Linux will be on a third of smartphones in 2012

Symbian could face a crisis in the Far East.

By 2012, Linux will be running on nearly 31 percent of all smart devices, thanks to a growth rate faster than Windows Mobile and Symbian, according to predictions from a research firm.

Linux smartphones will grow at more than 75 percent per year, according to ABI Research, and will be running on 331 million devices by 2012.

"Serious initiatives from the likes of Intel and Access are gathering pace and momentum, whilst the carrier community continues to identify Linux as one of the few operating systems that it intends to support in its long-term plans," said ABI research director Stuart Carlaw.

Symbian won't be too pleased with the figures, as it claims to currently have 72 percent of the smartphone market. However, Symbian's figures are very regional: it has around 90 percent of the Europe and "rest of the world" sectors, but it hasn't cracked the U.S. (it has less than ten percent there) and is only around 65 percent of the market in China and Japan, according to Canalys figures that Symbian quotes.

In China and Japan, Linux smartphones already have more than 30 percent market share, having grown massively since 2004 as earlier Canalys graphs show.

Access, which owns the Palm operating system, has created the Access Linux Platform (ALP). It is also planning a move to Linux for the Palm OS. Intel, meanwhile is supporting Linux in its ultra-mobile platform.

"Linux is benefiting from growing support in the handset OEM community, most notably Motorola, but also Nokia with less traditional types of devices aimed at mobile broadband applications," said Carlaw.

Motorola has revealed plans to have Linux on 60 percent of its handsets within the next two years, and founded the LiMo group.

Nokia, meanwhile is heavily committed to Symbian, but has put Linux on its N800 Internet tablet.

The other wild card is Google. The company's entry into the phone hardware market is still rumor but most of the latest rumors suggest a Linux-based phone.

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