Linux Gets Its Mobile Act Together

Here we go again. A gaggle of powerful players in the mobile phone ecosystem have banded together to push Linux development for mobile and embedded systems even harder. This time, IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) and ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) are the leaders of the pack, with Samsung, Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN  ) , and other chip designers helping out.

The not-for-profit Linaro project is meant to optimize critical Linux components for system-on-a-chip architectures, which include TI's OMAP processors and a long line of Samsung chips. Linaro expects other firms to join the effort over time, and so do I. When ARM-based designs like OMAP get special attention from a consortium of industry leaders, it only makes sense for Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) and Marvell Technology Group (Nasdaq: MRVL  ) to ensure the same backing for their SnapDragon and Armada chips.

The work done by Linaro will be passed on to the larger body of Linux development, and eventually filter down into Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android, the MeeGo framework backed by Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , and every other Linux-based system. In Intel's case, the ARM-based optimization work could marginalize the company's own Atom chips, but MeeGo does explicitly support ARM chips, too. Oh well.

All of these environments will end up faster, more stable, and less bug-ridden thanks to this project, so it's a good thing for the whole industry. Well, except for the mobile innovators who don't use Linux, of course. Yeah, there are a few non-Linux smartphones out there today.

Even there, improving the Linux-based competition from one end to the other should push the remainder of the industry to greater efforts, lest they should get tagged as Luddites or bug-peddlers. When you extend these mobile systems to new markets like in-car entertainment systems, TV-centric products, and tablet computers, you can see that we're talking about a huge industry, here. Innovation races on apace, securing rivers of future profits across the handset, chip-design, and software sectors alike.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The Fool has created a covered strangle position on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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