Access Linux Platform (ALP) for wireless handhelds and smartphone
Access, whose NetFront browser is in around 210 million handsets globally, has announced the ACCESS Linux Platform (ALP), the latest evolution of Palm OS(R) for Linux.
Access’ goal is to have ALP become the platform of choice for the development of high volume, feature rich smartphones and mobile. Access and PalmSource (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Access) expect to make the ALP Software Developer Kit (SDK) available to its licensees by the end of this year (2006).
Access’ cto Dr Tomihisa Kamada said that today application suites are huge, with several million lines of sourcecode, and are very heavy for handset vendors.
“With the demand for multi-tasking of applications, exectued in parallel, to implement that nicely you need a flexible multitasking OS like Linux,” he said.
Didier Diaz, vice president of product marketing, said, “Things are getting more complicated in mobile. Operators have to introduce new applications on a wide variety of platforms. They are looking to reduce the number of platforms they are supporting.”
So why, then, at a point when operators are looking to reduce their platform support, is Access launching another OS?
“Operators are asking for platforms with native APIs,” Diaz argued, “and the two current OS choices [Symbian and Widows Mobile) are controlled by a single company in each case.” (Before anyone from Symbian gets in touch, please note these are Diaz’s words not Mobile Europe’s!)
“Many operators see Linux as a solution. It’s consistent openly avaiolable code and a host of developers familiar with it means they definitely view it as a solution to the problem they have,” Diaz continued.
“The problem is Linux is not a platform yet in the mobile space. Some vendors have tried to go all the way develop their own platform. One manufacturer (we rather suspect he means Motorola, folks) has spent $200 million on it so far.
“But we are now moving to the transition phase, beyond the design phase.”
Most important in the development, has been a specific UI for mobile on top of a Linux 2.6.12 kernel. Access is calling this UI and application framework MAX. The MAX framework offers five-way navigation and two dedicated keys, as well as touch-screen and stylus input mechanisms.
The system will also offer ongoing support for currently developed Palm OS applications, although probably not for any applications developed straight to hardware.
The appetite for a new operating system amongst operators may be a rarified one. The suspicion is that they would settle for a cheaper licensing regime and more open, customisable environment from their current suppliers. But in the meantime they will look seriously at both Linux and Savaje’s Java based systems. Indeed, the latter is in part operator-funded.
Access’ launch came with a host of enforsements, from Texas Instrument, Intel and Freescale on the chip side. From LG and Samsung on the handset side, and from NTT DoCoMo and Telefonica Moviles on the operator side. It clearly is aware there is a long road to travel. As Motorola would no doubt agree.