Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, sees a healthy future for the open source operating system on mobile devices, especially after Google's recent push with its Android platform.
In an interview with Reuters, Torvalds said he thought that would become more widely available next year on mobile devices.
"I haven't been personally involved, but it certainly looks like 2008 may be – thanks to the Google alliance – one of the years you will find more widely available phones with Linux," Torvalds told Reuters.
Back in early November, Google finally revealed its much hyped mobile plan. The Android platform has been developed by Google and others as part of the Open Handset Alliance, which has over 30 members. The open-source platform will comprise an operating system, middleware stack, customisable user interface and applications, and the first Android-based phones should hit the market in the second half of 2008.
Android has already gained some big name backers, including mobile operators such as T-Mobile, Telefonica and Sprint Nextel, and mobile handset makers such as Motorola, LG and Samsung. Chip makers Intel, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are also backing Google’s platform.
Torvalds said Motorola had been one of the first players to come out with Linux phones, mainly in China and also in the US. Other Android handset makers are expected to follow suit with Linux models in 2008.
"Right now, there are no phones in the market. You can find some of the phone manufacturers making pre-release versions. You can't buy them yet, but I think next year you can," Torvalds said.
Torvalds also thought that the wider use of Linux in phones had been hampered by the fact that the real mass market was essentially in the low-end segment of devices, rather than smartphones.
"That seems to be changing. It used to be that they were so expensive that, by necessity, most people even in the industrialised world... would not go for a smartphone. Quite frankly, Linux makes much more sense in a smartphone than it makes in a really low-end product," Torvalds said.
Currently, Nokia’s Symbian platform has the largest market share for mobile operating systems, followed by the Windows Mobile OS from Redmond. Analyst firm IDC recently predicted that every mobile network operator will open its network to a wide range of devices, not just those offered by the carriers themselves.