The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum plans to release its first specifications today, hoping to encourage people to develop more applications for Linux mobile phones.

The specs, which include a reference model, address book, voice call enabler, text input method APIs and user interface services such as widget sets, are expected to be posted on the LiPS website.

The forum, launched in late 2005, is working to standardise a layer of software that will make it easier to create mobile applications that can run on any Linux phone.

"The reality of the market is it's coincidental that different phones run Linux because an application developer wouldn't be in the position to write something... to work on all of them," said Bill Weinberg, general manager for business development at the LiPS Forum. "The LiPS standard is designed to solve that."

The LiPS Forum chose to base the user interface framework on Gnome's GTK toolkit, dealing a blow to Trolltech, which offers an application platform and user interface for Linux mobile phones. It shows that standardising mobile Linux offers opportunities to some companies while potentially shutting others out.

Weinberg said more companies are using Gnome, however. "Trolltech has done well in the mobile space but we're seeing a trend toward Gnome," he said. Companies that are part of the LiPS Forum including Purple Labs, Access, and Open-Plug are all Gnome-based, he said.

The forum defined APIs on top of Gnome's GTK, optimising it for the mobile usage model, he said.

The next set of specs for the forum will deal with functions like instant messaging, and giving users or operators the ability to change the phone's user interface. The third wave of specifications, expected to come out next year, will have more to do with how applications use different phone resources, he said. "These are all things for which there are existing processes but there are too many different ways to do it, so having a set of specifications is important," he said.

China and Japan are the world's biggest users of Linux phones. The US has a reputation for being "cautious," in part due to the tight control the US phone operators like to keep on the market, Weinberg said.