The Android vs. LiMo Conflict


Although not discussed often, LiMo (Linux Mobile Foundation) is a formidable competitor for the Android platform. So isn’t LiMo, a consortium of partnered companies, inherently a competitor of the Open Handset Alliance?

Core companies that support Android’s cause are members of the Open Handset Alliance, defined as, “a group of mobile and technology leaders who share this vision for changing the mobile experience for consumers.” They claim that their, “first joint project as a new Alliance is Android.”

So although Android is technically owned by Google, the OHA website makes it clear that Android is a product of this “group effort”. Furthermore, the OHA site identifies that the goal of Android is: “to be the first open, complete, and free platform created specifically for mobile devices.”

Hmmmm… so what is the goal of LiMo? Directly from their website:

LiMo Foundation is an industry consortium dedicated to creating the first truly open, hardware-independent, Linux-based operating system for mobile devices.

So it would appear they have the same goal. Since that goal includes the word “first” only one of them can accomplish that goal. It appears that Android will be first to market with an enabled handset, but we can’t help but note that word “truly” stuck between “first” and “open” in LiMo’s mission statement.

Are they taking a carefully calculated swipe at Android and the OHA because it’s not truly open? Maybe, but LiMo was formed at the beginning of 2007, before Android was announced.

Does that word “truly” have significant value in the battle between Android and LiMo? You can bet your boxers on it. (Female readers can bet their panties or underwear or whatever else, “boxers” just sounded much more cool.)

The fact that Android isn’t completely open really isn’t news to anyone. The fact remains: the practice of mobile carriers to strictly limit (and inhibit) the software capabilities on otherwise perfectly capable handsets presented an opportunity for Google to wedge themselves between Manufacturers and Carriers, supplying invaluable potential to consumers. Nobody is naive enough to believe they’re doing it simply for the “the love of the game” so to speak… they’re doing it for profit.

This could be considered an irritation to mobile carriers who purposefully restrict consumer’s abilities, force them to use their own proprietary software and then charge them an arm and a leg for additional features.

While LiMo may seem to be taking the high road by providing the first Linux OS that is “truly” open… we ask them the question… Open for who?

On page 3 of the Limo Foundation Overview (PDF), they claim to be “Middleware OS Only – avoiding conflict with operators, handset vendors and content providers.”

And thus is the reason that the two biggest carriers in the United States, AT&T and Verizon, haven’t joined the Open Handset Alliance. As Ralph De La Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, explained the hesitance of offering an Android handset, “One of the things we were looking for was that it was truly open and that you could put other features and applications on it.”

You mean like AT&T revenue generating features instead of Google revenue generating features?

Interesting to point out that Ralph uses that golden word “truly open”… including the word “truly”. AT&T isn’t a member of LiMo or anything, but the bottom line is that these companies want a “truly open” platform so they can close it right back up to their liking. The LiMo Overview outlines that Applications and Content is “as decided by user,” but how much flexibility will they have in the decision making process?

Had the stakeholders in the Mobile Industry done more to benefit the customer instead of worrying exclusively about their pockets, a “LiMo” type organization would have been formed much earlier and they never would have left the door open for Google. Instead, they’re stuck in a precarious situation wondering how they can open their phones to provide consumers more without giving Google the keys to the mobile content house.

For some of these companies it looks like LiMo will be the answer. Unfortunately for LiMo it’s simply too late. If LiMo was so promising, why would 3 out of their 8 founding members join the Open Handset Alliance (Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung)? Why would half of their self proclaimed “Core Members” join the OHA (Aplix, LG, Texas Instruments, Wind River)? Especially considering they share the same exact mission… only Google’s end result will be a better, more polished and capable product.

The fact is that LiMo is doomed to either fail completely or be rendered inconsequential. Nonetheless, LiMo today announced the addition of 7 gullable companies and 1 spiteful Verizon. Did anyone know that LiMo has already announced 18 handsets from 7 companies that will utilize the platform?

Take the small number of people who knew and multiply by the percentage of people that cared and you have, coincidentally, the exact same number of combined employees working for LiMo member companies.

Perhaps we’re being a little harsh on LiMo. Afterall, in the incredibly unlikely scenario that Android doesn’t shine, somehow fizzles and ultimately goes under, the mobile industry will have a Plan B. Not to mention, for cheaper devices that aren’t expected to do as much extra-curricular stuff anyways, LiMo could be a quick, easy alternative.

But please… lets stop fooling ourselves. Take a look at some research we found on OSTATIC regarding the predicted sales of Linux based phones:

ABI Research recently predicted that Linux phones will hold a whopping 20 percent of the mobile phone market by 2010. To put that in perspective, that’s almost the market share that Apple’s red hot iPhone has, according to data from NPD Research.

First of all, since Android will almost certainly outsell the iPhone, we predict those whopping numbers will be a lot more whopping than 20 percent. In addition, what percent OF that 20% are expected to be LiMo phones and what percent Android?

We don’t mean to be haters, but be honest, doesn’t it seem like the best phones will be running Android while the pared down, cheap, budget phones will get LiMo? I guess it’s always good to prepare for the worst case scenario… at least they have a backup plan.

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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1 Comment

  1. however gets to the ‘NOT pared down’ but still cheap phones first will win.

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