Nokia eyes wider usage of Linux in cellphones

PARIS (Reuters) - The world's top handset maker Nokia Oyj NOK1V.HE expects the role of the Linux operating system in its product portfolio to increase as the role of its Internet-focused devices grows, company officials said.

The Nokia Research and Development Centre is seen in Helsinki April 11, 2008. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Linux has so far had little success on cellphones, but its role is increasing as more new Linux-based models reach the market, while Google Inc GOOG.O gave it a vote of confidence by using it to build its Android platform on.

Nokia itself has used Linux for years in its Internet tablets, large phone-like devices used to access Internet on the go, but lacking calling functionality. “We will expand that range, and we believe that the role of Linux will grow,” said Nokia spokesman Kari Tuutti.

Linux is the most popular type of open source operating system which is available to the public to be used, revised and shared -- meaning it has a large developer community which could result in more attractive programs and lower costs for the likes of Nokia.

Nokia has used the tablets to target technology-savvy consumers or support emerging technologies like WiMAX.

“It’s going to be terribly important,” Nokia’s Chief Financial Officer Rick Simonson told an investor conference when asked about the role of Linux-based tablets.

He said the company has been developing the next generation of Linux-based products, which are starting to come to the market.

The market for software platforms on cellphones is led by Nokia's S60, built on the Symbian operating system, well ahead of Microsoft's MSFT.O Windows Mobile.

However, many mobile industry heavyweights, including Vodafone VOD.L, Motorola MOT.N, NTT DoCoMo 9437.T, Samsung Electronics 005930.KS, Huawei HWT.UL and LG Electronics 066570.KS, have joined Linux alliances.

Linux suppliers earn money selling improvements and technical services and Linux competes directly with offerings from Microsoft, which charges for its Windows software and opposes freely sharing its code.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki and Helsinki bureau; Editing by David Holmes