Linux phone to call in down under

Community effort trumps multinationals

Multinational mobile handset makers may be dabbling with Linux-powered phones for Asia and the US, but the Australian market has been largely ignored, that is until OpenMoko arrives later this year.

The brainchild of Sean Moss-Pultz, OpenMoko is a Linux-based mobile phone operating system which allows open application development, in contrast to the proprietary nature of many of today's mobile handsets.

The first phone to ship with OpenMoko will be the Neo1973 by Taiwanese manufacturer First International Computer (FIC).

Worldwide sales of the Neo1973 will begin from the OpenMoko.com e-commerce site in March for $US350. Moss-Pultz assured Computerworld the device can be purchased by Australians.

In addition to global sales directly from OpenMoko, the company is in discussions with local mobile carriers for possible resale agreements.

When asked if OpenMoko has had interest from Australia's mobile operators, including the big names like Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and Virgin Mobile, Moss-Pultz said "quite a bit".

"We're talking with the big ones now," he said, but could not elaborate on which carriers, only saying "right now, no. It's all under NDA."

Only time will tell Australian consumers will get the option of buying a non-proprietary phone from their local Telstra or Optus reseller.

The OpenMoko release cycle will be divided into three "phases" which will repeat annually.

The first phase will be the developer preview in early February when free phones will be given to selected members of the developer community. The full source code to the OpenMoko Linux distribution will also become publicly available, and the openmoko.org Web site will go live.

In March the next phase will begin with the official developer launch and the Neo1973 will be sold worldwide directly from openmoko.com. In September, the third phase will be the mass market sale where the Neo1973 will be available in a retail stores and selected carriers around the world.

The second generation OpenMoko device will also be introduced at the third phase.

The device itself features a 2.8 inch VGA TFT touch screen, a Samsung 266MHz chip, Global Locate GPS, USB 1.1, microSD slot, 128MB SDRAM, 64MB flash, and Bluetooth 2.0.

Recharging via USB is also supported.

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Rodney Gedda

Computerworld
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