LONDON, ENGLAND—The Linux community is assaulting the mobile-phone environment with a two-pronged attack that focuses on commercial operating-system solutions and realtime-operating-system (RTOS) replacement.In a report entitled "Mobile Linux: Bringing License-Free Operating Systems to Smartphones and Mid-Tier Devices," ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com) forecasts that by 2012, more than 127 million devices will be enabled with a commercial Linux OS, up from 8.1 million in 2007. Additionally, device shipments that incorporate Linux as an RTOS replacement are set to grow to more than 76 million units in 2012, up from nearly zero in 2007.

"Linux in the cellular phone is not a question of ‘if', but ‘when'," comments ABI's research director Stuart Carlaw.

ABI's report found that the most fundamental issue that has plagued the growth of commercial Linux in this space—vertical and horizontal market fragmentation—has shown signs of being alleviated, both by growing collaboration between industry initiatives, and by the introduction of complete solutions such as the Trolltech-led GreenSuite, and ALP from ACCESS.

On the other side of the coin, issues with latency have prevented Linux being considered as a viable RTOS replacement in single-processor devices. But Carlaw points out that "Innovative solutions such as PREEMPT_RT, the VirtualLogix virtual operating environment, and the use of RTOS executives over Linux kernals, look set to deal with latency issues. However, the industry still needs to understand the total cost of ownership for Linux solutions, and it must create a common set of APIs to enable economies of scale for third-party developers."

The report shows that the industry as a whole is rallying behind the Linux offering, but indicates that significant barriers still exist and must be addressed before Linux emerges as a true market power. The study explores these barriers, gives a frank SWOT analysis of the mobile LInux offering, and provides forecasts for Linux uptake in mobile devices for commercial OS implementations and RTOS replacement. It forms part of ABI Research's annual Mobile Devices Research Service, which includes other research reports, research briefs, market data, online databases, ABI insights, and analyst inquiry support.