Motorola buys own mobile Linux firm

Cracks in the Android?


Motorola has bought a mobile Linux company, according to an industry source, potentially busting its monogamous relationship with Google's Android and undercutting a mobile Linux effort that Motorola helped found.

The handset manufacturer and Google Android partner has purchased Azingo, maker of a Linux operating system for smartphones that gives you touch-based screen input, features a WebKit-based browser, works with Adobe Systems' Flash, and comes with an SDK.

Azingo is a privately held firm based in India, with offices in Silicon Valley and South Korea. It's understood the company's full team of several hundred engineers have transferred to Motorola along with its management.

News of the purchase leaked after an Azingo engineer updated his LinkedIn profile (below). This was picked up here, and an industry source has confirmed with The Reg Thursday morning that the deal had gone through.

Yogish at Motorola

The acquisition apparently closed in April. A Motorola spokesperson declined to comment, saying the company does not comment on rumor and speculation. Significantly, she added that Motorola "remains focused on Android."

One industry source described the Azingo team as "hardcore mobile Linux developers" capable of building and supporting any Linux on a phone.

The deal will potentially help Motorola staff up on Linux expertise and follows similar acquisitions of Wind River, MontaVista, and Palm by Intel, Cavium Network, and Hewlett-Packard respectively.

Owning Azingo should give Motorola more options in working with Linux on mobile as it now has more skills on-board plus its own mobile Linux operating system.

That means Motorola can reduce its dependency on Google. Motorola is the largest maker of Android phones in the US thanks to its heavily promoted Droid. But according to one report, the company was "particularly miffed" by Google's decision to compete against the Droid with its own Android offering - the Nexus One - sold from the company's own site, after Motorola and carrier Verizon spent $100m to promote their Droid.

Last month, Google quietly shelved plans for a version of Nexus One on Verizon's network - the largest mobile network in the US - apparently responding to pressure from Verizon.

Motorola's Azingo deal also bodes ill for the LiMO Foundation, whose members include Vodafone, Samsung, Panasonic, and Verizon. Azingo is listed as a core LiMO member, but in 2009, Motorola walked off the board of the consortium that it helped found in 2007 and downgraded its membership, saying it was going to focus on Android instead of LiMO.

At the time, Motorola said in a statement: "The Android platform gives it a richer, more consistent foundation with strong support for the ecosystem and developer community."

It's difficult to see how or why Motorola will want Azingo engineers to continue participating in LiMO's rival work, Azingo helped build the Vodafone 360 Service for H1 and M1 LiMO handsets from Samsung last year. ®


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