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Trolltech switches sides in mobile Linux war

The Norwegian software developer has defected to the LiMo Foundation, claiming it has more 'energy' behind it than the LiPS Forum
Written by David Meyer on

The open-source development company Trolltech has switched sides in the ongoing war between the various mobile Linux consortia.

There are several groups of companies trying to push open-source technology further into the handset market. The two largest alliances — although Google's recently announced Open Handset Alliance may prove a worthy adversary to both — are the Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum and the Linux Mobile (LiMo) Foundation. While LiPS is trying to come up with a shared set of standards for mobile Linux, LiMo is aiming for a shared implementation of code with more scope for member companies to add their own proprietary layers.

Trolltech, whose Qtopia platform is already the foundation for many consumer-level handsets in Asia, was a founder member of the LiPS Forum. However, it quietly left that group in the second half of last year. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday, Trolltech announced that it has now joined the rival LiMo Foundation.

According to a statement, Trolltech will "contribute strategic components to the LiMo software stack that include a breakthrough integration of online services and native mobile applications". Morgan Gillis, LiMo's executive director, welcomed the Norwegian company with open arms.

"We are extremely pleased to welcome Trolltech as a new member," said Gillis on Monday. "They have a very impressive track record in delivering complete device software solutions and their active participation in LiMo Foundation will lower the cost and time to market for device manufacturers using the LiMo platform."

The LiMo Foundation also announced four other new members on Monday: the development company Acrodea, the Chinese manufacturer Huawei, the software company Purple Labs and South Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

ZDNet.co.uk had already spoken to both Trolltech and LiPS in November about their split. At that time, Trolltech's chief technology officer, Benoit Schillings, said the company had let its membership lapse a month or two previously because — according to Schillings — "we did not see it moving very quickly".

The LiPS Forum's general manager, Bill Weinberg, had a different take on Trolltech's departure: "Over a year ago, LiPS decide to base its user-interface framework on GTK and other technologies and not on [Trolltech's core technology] Qt, and Trolltech hadn't been attending the meetings so had very little influence on the decision. Part of it is that they don't have the staff to attend and support the working groups from different consortia. I like Trolltech but, if they're not present, they don't get to participate in the decisions."

Weinberg added that he himself had "mixed feelings" about the pace of progress at LiPS. A month later, however, LiPS released a full set of specifications, with an application framework and APIs scheduled for this year.

Speaking on Monday, Schillings said that LiMo "seems to be the giant right now". "With 250 [staff] we need to choose carefully where we think it is going to make the biggest impact," he told ZDNet.co.uk. "LiMo has a very code-centric approach to developing that framework, [which] matches our philosophy quite well. LiPS' specification-focused approach tends to move very slowly."

Citing the involvement in LiMo of big handset manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Motorola and NEC, Schillings said the organisation had "a lot of energy" behind it. As for the future of LiPS, he said he did not know what they were going to do. "Hopefully some of the specification could be rolled into LiMo," he said.

"Quite a few of our customers are also LiMo members," Schillings added. "Instead of just doing the middleware framework part, with LiMo there is more co-operation going higher, [which is] easy to justify for us." He also suggested that further details of the fruits of this co-operation would become available around the time of the Mobile World Congress, to be held in Barcelona in February.

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