The LiMo Foundation, a broad industry consortium of manufacturers, operators and software developers working to put Linux onto the mobile phone, is to launch a major enterprise push later this year.
On Wednesday LiMo announced a raft of new members, the most significant being the Mozilla Foundation, which is currently developing a mobile version of its popular Firefox browser. However, the head of LiMo claimed the third quarter of this year could also see the addition of two major open-source enterprise vendors. However, he was not yet prepared to name the companies, as they are still in talks.
"We're looking at two of the very well-known Linux-distribution companies that currently operate in the enterprise space but are interested in bridging between the enterprise and mobile," Morgan Gillis told ZDNet.co.uk on Friday.
"The principle area of interest [regarding these two companies] is evolving the software stack such that it's really fit for purpose as a mobile platform in the enterprise segment, and will support applications and services for enterprise which interoperate comfortably on mobile devices and desktop devices," said Gillis. "It's seamless enterprise computing, basically."
Ovum analyst Adam Leach expressed surprise at the news when he spoke to ZDNet.co.uk on Tuesday, saying the largest opportunity for the mobile Linux initiative was generally seen as being in the consumer space.
"I'm surprised they're going out to specifically target the enterprise," Leach said. "The consumer opportunity is quite a lot larger [but], if you get the right companies involved to shape the platform in the right way, there's no reason why it shouldn't be [an enterprise play]. I'm forecasting quite an aggressive uptake of mobile Linux over the next three years."
Asked whether a serious mobile Linux push into the enterprise would have implications for the current leaders in the business mobile market, such as Microsoft and RIM, Leach said the development would be unlikely to "give them too much to worry about just yet", as such a push would need "the right manufacturers to drive the right devices".
On the addition of the Mozilla Foundation to LiMo's roster, Leach said the deal was "of significant strategic importance to both foundations".
"For LiMo it is a validation of its collaborative-development model and the [intellectual property] safe harbour that it creates, allowing proprietary and open-source software to co-exist within a single platform," Leach said. "Mozilla also brings an established and much-respected developer community to the platform."
"For Mozilla, joining LiMo represents an opportunity to establish a Mozilla-based mobile browser in the market by using LiMo as a distribution channel," Leach continued. "The market for full web browsers on mobile is set to grow substantially over the next three years and this provides Mozilla with a chance to catch-up with WebKit-based browsers such as those used within Safari on the iPhone and by Nokia on S60 phones, Opera Mobile and Access NetFront."
Leach added that LiMo's latest announcements reflected badly on its main competitor, the Google-led Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which intends to bring out the Android stack later this year.
"I think it's been a bit of a poor showing [for Android]," said Leach. "After a good start and big fanfare, we've just seen prototype demos. It seems to me that they're not making the progress that we would expect."
Leach noted, however, that the currently available devices running parts of LiMo's middleware did not amount to a consistent platform for developers. "Where this really will be judged is on devices," he said. "This is good momentum for LiMo, but its not devices. We have to see the devices in the market and they have to be open to developers. [LiMo and the OHA are] head-to-head in my mind, but LiMo seems to be making more serious progress."
Other new additions to LiMo announced on Wednesday include the US operator Verizon and France's SFR, which are both closely aligned with Vodafone — the most involved operator in LiMo. South Korea's SK Telecom has also joined, representing — along with Verizon — a major push into the CDMA market for LiMo. The manufacturer Sagem has also joined, as have the semiconductor firm Infineon and the software developer Red Bend.