Taiwan's Asustek to use Linux in new smartphone

TAIPEI/HELSINKI, April 17 Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:01am EDT

TAIPEI/HELSINKI, April 17 (Reuters) - Netbook PC pioneer Asustek (2357.TW) will use a Linux-based operating system in one of its first two smartphones, a senior company official said on Friday, in a boost for the system's developer.

Both Microsoft's (MSFT.O) Windows Mobile platform and the open-source Linux-based LiMo platform will be used in the phones being co-developed with global positioning device specialist Garmin (GRMN.O), Asustek's Chief Operating Officer H.C. Hung told Reuters.

He did not say when the Linux smartphone would be launched. But a source with direct knowledge of the project, speaking on condition his name not be used because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the plan was to begin shipping the first LiMo phones in June. This will be the second time Asustek is launching a product based on the Linux operating system, which operators and manufacturers like because its licensing fees are typically much lower than other systems.

It used Linux on its line of low-cost netbook PCs when they were launched in 2007, although those are now outsold by netbooks running on Windows.

Asustek is a minor player in the smartphone field, competing with industry titans such as Nokia (NOK1V.HE), HTC (2498.TW) and Apple's (AAPL.O) iPhone, but is one of the latest in a string of PC companies to launch its own line of smartphones.

Some analysts have expressed doubt at the PC vendors' move into smartphone territory, suggesting that they could add little value to the already crowded arena. [ID:nSP92017]

LiMo has been missing support from the largest cellphone vendors so far, with only NEC (6701.T), Panasonic (6752.T) and Motorola MOT.N having unveiled phones using its software.

For a factbox on mobile phone operating systems, please double click on [ID:nLO147224]

(Reporting by Kelvin Soh and Tarmo Virki; Editing by Chris Lewis)