In today market, mobile devices play an important role in business and personal communication, as organizers and digital assistants, social networks, connecting to the web, being in touch with close relatives and friends, and more. Mobile devices have become household items, and this paper will examine how Linux Operating System has contributed to the popularity of these devices.
Mobile devices are computing devices that can be carried around with ease. They are smaller than a laptop computer and can be from a range of different devices with different functionalities, such as smartphones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), tablets, handheld computers, handheld gaming devices, mobile phones, etc.
The first of these devices were equipped with embedded systems, designated for specific tasks. Mobile phones were just for mobile telephony. Pagers were designated just for paging, and PDAs were designed for storing and managing appointments, contacts, and small notes. These devices have evolved into general purpose ones that required more powerful operating systems, capable of handling different tasks, and even combination of different devices, mentioned above, in a single casing.
With the advent of the PDA, developers were working on some more robust operating systems in order to be ahead of the competition and to satisfy the consumer’s demands. Among these operating systems were Nokia, Symbian, RIM’s Blackberry OS, Palm OS, and Windows CE. There were also other Java-based operating systems on the market. Then, the popularity of dedicated PADs, and the rivalry of Palm and RIM as the top in the market, with Windows OS for Pocket PC, helped to shape the scenario for today mobile market. The combination of the phone and PDA saw a decline on the standalone PDA device. Many OS developers saw the need to get into the mobile device market and start creating new or customizing the existing operating systems for implementation on those devices. Apple successfully customized its Mac OS X to created iOS, which was very popular on the iPod MP3 player and later on the iPhone and iPad tablet. Others have used Linux kernel to create powerful mobile operating systems.
Linux is a powerful operating system created by Linus Torvalds, a computer software student at the University of Helsinki in Finland, in 1991. Linux is a variant of UNIX and its kernel is way faster than the commercial version of UNIX, which makes it a good candidate to be implemented on the mobile platform. This implantation offers several advantages in comparison to other mobile operating systems because Linux is fast, freely available and open sources, so it can be modify or customized. Also, Linux is stable, powerful and virus-free.
The two principal implementations of Linux on the mobile device world are HP WebOS (Palm WebOS) and Google Android. Palm computing was one of the first manufacturers of PDAs and one of the earlier developers of mobile operating systems. Palm OS was a success because its ease of use, support for touch-screen based graphical user interface (GUI), and the popularity of the PDA in the second half of the nineties. Palm OS was later developed by ACCESS. Palm Computing then, in 2009, introduced its new operating system, WebOS, which is a Linux-based mobile operating system built over Linux 2.6.24 kernel and written in C/C++.
The other popular Linux-based mobile operating system is Google Android. Android was developed by Android Inc., and acquired by Google in 2005. It’s freely distributed by Google at no cost, and it is the dominant operating system in the smartphone/tablet market in terms of the devices installed.
Applications for Android are usually developed in Java language, also in C and C++. It consists of the Linux kernel, libraries and APIs (written in C), and the application software. Android does not support the complete set of GNU libraries, which make difficult to port existing Linux applications. Application software are distribute via Google Market (now Google Play), even though third party applications can be installed. It runs its applications in a sandbox, which are tightly-controlled set of resources that make the operating system secure and reliable. However, even though most applications for Android are written in Java, Android doesn’t provide the Java Virtual Machine, so the Java bytecode is translated by the Dalvik virtual machine that comes with the system.
Android operating system is found on an array of devices, such as smartphones and tablets, which makes it one of the most popular mobile operating systems.
There are other Linux-based mobile operating systems, which make Linux suitable to be implemented on a variety of devices.