for a variety of different uses within mobile phones. The LiMo Foundation has not yet announced completion of the operating system product that it is intending to release although reports indicate that the foundation is close to meeting its goal of completing this product. LiMo Foundation will also be making APIs and SDKs available for use.

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