DoCoMo to allow user-installed OS

Leading Japanese mobileco, NTT DoCoMo, is preparing to publish a set of new terminal specifications on Wednesday, allowing users to customise their handset with an additional operating system or applications.

The OSTI (open and secure terminal initiative) specifications, jointly developed with Intel, add an open domain, separate from the phone’s default domain containing the preinstalled operating system and applications.

A controller will allow users to switch between the domains at will while keeping both domains active. DoCoMo claims this ensures that call functions are always available, regardless of which domain is active, so a user can still receive an incoming call regardless of which domain, OS or application they are using.

The domain controller will also ensure that switching between domains is always possible, even in the event of an application crash or if one of the domains freezes.

Aside from the obvious attraction to consumers and geeks seeking to personalise their handsets with new applications or install a whole new OS, the inclusion of the open domain will allow corporate administrators to install customised applications across a number of devices. It should also be possible to tweak the security settings on the open domain so as to make it more secure.

DoCoMo, which favours the Linux and Symbian operating systems, sources a majority of its handsets from local manufacturers such as Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic Mobile and Sharp, although it also sells a few devices from Motorola and Nokia.

It remains to be seen how the handset vendors themselves will react to such a scheme, which could be seen as reducing the handset vendors to commodity hardware makers, much like PC manufacturers.

In fact, while speaking with recently, Trevor Strudley, director of marketing at newly named telecoms software giant Aricent, warned that the days of fragmentation in the industry were coming to an end and “like the PC market, the shift is tending towards commodity hardware and software”.

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