Motorola's Linux-based phone with Intel chip debuts

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Motorola Inc., the world's second-largest mobile phone maker, on Friday in China launched its long-awaited mobile phone featuring both a Linux-based operating system (OS) and chips from Intel Corp.

The high-end smart phone, the A760, marks the first time the Schaumburg, Illinois, company has used both Java and the Linux operating system in a handset, according to a Motorola representative. The phone is also notable for its use of a chip by Intel, the PXA262 processor, which uses stacked flash memory and a smaller design than previous chips.

Originally announced in February, the A760 combines a personal information management software application, digital camera, a video player, MP3 music player and an instant-messaging tool.

The A760 uses a Motorola chip, the i250, to handle the communications function of the phone while the Intel chip deals with the computing aspect, according to a statement from Intel. The Intel processor runs at 200MHz and stacks two StrataFlash memory chips for 256M bytes of memory. Representatives from Intel, in Santa Clara, California, could not immediately be reached for comment.

On the Linux side, the phone utilizes the application development framework Qt/Embedded from Oslo software company Trolltech AS. "Linux and QtEmbedded has a lot of technical advantages to other operating systems such as the low memory requirement that Linux demands, as well as having a strong open source, third-party developer community," said Eirik Chambe-Eng, president and co-founder of Trolltech.

There are already thousands of mobile applications created for Trolltech's platform that can be ported to the A760, Chambe-Eng said, and with Motorola backing Linux he expects more applications to become quickly available as acceptance for the Linux OS in mobile phones grows.

"We've been seeing a lot of interest in Linux from manufacturers for the past couple of years, but we've now seen much more interest because Motorola is coming out with the phone," Chambe-Eng said. Trolltech is now in talks with four other companies, which Chambe-Eng declined to name, for bringing out Linux-based smart phones in the Asian Pacific markets, he said.

Despite that interest, Motorola has not been forthcoming about its plans for the A760 in the U.S. or European markets. The company has declined to comment on specifics around the launch of the A760, such as its suggested retail price in China, or in which markets the phone will next become available. The company has instead relied on its partners, Intel and Trolltech to issue statements with details about the A760's debut in China.

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