And indeed, until very recently, Android was Linux's main contender in the mobile world. Yes, there have been others coming and going -- LiMo, Maemo, Moblin, and MeeGo, for example -- but none of them have even approached Android in terms of traction.
That's why this year's Mobile World Congress has been so striking. Announcements coming out of the show have made it perfectly clear that mobile Linux's days of being more or less completely dominated by Android are coming to an end.
Android is still going strong, of course -- maybe even stronger than ever. But we seem to be entering a new era in which Linux is everywhere in the mobile world, including numerous non-Android alternatives. Here are three key examples.
1. Boot to Gecko
Perhaps most notably, Mozilla--maker of the popular Firefox browser--announced this week the new Open Web Devices platform for smartphones based on its B2G (Boot to Gecko) project. With Boot to Gecko, Mozilla aims to build a complete, standalone operating system for the open Web, and it has put Linux at the heart of that. While B2G uses some of the same low-level building blocks that Android does -- including the Linux kernel -- it is not based on Android, and deliberately so. With support from Telefónica, Adobe, Deutsche Telekom, and Qualcomm, the Open Web Devices effort promises to bring a new kind of Linux to the mobile world.