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Trolltech releases mobile Linux suite

Analyst hails the launch of a mobile Linux package aimed at the developers and manufacturers of consumer handsets
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Linux may have taken another step towards mobile ubiquity with a new initiative from Trolltech called Greensuite.

Following the release earlier this year of its fully programmable Linux handset, the Greenphone, Trolltech will soon be offering handset manufacturers and developers "out-of-the-box" software suites — including the operating system and applications — in a similar approach to that taken by Symbian and Windows Mobile.

Greensuite is built upon Qtopia Phone edition, Trolltech's application platform for embedded Linux-based phones. It is meant to make it easier for Linux to be incorporated into low-cost consumer handsets.

"It's about reducing cost risk and time to market for our customers at the expense of some choice in the partners they use," Trolltech's product director Adam Lawson told ZDNet UK on Wednesday, who added that the suite was something many of Trolltech's "second tier" customers had asked for.

Greensuite will not be distributed for free under the GPL (General Public License), as it will include proprietary code from Trolltech's partners — such as the Opera browser and Zi input software. Lawson claimed Greensuite was about "avoiding or reducing fragmentation in the Linux mobile space", and would provide an easier licensing scenario than the challenge of dealing with multiple software suppliers, as mobile Linux developers have frequently had to do.

"This is great news," said Freeform Dynamics analyst Dale Vile on Wednesday. "If we've got vendors like this putting that kind of certainty into the Linux world, that is a very welcome move".

Vile explained that operators are becoming increasingly interested in Linux-based consumer handsets, although there is still little interest in the enterprise-focused sector. Indeed, Trolltech's Haavard Nord has previously stated that mid-range "feature phones" would be the biggest growth market for mobile Linux.

"The relevance of that is the consumer space is targeted by very more solution providers than the business space," said Vile. "That means it is doubly important to make sure they have good consistent platforms that are easy to develop on and don't need a lot of hand-holding support."

The Norwegian open-source company also announced on Tuesday that the Japanese manufacturer NEC will be incorporating its Qtopia platform into the new Medity 3G phone range. Trolltech's Qt Embedded software is already used by Motorola in some of its phones in the Far East.

These deals are significant for the West, said Vile, as "from a platform point of view we have seen a lot of bleed-over from the Asian market into Europe".

Trolltech expects to ship the Greensuite from the second quarter of 2007, and announcements are expected soon regarding further GPL'd editions of Qtopia.

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