Linux to appear on 200 million-plus mobiles by 2012

More than 200 mobile devices will run a mobile version of the Linux OS by 2012 according to a new report by analyst ABI Research.

Mirroring its increasing popularity in the desktop world, Linux is set to enjoy its time in the mobile spotlight over the next five years, with industry experts predicting that more than 200 million devices will make use of this operating system (OS) by 2012.

Today, just over eight million handsets are making use of a commercial Linux OS, but this will rocket to more than 127 million during the five-year period of growth, with real-time operating system (RTOS) replacements adding another 76 million handsets to this tally, according to figures from ABI Research.

"Linux in the cellular phone is not a question of 'if', but 'when'," said ABI's research director Stuart Carlaw, who believes that the industry is now rallying behind Linux as a viable mobile offering.

This increased awareness of the benefits and support of the OS is evident in recent industry initiatives and complete solutions such as Trolltech-led GreenSuite, and ALP from ACCESS, claims Carlaw in a report entitled 'Mobile Linux: Bringing License-Free Operating Systems to Smartphones and Mid-Tier Devices.'

Analysts have previously predicted that smartphones will account for 25 per cent of all mobile devices by 2010, but some industry experts believe this figure is just the tip of the iceberg and that Linux will play a role in this increased growth.

"[Linux mobile] is an OS that we'll be seeing a lot more of this year and beyond," said Matt Bancroft, chief marketing officer at Mformation.

"Enterprises are now looking to do what they can in the wire line world and replicate it so there's a big pull there. Market dynamics will also play a role as it's never a good thing for users to have the market dominated by one or two players. Mobile Linux is not going to come in and replace the others but it will take a position in the market, particularly with more sophisticated enterprise users."

But, Linux's rise to glory won't be without its problems, according to ABI.

"A device's operating system is increasingly seen as a way for carriers and OEMs to differentiate their offerings. But operating systems are also subject to a growing degree of price pressure," said the report.

"Linux is being positioned as a low cost, even licence-free, solution for commercial smartphones, but also for real-time operating system replacement in mid-tier devices. The industry as a whole is rallying behind the Linux offering, but significant barriers do exist, barriers that need to be addressed before Linux emerges as a true market power."

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