Wireless Linux group LiMo expects three major operators to offer handsets using its platform this year, to compete with news rivals Google and Apple, its executive director said. So far only Vodafone has launched a model in Europe, using its Linux-based operating system, while 60 handsets were launched using the platform, mostly in Japan and South-Korea.

The first one was Vodafone and three other carriers will follow this year, Morgan Gillis, Executive Director at LiMo foundation, said at the Reuters Global Technology Summit.

He said three companies from the group of France Telecom, Telefonica, Verizon or SK Telecom would introduce new models using the alternative operating system by the end of this year.

LiMo is an alternative to leading operating systems from Nokia, Apple, Google or Microsoft. Mobile operators are betting on LiMo, where they have more control over software development.

Gillis said he expected that Nokia's Symbian could make a good come-back. I think clearly there is scope and a lot of possibility to move Symbian forward and it will take another 12-15 months before we know how succesful all the efforts are, he said at the Summit, held at the Reuters office in Paris.

In the mid-term he expects a consolidation in mobile operating systems. I think that the eventual number of industry device operating systems will be no more than five, probably four. Within that ... one platform that is not owned by any one company ... LiMo is definitely a candidate to perform that role, Gillis said.

He added Symbian, Android, Windows and Apple were the most likely candidates for other positions.

(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)