Emblaze Shows Off Something Else

Israeli manufacturer Emblaze Mobile announced in London Tuesday the official launch of the Else, a Linux-basedmobile phone. The company initially previewed the device in Japan inOctober.

The new phone is still little more than a twinkle in Emblazedesigners’ eyes. Still, company officials expect to have more Elsemobile phones on store shelves by the middle of 2010.

“Where are they now? They have a platform that is not yet ready toship. They are looking for operator partners in Europe and NorthAmerica for it,” Ian Fogg, research analyst at Forrester, toldLinuxInsider.

Eager Market

Though Emblaze is still readying its final product, the companyhas an opportunity to tap into the vibrant mobile phone market. Theintroduction of another unproven operating platform does notnecessarily mean the new phone will not be able to compete againstestablished platforms.

The Else handset has an innovative user interface on top ofits Linux platform, and although it’s a small player, ithas larger partners behind it, according to Fogg.

“The overall mobile handset market is enormous. Over its life therehave been many mobile phone systems used by manufacturers. Clearly theoperators are looking for new devices. There is an increasing appetitefor smart mobile phones with Internet access and smart user interfaces.They see an active market for exclusive deals for differentiatedphones in an expanding market for smart mobile phones,” Fogg said.

Different Landscape

The fact that the mobile phone market is currently very crowded isn’t much different than five or 10 years ago, except that now the mobileplatform is aimed at developers, noted Fogg, who was present for theEmblaze demonstration on Tuesday.

This is a very different atmosphere from what we have available fordesktop operating systems, he noted. The computer field offers threemain OSes, and one claims a clear majority of users.

Still, as a new market entrant, Emblaze may have its work cut out forit, and its innovative platform approach could make a difference inhow well developers and operators take to the Else mobile phone.

“From what I’ve seen on the Web site,it’s clear that the company has invested heavily into it. The nextpiece for it to consider is scale, and to do that, Emblaze has to getits operating system — if it truly is that, I cannot tell — onto manyhandsets,” Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst for IDC, toldLinuxInsider.

The top five platforms — Symbian, Windows Mobile, Android, RIM and iPhone — have already mapped out their respectivestrategies.

Hardware Cleverness

The Else handset will offer features like GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth builtin and will be powered by a TI OMAP 3430 processor, according to specsdisplayed on the product’s Web site.

Other planned features include a 5 megapixel camera, 3.5-inchcapacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 854 by 480 supporting 262Kcolors, online-based backup, a 3.5mm audio jack, 16GB of onboard storage andits own media store.

Thumb-Driven Interface

Perhaps it will handling rather than applications that will make Emblaze’s new device stand outfrom the crowded field of mobile phone devices. Emblaze dubbed usingits new interface as “sPlaying.”

The company boasts that its “sPlay” interface will be the end of themain menu as consumers know it. It characterized the multiple poking and clicking throughvarious stage menus as an integral and universal inconvenience thataccompanies most mobile device activities — what Emblaze calls the”Main Menu” syndrome.

By comparison, sPlaying involves a more flowing and intuitive one-thumb touch, slide and release motion, the company said. This providesinstant access and activation of any desired action.

Outsourcing the Options

Emblaze plans to meet its development deadline to market by havingelectronics manufacturer Sharp build the mobile phone, said Fogg, astrategy he called a smart move.

“Compare what Else is doing to the Palm. Palm tries to do everything,from hardware to full suite of software. Emblaze us taking anexisting Linux platform and adding to it,” said Fogg.

Having another manufacturer build the hardware is a common practiceeven for the largest mobile phone companies, and it’s a smart strategyfor a new entry, he said.

What Linux?

Many proprietary platforms have Linux underneath but are not exposedto third parties. Even with Linux in them, the overall operatingplatform may not be open source, cautioned Fogg. That may be the casewith the Else phone.

“The Access platform is intended to be LiMo compatible. I don’t knowif this company will continue that or will need to tweak the OS,” heconcluded. [*Correction – Nov. 25, 2009]


*ECT News Network editor’s note – Nov. 25, 2009: In our original publication of this article, Ian Fogg is quoted as saying, “The Access platform is intended to be Linux compatible.” In fact, Fogg said “The Access platform is intended to be LiMo compatible.”

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