All too often we have to wait for other countries to road-test a technology before we can lay hands on it. It is therefore flattering to see how often Motorola uses Asia as a testing ground for its new mobile phones. The next funky phone promised by Motorola is the Linux-powered A760, to be launched in Asia later this year. Motorola, and several news reports, have hailed it as 'the world's first handset combining a Linux operating system and Java technology'. Well, not quite. Linux-powered handsets are few and far between, but at least two have been released in South Korea. The difference between the G.Mate and Palm Palm devices is that the Korean Linux phones have both been CDMA (code division multiple access). Motorola's new device will be GPRS (general packet radio service), which does make it a first. Motorola, which has generally used its own Java-based operating system on its handsets, plans to make the open source operating system the basis of all of its future phones. Java will remain to drive the applications and interface. The company believes that the use of open systems will prompt more developers to develop applications for the phones, and that carriers will find it easier to launch localised features. But Motorola is taking a gamble with the strategy. Linux rivals Microsoft and Palm have already made forays into the mobile-phone space and have no shortage of third-party applications. Meanwhile, Symbian has a growing position in the market, thanks to backers that include Nokia, Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Samsung and even Motorola. Existing developer support and the remarkable modularity of Linux make a strong case for it as the next big mobile platform. But it has some tough competition. Scott Durchslag, Motorola's senior vice-president for strategy in personal communications, told the Calgary Herald last week that his firm was taking openness to a new level.'We have been open, using Java, which is the key to applications. But putting Linux under Java as our operating system is openness cubed'. Or perhaps squared. But no matter; it is probably no bad thing. The A760 packs in regular mobile phone features along with a personal digital assistant, a digital camera, a video player, an MP3 player, a speaker phone, messaging, Internet access and a colour, touch-sensitive screen. The phone can synchronise its data with desktop PCs wirelessly using Bluetooth, Infrared or USB connections. Users will be able to install and run additional applications, and they will be offered a range of coloured cases. Pricing and a confirmed roll-out date have yet to be announced.