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Verizon, Mozilla to join LiMo Foundation

Industry consortium is adding eight new companies to boost membership to over 40 mobile industry players working on a Linux-based mobile operating system.

Updated 10:00am PT with detail from Verizon's conference call.

The LiMo Foundation is adding several well-known entities to its roster of mobile phone players, including Verizon and Mozilla.

A total of eight companies have agreed to join forces with LiMo to work on a Linux-based operating system for mobile phones, bringing the total number of participants to 40. Verizon and Mozilla are the headliners, but the full roster of new invitees includes Infineon, Kvaleberg, Red Bend Software, Sagem Mobiles, SFR, and SK Telecom.

Reports surfaced over the weekend that Verizon was planning to add a LiMo phone to its lineup, but it's not clear how quickly Verizon will commit to that course. Mozilla's participation is likewise interesting, because it's very likely that browsers will play an integral role in delivering applications to future mobile phones.

LiMo Foundation members are emerging, in a sense, as the anti-Android, although they would likely downplay that kind of talk. Google's bid to unite the mobile phone industry around Linux is similar to LiMo's vision, but there are a few differences.

LiMo is set up more like a traditional industry organization, where members have an equal say in the advancement of the software. Google reigns supreme over the Open Handset Alliance, although it does work closely with its partners to define the spec that will become Android. Plenty of companies, however, such as NTT DoCoMo and Texas Instruments, are hedging their bets by participating in both groups.

LiMo has one advantage: an actual product out in the wild. Release Candidate 1 was formally unveiled at the CTIA Wireless conference in April, but has been shipping for a while on phones like Motorola's Razr 2.

UPDATED: Verizon held a conference call in the pre-dawn Pacific Time hours to discuss its decision to join the LiMo Foundation. Reuters reports that Verizon's vice president of network Kyle Malady committed the company to releasing a LiMo phone in 2009, saying, "We'll start with a few simpler devices and work our way up."

He also said that the LiMo software would become Verizon's "operating system of choice," according to Reuters, which seems odd given the company's pledge to become an open service provider willing to accept a wide variety of handsets. Malady said that's still the case--at some point Verizon customers will be able to use any type of device that works with its network--but this deal would give Verizon a way to maintain control over the look-and-feel of the software on its handsets for certain customers.