by Swapnil Bhartiya

6 Linux-y announcements from Mobile World Congress

Mar 02, 20156 mins
AndroidLinuxOpen Source

Linux is enabling hardware and software vendors to create new markets. Here are some of the major announcements from MWC.

Linux is everywhere at MWC

I earlier wrote about how Linux invaded CES 2015. The domination continues at Mobile World Congress, which kicked off this week in Barcelona. Here are some of the major announcements from MWC that show that Linux has become an unstoppable force.

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1 Ubuntu Phone

meizu ubuntu

Image by Meizu

2015 is certainly ‘A Good Year’ for Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu. Spanish phone-maker Bq started selling the first Ubuntu phonesthis year in the European market. Now Chinese vendor Meizu is debuting their first Ubuntu powered smartphone at MWC. The good news is that unlike Bq, Meizu will be selling the phone globally, including in the US, and their hardware is much more powerful than that of Bq.

What makes Ubuntu phones unique is that the same code will power all of the Ubuntu devices – from smartphones, to desktops to TV sets. Canonical has been working hard to make their ‘convergence’ story a reality and with Unity 8 (the UI they use for phone and which will be used in future Ubuntu desktop OS ) they are inching towards that reality.

Canonical has created many new technologies for their phones, including the Unity interface as well as MIR, their own display server. At the same time they also didn’t shy away from using many of the open source technologies to build their platform.

Canonical has also created a Chrome OS-like transitional upgrade model where users will be able to upgrade their operating systems without carriers slowing down, delaying or denying it — something often seen in the Android ecosystem.

Looking at the current mobile landscape where major companies are working towards creating their walled gardens, Ubuntu seems to be more open and flexible. As far as ‘Linux’ on mobile is concerned, Ubuntu is the community’s biggest hope.

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2 Android

lg android wear

Image by LG

Android remains a leader in the mobile space and it’s seen at MWC in different shapes and forms.

One of the most exciting devices are wearables or smart-watches. Many companies are showcasing their Android Wear powered smart watches at MWC and two of the most notable are from Huawei and LG.

Huawei is calling its device simply Huawei Watch. It features a round display, carved out of sapphire crystal.

LG is showcasing its LG Urbane watch, which also has a round display and is powered by Android Wear.

The smartwatch fever is going to rise in 2015 as Apple will start selling its own not-so-round Apple Watch this year as well.

3 Firefox OS

firefox ox mwc

Image by Mozilla

Mozilla once again has a major presence at Mobile World Congress. Its Linux-based mobile operating system Firefox OS is now also powering Smart TVs.

At MWC the organization announced the arrival of new partners and devices to its Firefox OS ecosystem. Some of the partners will take Firefox OS beyond smart phones to unchartered territories.

One such example is Monohm, which is showcasing Runcible, a pocket watch/smartphone device powered by Firefox OS.

4 Sailfish OS

sailfish tablet

Image by Jolla

Sailfish OS is an open source operating system based on the Linux kernel. Developed by the Finnish firm Jolla, Sailfish powered devices are already available in many parts of the world; mostly in Eurasia.

At Mobile World Congress, Jolla is displaying their Linux powered tablet that was made possible through a recent Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

The tablet also introduces version 2 of Sailfish OS, which brings many new features, including ‘convergence’ so that it can scale between phone and tablet form factors.

Jolla was created by former Nokia employees who were not happy with the now Microsoft-owned company killing most of their promising open source projects.

5 Cyanogen OS

cyanogen new

Image by Cyanogen

Another Linux-powered OS to make waves at MWC is Cyanogen OS. Cyanogen Inc, the community-turned-company recently shook the Android MOD community when Microsoft started investing in it. The company made a bold statement that they wanted to take Android away from Google, which wasn’t received very well within the Android community.

At MWC, Cyanogen again shook us by announcing the rebranding of its product. Its commercial operating system will now be called Cyanogen OS, while CyanogenMod will become a community distribution.

I am assuming that Cyanogen OS will be the OS that will ship with partner devices and CyanogenMOD will be available for anyone to flash on their devices. I wonder if Microsoft’s investment in Cyanogen will result in ‘bundling’ Microsoft services with Cyanogen OS as we have seen with the Samsung Galaxy S6 phone.

At MWC Cyanogen also announced their partnership with Qualcomm to develop software for its Reference Design (QRD) products coming out later this year.

Cyanogen MOD & Cyanogen OS are forks of Android Open Source Project created by Google under which Google makes the entire OS available for free download as an Open Source Project.

6 WebOS

lg webos

Image by LG

LG is showcasing its smart watches, branded Urbane. There are two models of Urbane – regular and LTE. LG has made a strange decision: while Urbane regular is powered by Google’s Android Wear, Urbane LTE runs on LG’s own WebOS. Though LG is not mentioning the term WebOS and instead calling it “powered by LG Wearable Platform.”

Unlike other ‘smart watches,’ which pair with a compatible phone and work more or less like an accessory to the smartphone, Urbane LTE comes with its own cellular chip and doesn’t need to be paired with any device to perform basic tasks.

LG, like Samsung, is toying with its own operating system to gain more control over the OS, to build an ecosystem around it, and to customize it to suite the needs of its own partners.

WebOS was initially developed by Pal, which was later acquired by HP. Hewlett-Packard played with it and then open sourced it as Open WebOS. The OS was later sold to LG Electronics and now LG is trying to bring the OS to its devices.