Mobile Linux group releases first specifications

The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum is releasing its first mobile phone specifications, in order to encourage more application development for Linux phones.

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The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum is releasing its first mobile phone specifications, in order to encourage more application development for Linux phones.

The specifications include a reference model, address book, voice call enabler, text input programming interfaces and user interface services such as widget sets, and they will be posted on the LiPS website.

The forum, which was launched in late 2005, is working to standardise a layer of software in Linux phones. The aim is to make it easier for developers to create a mobile application that can operate across different phones.

Bill Weinberg, general manager for business development at the LiPS Forum, explained that despite different phones running on Linux, application developers were not in the position to write programs that worked on all of them. He added: "The LiPS standard is designed to solve that."

But by choosing to base the user interface framework on Gnome's GTK user interface toolkit, the LiPS Forum has dealt a blow to software development toolmaker Trolltech. Trolltech offers an application platform and user interface for Linux mobile phones.

Nevertheless, more companies are using Gnome. Weinberg said that while Trolltech is strong in the mobile space “we're seeing a trend toward Gnome". Purple Labs, Access and Open-Plug, all part of the LiPS Forum, are Gnome-based.

The forum defined application program interfaces on top of Gnome's GTK, optimising it for the mobile usage model.

The next set of specifications will deal with functions like instant messaging and allowing users or operators the ability to change the phone's user interface. Next year will see the third wave of specifications, expected to focus on how applications use different phone resources.

"These are all things for which there are existing processes but there are too many different ways to do it, so having a set of specifications is important," said Weinberg.

There are a host of global initiatives like the LiPS Forum that strive to bring focus to the mobile Linux environment, but the US continues to lag behind in adoption of mobile Linux.

China and Japan are the biggest users of Linux phones while America has a reputation for being "cautious", partly because of the tight control its operators like to keep on the market.

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