U.S. software firm Adobe and three other firms joined the wireless Linux group LiMo on Monday, underlying the growing role of the Linux computer operating system in cellphones.

The market for software platforms on cellphones is led by Nokia's Symbian operating system, but it has lost much ground over the last year to Apple Inc and Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry.

Computer operating system Linux is starting to win traction, with Google Inc using Linux to build its Android platform, and Nokia rolling out its top-of-the-range model N900 using Linux Maemo. “There has been a step change for Linux in mobile,” Morgan Gillis, head of LiMo, said in an interview. “No other operating system now matches the vendor coverage of Linux — it is being commercially deployed by virtually all leading mobile device vendors from the largest downwards.” LiMo, a non-profit foundation, hopes to benefit from its focus on giving greater say over software development to telecoms operators. The role of top operators in the platform – Vodafone uses it in its 360 offering – is a key attraction for Adobe, whose Flash is among the world's most widely used web-based computer programmes, and it has some 1.6 million developers.

Vodafone and other operators have strongly pledged for a smaller number of operating systems, as supporting them is a timely and costly exercise. However, the number of large operating systems has in recent years increased, with new players like Apple and Google entering the mobile market. In a latest twist Samsung Electronics — the world's second largest handset maker and one of the key members of LiMo – unveiled in late 2009 its own smartphone platform. Linux is the most popular type of free or so-called open source computer operating system which is available to the public to be used, revised and shared. Linux suppliers earn money selling improvements and technical services, and Linux competes directly with Microsoft, which charges for its Windows software and opposes freely sharing its code. Japanese electronics firms NEC and Panasonic, and Israeli firm Else unveiled on Monday a total of seven new phones running on LiMo software.

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