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Contracting economy forces new cellular priorities

John Cox | Feb. 13, 2009
The annual GSM cellular industry blow-out in Barcelona won't be quite the party it has been in recent years.

Another 4G technology, Mobile WiMAX, will be making news also. Sequans Communications will unveil a highly integrated chip that's smaller and uses less power than before, doesn't need external dynamic RAM, delivers over 40Mbps throughput, and covers all three global WiMAX bands: 2.3, 2.5, and 3.5 GHz. It's aimed at makers of mobile devices and customer premises gear, to exploit emerging WiMAX networks such as the one Clearwire is building in the United States.

Operating systems

For enterprise IT, handheld operating systems matter, because they enable the degree of control, security and usability required in enterprise mobile computing.

Microsoft looks to anchor Windows Mobile more securely in the enterprise even as it reaches out to consumers. At MWC, it is expected to unveil Windows Mobile 6.5, a version that makes some dramatic improvements in ease of use and support for touch and gestures. In short, it looks and acts more like the iPhone user interface. The mobile version of Windows has had a lockscreen: the new release reveals more information about new messages, voice mail and the like without having to unlock the phone, and allows selective unlocking of just that new message or voice mail, for example.

The 6.5 release, due on mobile phones near the end of 2009, will also have Internet Explorer Mobile 6, a major improvement in browsing because it's based on the HTML engine of IE 6, with elements of IE 7 and IE 8, which is still in beta. The user interface exploits fully the new touch and gesture features.

The Google-backed Linux-based Android platform, from the Open Handset Alliance, is expected to show up in a number of new handsets, though Samsung, which was expected to announce its first Android phone, has apparently delayed that news. (Watch a slideshow that pits the G1 vs. the iPhone.)

Presumably the new crop of phones will be using the latest Android build, RC33, with an array of enhancements, which is just now appearing on T-Mobile's G1, the first Android phone.

The LiMo Foundation has released reference implementations for the latest version, R2, of its mobile Linux middleware stack. The code is targeted at operators who can use it to customize a Linux phone at various levels. R2 improves device management, adds an array of security enhancements and improves Web browsing. Ten LiMo phones from NEC and Panasonic will be at MWC, along with prototypes from LG Electronics and Samsung. The foundation also announced plans to include the Bondi specification in the LiMo stack. Bondi is a standard way for Web applications to access phone features and functions, such as a camera or calendar.

"The operators have expressed a clear interest in reducing the number of operating systems in their portfolios, and Linux, Symbian, and Windows Mobile appear to be the preferred OS [options]," says Chris Schreck, research analysts with IMS Research. "I don't expect Windows Mobile or Symbian to disappear in the smartphone space, but I do expect Linux to grow its market share in 2009."


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