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Verizon Opens LiMo Door

Verizon Wireless is close to announcing that it will use new cellphones based on the LiMo Foundation 's mobile Linux operating system, in a move that will further push the No. 2-ranked operator's "open" agenda for 2008, Unstrung has learned.

Verizon announced in November that it will open up its CDMA network to third party devices and applications this year. The firm said at an event in February that it would start testing devices for use on its CDMA network in "mid-May." (See Verizon Reveals 'Open Access' Details.) An announcement about LiMo could come as early as Monday next week.

"Rumors have been flying," says AR Communications Inc. analyst Carmi Levy of the possible LiMo news. "It seems to be the season for open-source announcements."

A move to open-source phones could help Verizon to port software and applications between phones more quickly and cheaply. Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney says that all operators are trying to replace "the proprietary platforms of the past with more smartphone-centric platforms both to enable higher-end capabilities but also to help software developers leverage what they do more."

The not-for-profit LiMo Foundation was started early in 2007 by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), and others to develop a mobile Linux platform. In February this year, the group unveiled its first wave of LiMo handsets -- 18 models from seven vendors. (See LiMo Shows Off Handsets and Developing Mobility .)

LiMo has been overshadowed in the open-source phone platform recently by the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)-backed Open Handset Alliance and its Android platform. LiMo has a time-to-market advantage, however, according to the analysts Unstrung spoke to.

"They [Verizon] might be looking at LiMo to get a return on investment earlier," comments Levy.

A spokesman for Google reiterated Friday afternoon that the company is expecting the Open Handset Alliance to ship the first Android handsets "in the second half of this year." (See Android in Sight and Now Wait for Android.)

Verizon hasn't yet responded to calls about LiM Dulaney says that Verizon's use of LiMo handsets now shouldn't stop it adopting Android, however. "It doesn’t preclude them using Android in the future, they will have many OSes just like they have today," he says. "Furthermore, LiMo can draw from the Android repository of open source."

AR Communications analyst Levy, meanwhile, reflects widespread cynicism around the general move to be more "open" from the entire operator market these days. "I see it as a well-orchestrated marketing campaign to make themselves appear more open and make themselves look like the good guys to consumers," he says.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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