August CEO report

 In Linaro Blog

This month the mobile market outlook significantly changed over the course of a single week with Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobile, and HP’s exit from the Web-OS device market. The most likely scenarios moving forward appear to be, first, despite their public pronouncements so far, Google selling the Motorola hardware businesses (Set Top Box and Mobile) and retaining the patents to help defend Android against IP claims, and second Web-OS making an exit in its current form, with HP selling the patent portfolio to one of the major industry players.

It could be argued that the mobile OS platform wars are consolidating with the second division ranks rapidly thinning (MeeGo, RIMM, WebOS) leaving Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android as the dominant players. It remains to be seen whether the Microsoft Windows platform can gain significant market share. In any event Android’s influence grows as a result of these industry moves. The challenges for Android licensees remain patent issues (typically around the user space and UI layer as opposed to the Android Linux kernel itself) and now potential competitive concerns from Google if they do in fact retain the Motorola hardware company.

Will another open-source based OS for mobile devices emerge? From a technical perspective it is possible, but building and maintaining a mobile-targeted operating system takes very considerable investment. Furthermore, a strong and complete ecosystem with high volume device deployment is required to get sufficient developer support to build an Apple App Store or Android Market level of application support. If such an OS does emerge I believe that Linaro is very well positioned to provide core ARM open source technology and support, adding to the work we are already doing for our members on their current and future Android implementations.

Over the past year at Linaro we have seen steadily increasing interest in the use of the ARM Linux kernel and core distributions for a number of market segments including network equipment, In Vehicle Infotainment (IVI), Set Top Box and Digital TV, and more recently servers based on ARM’s latest announced multi-core low power Cortex-A15 technology. Because of this interest we are expecting to hold one or more mini-summits on these segments at the next Linaro Connect event in Orlando, USA in November. The purpose of these summits is to gather views on Linaro’s technical roadmap and needs for the core Linux platform from key members of the ecosystem, enabling our members to make informed decisions on the tasks that Linaro should undertake in these areas. We will be gauging interest in these topics over the coming weeks to determine whether to proceed, and we welcome the participation of all interested parties from the Linux community.

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  • Robert Berger

    Hi George,

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but in the IpTV set-top box market segment (hard disc, H.264, High Definition, HDMI, Picture in Picture,… and not handheld/mobile) I can see a few ARM based boxes, but MIPS seems still to be dominating (price?). There was and is some effort from the MIPS guys to get Andoid on their boxes but I wonder if it’s really going to pick up.
    Most IpTV systems are proprietary and TV centric which means it’s more important to have prime video content then apps. To get the approval from studios to play their prime content you need a secure system. What’s requested by customers more frequently nowadays is the capability to browse the web, but this still usually leads to a suboptimal user experience, since the content is for PCs and not for TVs (although on high definition TVs there should not be too much of a difference). Google seems to be not very interested in further fragmenting Android and also have the “content problem” with Google TV, so I’m wondering what’s the business case for Android on Set-Top Boxes – except for the marketing hype and the fact that many people know Android from their mobile phones and tablets.