The dark horse in the rash of new mobile operating systems, or at least the OS that has gotten the least publicity to date, is the open source entrant emerging from the LiMO Foundation. That is about to change. The Foundation has announced that Verizon Wireless-and several important European players -- NTT DoCoMo, Orange, SK Telecom and Telefnica will release LiMo-based phones this year.
PC Magazine provides a good description of what LiMo is. The focus is what the writer calls a "loose association of mobile-phone carriers and manufacturers to create a blueprint for low end phones." On top of that basic building block, customization-creation of a Verizon-branded phone, for instance-takes place. This interpretation suggests that LiMo is not in direct competition with Android, the iPhone and other snazzy smartphone platforms.
Another LiMo-related move was made today. The Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP) released version 1.0 of BONDI. The release says that BONDI focuses on creating a consistent way for Web applications to access functionality on any handset. Simultaneously with the announcement, the OMTP said that the LiMo Foundation has endorsed BONDI and expects that it will be supported in handsets based on the operating system. OMTP also said that Opera Software has joined the group.
There is quite a bit of real-world work to be done after a framework is devised in the lab and before manufacturers can use it to create their tools. A good deal of this work is done by systems integrators. Last week, Telematics Update reported that the LiMo Foundation announced that it has chosen Wind River for this role. The firm, which is on the LiMo board, will help create LiMo tools, testing, integration and other services. The Foundation's executive director is quoted in the release to the effect that the hope is that Wind River's efforts will reduce the fragmentation that is always a problem in Linux adoption cycles. Wind River also will work on the process by which software is submitted for inclusion in LiMo.
There also are devices reaching the public. At the Mobile World Congress 2009 next week in Barcelona, NEC is displaying phones that are LiMo-certified. The models are the docomo PRIME series N-01A, the docomo STYLE series N-02A, the docomo STYLE series N-03A and the docomo SMART series N-04A. NEC is the leading provider of handsets to Japanese operators, according to the press release.
Though the PC Magazine piece put Android and LiMo in different categories-the former a smartphone OS, the latter aimed at more basic devices-Rethink Wireless places the two platforms in direct competition. The news is that Vodafone has signed a deal with Azingo to develop applications for the mobile carrier's platform. The commentary in the story suggests that developers may find LiMo to be a richer and more mature platform. An interesting note is that the LiMo Foundation has 48 members and is in 15 handsets.
The precise comparison between LiMo and the other operating systems is less important than the reality that the operating system, which has not gotten quite as much publicity during the past year as Android and the iPhone, clearly aims to make people notice in 2009.