Wednesday, July 11, 2007

iPhone Killer - The $300 Open Source Linux-Powered Mobile Phone

The OpenMoko mobile phone is here. The first version of the NEO 1973 mobile phone, which carries the Linux kernel inside and is not locked to a specific network, is available for purchase from It's not as sexy as the iPhone, but it shares a design philosophy -- no buttons, just a screen -- and it's ready to be loaded with any number of open-source software applications.

The base version of the NEO sells for $300. It has a 2.8" VGA touch screen, a micro SD card slot, a USB port and 2.5G GSM quad band capability.

Keep in mind that this unit (the GTA01) was pushed out early so developers could begin writing device drivers, custom GUIs and some cool apps for the phone. The next revision (GTA02), which will be available starting at $450 in October, will be ready for the mass market. It will have wi-fi, 3-D motion sensors and added graphics accelerators. So this phone isn't exactly an iPhone killer -- the next one maybe a contender.
When it comes to devices, more choice is almost always "a good thing." But will consumers respond to the NEO? We all know developers are going to dig this phone. The main feature of the Neo 1973 is openness. All the hardware is documented, and the software is open source. This contrasts greatly with the iPhone which is as closed as a bank vault. The only way to develop software on iPhone is to build web services designed to fit well on the screen or to use javascript with limited access to the iPhone resources.
Personally this is really a mobile device for the geeks and I dont reckon that its in the same league as the iPhone. Consumers arent going after technology, they know little about technology let alone open source linux, its all down to design and user interface and thats where iPhone fits in nicely. And if you think the iPhone is a little pricey, you may want to wait for the new version Nano-based iPhone as Apple plans to launch a cheaper version of the iPhone in the fourth quarter that could be based on the ultra-slim iPod Nano music player, according to a JP Morgan report.

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