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Trolltech Hints At Geographic Expansion, Windows Sync, For Linux Smartphones

Oct 31, 2003, 22:00 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jacqueline Emigh)

By Jacqueline Emigh
Linux Today Writer

Trolltech, maker of the embedded Linux development environment in Motorola's new A760 smartphone, is now talking with mobile operators in North America and Europe to spur Linux cell phone implementations beyond China, Korea, and Japan.

Motorola's phone, which entered volume shipment today to Asia, already supports direct synchronization of contact information with PCs running KDE and some other Linux desktops.

David Kipping, Trolltech's director of business development, predicts implementations of Linux smartphones in North America starting in 2004. "We know this from development activities that are already under way," Kipping said, in an interview with Linux Planet.

Trolltech's Qt/Embedded embedded application development framework is also being used in already released Linux editions of Sharp's Zaurus PDA, as well in a Linux smartphone due out from FoxCon in the first quarter of next year. Other manufacturers that have announced upcoming Linux smartphones include Samsung, NEC, and an Asian company called CECT.

About a year ago, Trolltech began to "refocus" the activities of its embedded development group toward smart phones, Kipping recalled. "We realized that the PDA market wasn't going to grow to any size similar, and that most of the innovation would take place on the smart phone side," he maintained.

"We think the smartphone market is going to ultimately boil down to two players--Microsoft and Linux--although other makers of embedded environments, such as Qualcomm and Symbian, would probably disagree."

In making its pitch to mobile operators and cell phone makers around the world, Trolltech is stressing the "customizability" of Linux, as opposed to Windows. "Operators can tailor how the phone looks and feels," Kippin contended.

Features of Motorola's new mobile phone include a digital camera, video player, MP3 player, speaker phone, and Bluetooth, for instance.

Straight out of the box, Motorola's new phone can synchronize directly with KDE and other Linux desktops that use the same graphical underpinnings as Trolltech's Qtopia Desktop software, according to Kipping. However, Trolltech's Qtopia Desktop software also supports data export to applications operating in other desktop environments, including Gnome. Applications written in Qt/Embedded can also run on Linux, Windows, and Macintosh, without recompiling, he said.

Down the road, Kipping forsees direct synchronization with applications running in multiple operating environments via SyncML, an emerging standard now under development by IBM and other vendors.

"We are seeing demand for Linux smartphones among Global 500 companies," he noted. "The embedded market, however, is still only a small portion of our market. We're still primarily a desktop software company."

"If a capability was available that let me easily synchronize my contacts back and forth between a cell phone and a Linux desktop, I would definitely use it," commented Russell Johnson, a Web software developer and Red Hat/KDE user at National Background Data (NBD).

Johnson added that he previously bought a Linux-based Zaurus PDA, but rarely used the machine. "The Zaurus was more of a novelty device, though. Plus, the synchronization was really a pain back then, a year ago. I understand that it's gotten much better now."

Contended Randy Lastinger, NBD's director of network operations: "I'd like to see Linux integrate across smartphones and the desktop the way Microsoft does. That way, Linux would become better known, and people would feel much better using it.

According to Heather Stern, a principal at Starshine.org, the once intensive religious wars between KDE and Gnome are now starting to settle down, as these two major Linux operating environments start to become more alike "under the hood."

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