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Linux in Mobile Devices to Displace Windows

The market for ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) is already complex, and will become more complicated as it grows. The following forecast insight may serve to guide vendors and investors as they negotiate this multifaceted landscape.

According to ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis, "Total revenues earned by vendors in the UMD market are expected to increase from $3.5 billion in 2008 to nearly $27 billion in 2013."

This year, retail sales account for only 14 percent of shipments, while UMDs provided by mobile operators stand at nearly 30 percent -- the balance are sold directly by manufacturers.

Over five years, however, that distribution mix will change significantly. Mobile operators currently subsidize UMDs for the sake of their potential services revenue, but they would prefer not to do so.

By 2013, only 20 percent will be operator-provided, while retail sales are expected to account for 75 percent.

In 2013 more than half of all UMDs will have x86 processors inside, with the balance based on ARM processors. When it comes to operating systems, in 2013 Linux will outnumber Windows devices by two to one across all UMDs, despite the higher return rate for Linux products -- compared to Windows products -- experienced by netbook PC vendors today.

Some MIDs will offer cellular voice services. "MIDs without cellular voice will be seen by users as companion devices," says Solis.

They will be used in addition to mobile phones and not necessarily carried at all times. Cellular voice-enabled MIDs, in contrast, will be able to replace phones entirely -- they will become the new high-end smartphones.

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