Canadian Windows ISV helps mobile Linux effort

OpenNETCF may bring mobile technology from Microsoft to an industry consortium

A Canadian open source firm is considering contributing its technology to the LiMo Foundation, a consortium of companies striving to build a globally-available open, Linux-based operating system for mobile devices.

OpenNETCF Consulting, which has offices in Ontario, develops products for the Windows Mobile platform and is currently in the preliminary stages of a discussion with LiMo to get Novell's Mono Framework, the open source framework that replicates the .NET Framework, onto the Foundation's platform.

OpenNETCF's principal partner, Mark Arteaga, said that if successful, the contribution should make for easier and faster development of mobile devices. "With all the different mobile operating system flavors, it's difficult for developers to build once and run everywhere," he said.

And it's also an opportunity, said Arteaga, to bring some competition to the slate of existing mobile platforms.

On Monday, the foundation announced new members including Japan-based Acrodea, Belguim-based ETRI Mobile, China-based Huawei, France-based Purple Labs, and Norway-based Trolltech.

Established in early 2007, the foundation was formed to provide a common platform for mobile handsets based on industry-developed standards, according to its executive director, Morgan Gillis.

"The attraction of LiMo for new members is they are engaging with a platform which is already very widely supported within the mobile industry and provides them with all of the technology they need for a handset platform within an open source licensing model," said Gillis.

The goal of the original founding members -- Motorola, NEC, NTT Docomo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics, and Vodafone -- was to pool their intellectual property to create an alternative to existing proprietary mobile device platforms, he said.

Foundation members have access to the technology, which Gillis said is existing market-proven IT previously developed by the founders, which is being re-integrated within current and future releases of the platform with public application programming interfaces.

So far, there is a notable lack of Canadian presence among the members -- a reality that's a "bit of a shame," thinks Arteaga. "I don't know if it's the state of the industry in Canada or what, but all of our work is actually U.S. work," he said, adding that he has begun to make some inroads at home, albeit slowly. "

Arteaga is hoping this will change should OpenNETCF be successful in contributing its technology to LiMo's platform.

Gillis said he thinks it's really only a matter of time before Canadian-based companies join the foundation, given the strength of the country's open source community. However, he said, the current lack of Canadian presence is not really an issue considering "the mobile industry tends to operate on a global basis so all members reach into and operate in Canada."

Arteaga's goal is to "bring out the mobility word in Canada" through a mobile development tour in tandem with Microsoft to showcase how mobile applications can be built on Windows Mobile.

"It would be great if I could do something similar with the LiMo Foundation, but it's still in the early stages right now."

Among the foundation's newest members, Trolltech, a provider of software development tools and libraries, saw LiMo as an emerging opportunity in the mobile application space. "We saw it as something important but also a place where Trolltech could contribute quite a bit of experience we accumulated in the mobile market," said the company's chief technology officer, Benoit Schillings.

Besides that, he said the company's participation will help expedite the LiMo process and resolve the issue of the lack of available device neutral mobile operating systems.

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Kathleen Lau

ComputerWorld Canada

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