Is the LiMo Foundation Android's first victim?

Mike Dano
Remember the LiMo Foundation? Founded in 2007, the LiMo Foundation's goal was to establish "a globally competitive, Linux-based software platform for mobile devices." By the end of 2009, the group had commitments from half a dozen global operators and close to 50 LiMo Platform-powered devices on the market.

And where is the group today? On the way out, it seems.

"We expect Mobile World Congress 2011 to be nothing short of a wake for the LiMo Foundation," wrote analyst firm CCS Insight in a recent research note. "For the first time in several years it will not have a stand at the show as manufacturer support appears to have all but evaporated. Having consistently failed to deliver against its promises, LiMo is likely to quietly fade away."

Indeed, LiMo lists four supporting handset vendors on its website: NEC, Panasonic, Motorola and Samsung. However, most of the handsets listed are circa 2009--for example, one of Motorola's latest LiMo handsets is the RAZR 2. Remember the RAZR 2? Few do.

When questioned about CCS Insight's devastating appraisal of its future, the LiMo Foundation offered this tepid response:

"LiMo continues to forge ahead with the strong backing of its members. The Foundation will be issuing a press release in the lead up to Mobile World Congress on the latest developments with the LiMo Platform, with further announcements coming in the course of 2011. As in previous years, there will be a large LiMo contingent in Barcelona during MWC for our Board, Executive Council and other member meetings."

While LiMo may continue in one way or another--the group recently aligned itself with the Wholesale Applications Community and the Linaro open-source group--it can be considered a victim of Android's success.

Indeed, Android in the fourth quarter surpassed Symbian, previously the world's most widely deployed smartphone operating system. According to technology analysis firm Canalys, Android shipments topped 33.3 million in the period, translating to a 32.9 percent share of the global smartphone market--a year earlier, Android shipments represented just 8.7 percent of the worldwide market. Symbian's worldwide market share plummeted from 44.4 percent to 30.6 percent during that time.

With LiMo apparently on the downswing, the question now becomes: Which platform will be the next to fall to the Android rush? At least one analyst has fingered MeeGo: "Get rid of your own proprietary high-end solution (MeeGo)--it's the biggest joke in the tech industry right now and will put you even further behind Apple and Google," wrote Berenberg Bank analyst Adnaan Ahmad in an open letter to Nokia (NYSE:NOK) CEO Stephen Elop.

The current status of MeeGo is somewhat troubling, considering it was launched almost a year ago as a Linux-based, open-source effort--much like LiMo. The initial, grandiose vision of MeeGo--that it would power everything from handsets to netbooks to Internet-capable TVs to "media phones"--appears to have largely fizzed, and Nokia remains the only major backer of the platform.

LiMo certainly isn't the first phone platform to fall by the wayside, and I suspect it won't be the last. --Mike