Continuation of a series of materials about operating systems that lost the competitive war Android and iOS. There is already a parsing of Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS, Firefox OS and webOS. The turn came to the LiMo Foundation project, which was supposed to unify Linux on smartphones, and eventually turned into Tizen.
Samsung smartphone powered by LiMo
The story begins in the distant 2007 – January 25, Samsung, Motorola, Panasonic, NEC, mobile operators Docomo from Japan and British Vodafone created the LiMo Foundation. LiMo stands for Linux Mobile because this organization wanted to create a universal platform on Linux for mobile devices.
It was a turning point when it became clear that the PDA format, Windows Mobile, Symbian and other systems are gradually becoming obsolete. But the first one appeared on the market iPhone, which was very limited in its capabilities, and it was still far from the release Android. Therefore, at that time, the unification of manufacturers in LiMo looked like a logical step: manufacturers save on operating system development, and developers receive an SDK for creating universal applications for phones of different companies.
LiMo's main goal is to create a universal mobile platform based on Linux. At the same time, this platform is based on open source code so that any member of the fund can make changes and adapt it to their needs. After a while, we realize that this goal was fulfilled by Google with Android.
In fact, the LiMo Foundation was not the first to come up with the idea to unite and implement Linux into phones, while there were already competitive projects with a similar goal – Linux Phone Standards Forum, Access Linux Platform, Mobile Linux Initiative and Open Handset Alliance from Google. At the same time, many manufacturers, for example, Samsung and Motorola, participated in several funds at once.
LiMo's board of directors consisted of representatives from the founding companies. They not only decided how the unified platform should look like on Linux, but also tried to attract new members. Each company from the founders paid 800 thousand dollars a year to participate in the fund – for this they gave full access to the source code of the platform and its modifications, as well as a place in the leadership. Of course, it is no longer possible to buy the status of the founder, this list included only the first 6 companies.
For the rest of the applicants, there were two options for participating in the fund – as a core and as an ordinary member of the association. A contributor with the 'core' status could attend the discussion of the development of the project and get access to the source code. This level cost 400 thousand dollars a year. And the participant with the lowest status for 40 thousand dollars a year received only access to the platform code and could express wishes for the development of the platform.
This is the architecture of the LiMo platform:
Components in the development of which all members of the foundation can participate are marked in green.
It is important to understand that the LiMo foundation did not initially imply the creation of a single operating system. The organization had to develop a framework with which the manufacturer could assemble and modify the system to suit his needs. Also, fund managers called the main advantage that this project does not belong to one company, as is the case with Symbian or Windows Mobile.
In September 2007, Broadcom, a renowned chip manufacturer, joined the LiMo Foundation. She got access to the source code of the project and took part in the optimization of the platform.
In February 2008, the MWC announced the first version of the LiMo Platform Release 1 system and presented 18 old and new phones that will support it. Among them were Motorola RAZR2 V8, Samsung SGH-i800 and FOMA P905i from Panasonic.
Unusual clamshell FOMA P905i from Panasonic
Also, the fund included 9 new companies at once, including AMD, the Orange operator and others.
At this stage, the platform was still far from what was originally planned – for example, porting applications for devices from different manufacturers was not so easy. But representatives of the foundation promised to fix it for the second version. In addition, all devices with LiMo Release 1 support were ordinary push-button phones, which can hardly be called interesting.
In May, the number of participants in the LiMo fund grew to 40. Mozilla, Verizon, South Korean operator SK Telecom and several other companies joined the project. In August, ZTE and 10 other companies joined them.
In June 2009, LiMo members completed the development of the second version of the platform and specifications for them. The first phones were promised to be released by the end of the year.
In August 2009, the LiMo Foundation reported on 42 phones on its own platform. True, most of them were inexpensive 'dialers' and sold locally within the same country through an operator. Most often it was Japan. At this point Samsung has not presented a single device on LiMo, although the first smartphone on Android was already on sale.
A little later Motorola left the board of directors of LiMo, but remained as a regular member. Obviously, the company has bet on Android.
And only in September 2009 Samsung released the first two smartphones based on LiMo Release 2, but it was exclusive to the European operator Vodafone. Samsung H1 received a touchscreen AMOLED – a 3.5-inch display. Inside there was a more modern interface with a desktop and icons. There was even some semblance of widgets from the future Windows Phone – the application icon could be expanded into a large tile, for example, with the weather.
In 2010, the LiMo Foundation almost disappeared from the news agenda. Adobe joined in February to add Flash support to the platform. Three more new companies have joined the fund.
They also announced a new version of the LiMo Release 3. There are very few mentions of this update on the Internet, there is only an uninformative press release from which little can be understood. Updates include support for services that work with location, new multimedia features, security and networking updates.
At the same time, the director of marketing for LiMo, Andrew Shikiar, criticized Google for releasing the Nexus One smartphone from HTC, which was sold only in their online store. In his opinion, such a distribution model could harm Motorola and Verizon, which has been promoting the Droid brand for a long time. 'Is Google a partner or a competitor?' Shikiar asked.
Back in May, there was a rumor that Samsung was preparing a new version of the smartphone on LiMo and again exclusively for Orange. But the smartphone never appeared on sale.
After that, there was no news about LiMo until 2011. Journalists only occasionally recalled the foundation and the platform when they talked about the successes Android and Google.
At the MWC 2011 exhibition in February, a new version of the platform was presented – it was simply called LiMo 4. They promised a lot of innovations: a full-fledged system interface, multitasking, multitouch support, 3D animation and much more. It already looked more like a full-fledged operating system and a finished product for smartphones. The first devices were promised to be released in the second half of 2011, but these are only promises.
Who knew that already in September LiMo and the Linux Foundation will announce the merger of their platform with a new project – Tizen. It is now known as a system for smartphones, TVs, smartwatches and other Samsung devices. But that is another story.
Talking about LiMo begs a direct comparison with Android from Google and its Open Handset Alliance – they had similar tasks, but different results. Judging the situation from the outside, it is easy to understand why the first project failed and the second became the market leader.
LiMo offered not the operating system itself, but only the base. The manufacturer had to design the interface, applications, and other components himself. Whereas Android gives a complex product with a system and an interface. And already, if desired, the company can develop an alternative shell.
LiMo also initially relied on push-button phones – this was a short-sighted move. The first smartphone on Android received a touchscreen display and a physical keyboard, and gradually all manufacturers abandoned physical keys. At the same time, there were few devices on LiMo, and they were sold only in a few countries.
And the main advantage Android is the support from Google. It is difficult to compete with a company that earns more per month than the LiMo fund raised in a year.
So the LiMo project leaders made the typical mistakes that other mobile operating systems in this story cycle have encountered. This includes incorrect positioning, unfulfilled promises, and too ambitious plans.