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Torvalds: Linux to make dent in smartphones in '08

The OS has made little headway into phones so far, but that is set to change due to Google's push for open-source platform for mobile devices.

The Linux operating system, which so far has made little headway into cell phones, is set to become more widely available next year, helped by Google's mobile push, Linux creator Linus Torvalds says.

Britain's Symbian, of which Nokia owns almost 50 percent, is the market leader in mobile device operating systems, followed by Microsoft's handset system, Windows Mobile.

But last month Web search leader Google said it will offer an open-source software platform, built on Linux, to make the Internet work as smoothly on mobile phones as it does on computers.

"I haven't been personally involved, but it certainly looks like 2008 may be--thanks to the Google alliance--one of the years you will find more widely available phones with Linux," Torvalds told Reuters on Friday.

Google is working with Motorola and some other large telecom players, including operator T-Mobile and chipmaker Qualcomm, to develop Android, an open-software platform for mobile devices.

Torvalds said Motorola has been one of the first players to come out with Linux phones, mainly in China and also in the United States.

Phone makers involved with Google's alliance would come out with Linux models next year.

"Right now, there are no phones in the market. You can find some of the phone manufacturers making pre-release versions. You can't buy them yet, but I think next year you can," Torvalds said.

He said wider use of Linux in phones had been hampered by the fact that the real mass market was essentially in the low-end segment of devices rather than smartphones.

"That seems to be changing. It used to be that they were so expensive that, by necessity, most people even in the industrialized world...would not go for a smartphone. Quite frankly, Linux makes much more sense in a smartphone than it makes in a really low-end product," Torvalds said.