The annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) is always a highlight of the year for the mobile sector but this year’s show was also a big one for open source software. Traditionally in a market dominated by proprietary operating systems there has been a significant shift towards open source software by mobile phone makers over the past year.
Google’s mobile phone operating system, Android, all but dominated this year’s MWC. The system has gone from being a newcomer just over a year ago to being the hottest thing in town.
HTC, the first company to ship an Android phone, continued its affair with Android and announced a couple of new Android-based phones. The Legend is essentially an upgraded Hero but with a faster processor, an aluminium frame and an optical trackball. The Desire, however, was the phone that got most of the attention. The Desire has a 3.7-inch AMOLED display and 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. On top of that is HTC’s Sense user interface running on Android 2.1. The Desire also includes Flash support.
Acer, well known for its PCs and laptops also embraced Android with its Liquid e smartphone. Also running Android 2.1, the Snapdragon-powered phone has a 3.5-inch WVGA display, a five megapixel auto-focus camera and a built-in GPS and accelerometer. Acer also introduced the beTouch E110 and the beTouch E400. The entry-level E110 runs Android 1.5 while the E400 runs version 2.1.
Also joining the Android party was HP which showed off its Airlife 100 smartbook. The Airlife 100 has a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, a 16GB SSD hard drive and built-in Wi-Fi and, most importantly, is powered by Android.
Not to be left out, Dell confirmed that its Dell Mini 5 tablet will be released with Android. The Mini 5 has a 5-inch touch screen, a five megapixel camera and built-in Wi-Fi and 3G.
Sony Ericsson also announced its new phones, including two Android-based ones. The X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro both run Android and are similar to the original X10 but more compact. The other phone announced by Sony Ericsson was the Vivaz Pro which runs Symbian and includes a QWERTY keyboard.
Naturally Motorola also had an Android lineup including the Milestone, Backflip and Quench.
It wasn’t only Android flying the open source flag at the Mobile World Congress this year. Nokia also released Symbian3, the first fully open source version of its operating system. Nokia set up the Symbian Foundation a while back and transferred control of the open source version of its OS to it. Symbian is already the dominant mobile phone operating system with more than 50% market share. Over the next couple of years the Symbian Foundation is preparing to roll out a series of Symbian releases with Symbian4 already in the planning stages.
The other big open source news from MWC was the announcement by Intel and Nokia of the Meego platform. Meego is a new open source OS created by the fusion of the existing Moblin and Maemo systems. Nokia’s Maemo has been used on phones such as the N900 and Moblin from Intel is a smartbook-specific operating system. Under the stewardship of the Linux Foundation Intel and Nokia say they are creating an OS that will “revolutionise computing and be adopted widely by device manufacturers, network operators, software vendors and developers across multiple device types”. Meego is intended to be used on everything from mobile phones to smartbooks and tablets.
Not content to go with one of the many open source operating systems now available, Samsung has also created its own open OS. Bada, as it is known, was announced last year by the company but it was only at the Mobile World Congress that punters got to see the first Bada phone. The Wave is a touchscreen device with a 3.3-inch AMOLED display.
Microsoft did use MWC to show off its new Windows Mobile 7 Series operating system, which was greeted positively, but the real interest was around Android and open source at this year’s show.
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