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LiMo gets Openwave browser and messaging

Openwave sells those parts of its business to LiMo member Purple Labs, which plans to use the mobile Internet technologies in its Linux platform.

Purple Labs, an increasingly prominent mobile Linux firm and a member of the LiMo Foundation, has bought the browser and messaging side of Openwave's business.

Purple Labs joined the LiMo Foundation--one of three big, mobile open-source consortia, alongside the Symbian Foundation and Google's Open Handset Alliance--at the start of 2008. Working alongside NXP Semiconductors, it gained further exposure at the end of January by launching the Purple Magic phone, a cheap, Linux-powered, 3G handset that could be sold to operators for less than $100.

Openwave supplies mobile-client software to 12 of the top 20 global mobile operators, including Orange, Telefonica, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. It also supplies fixed-line broadband providers with software. Around 80 employees are expected to migrate to Purple Labs, including the general manager of the business unit, Gordon Tsang.

Through the $32 million acquisition of Openwave's mobile-client business, Purple Labs said it now supplies mobile-browser software to all of the top five phone manufacturers, which together produce over 80 percent of the world's mobile phones.

Purple Labs' chief executive, Simon Wilkinson, sent a letter to handset manufacturers on Thursday, in which he said Openwave's existing products would be maintained. He also said Purple Labs would "invest in the next-generation Surfer browser and other advanced mobile-internet technologies."

"Further, we plan to reuse many of the Openwave technologies in our Purple Labs Linux platform," wrote Wilkinson. "We are focused exclusively on the requirements of LiMo Foundation members, such as Vodafone and Orange, and believe that this will ultimately create new market opportunities for our manufacturer customers."

In a statement earlier this week, Openwave's chief executive, Bruce Coleman, said his company would now focus on "network-based offerings."

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.