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Stephen Shankland

Staff Writer, CNET

MontaVista Software launched a program Monday to make it simpler for cell phone makers and wireless carriers to use the Linux operating system.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company specializes in creating versions of the open-source operating system that can be embedded into special-purpose computing devices such as telecommunications equipment. Among mobile phone companies, Motorola, NEC and Panasonic have partnerships with Montavista. In addition, NTT Docomo just invested $3 million in the embedded systems specialist.

But it can be difficult to make sure Linux and higher-level software works well with the wide variety of components used in cell phones, said Peder Ulander, MontaVista’s new vice president of marketing. It typically takes 16 to 18 months to get all the hardware and software working together, he said.

To smooth things, MontaVista is launching MobilLinux Open Framework, a collection of software packages and specific chip hardware designed to work together, so phone makers don’t have to spend a lot of time on integration.

The program is free for handset makers and cellular service operators, but hardware and software companies must pay a fee to be part of the alliance, Ulander said.