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Forget iPhone, hail OpenMoko, the true revolution

This may seem like a bold statement. Apple's just released iPhone is not only very attractive as we would expect from an Apple product, but includes some impressive features and specifications. It's probably unrealistic to claim that anything currently available on the market competes with this offering. However, is it really a revolution in mobile communication devices? Maybe not if there still is something that can overshadow it, and do it very soon.

It is something that follows a paradigm painfully different from the one of Apple, pretty much completely opposite of it actually. It is a phone which rivals Apple's iPhone as a technological concept and is yet based on completely open technologies, fully extensible by anyone and fully under control of its user. Enter OpenMoko, an attractive phone which may not currently be much of a competitor in terms of specifications alone, but beats Apple hands down on openness and therefore the disruptive potential. It is based on open hardware specifications and uses a Free Software operating system platform known as GNU/Linux which means that all the hardware and software code is open to developers, engineers and designers to build on and potentially create things even far more exciting than the current Apple iPhone.

The current situation in the mobile phone market isn't very flattering if you care about standardization and openness. Basically every manufacturer has their own proprietary platform. If you want to extend your mobile phone with new features and software you are generally dependable solely on the phone manufacturer itself. The vision behind OpenMoko describes a completely different world. It is a world where there is a common standard platform for mobile phones which is open and therefore friendly to developers. It is a world where once you buy your phone you can install or remove software from it as you wish, customizing the phone and its capabilities in much the similar manner you can customize your PC. It is a world which is, thanks to the visionaries and enthusiasts behind the OpenMoko project, near.

This is the real mobile communications revolution we should be expecting. It is not merely about creating a technologically superior mobile phone that looks good. It is about creating an open common environment which welcomes innovators of all kinds to converge and create technological superiority not dependable on one vendor. It is the mirror of the Free Software ecosystem that produced things like GNU/Linux, Mozilla Firefox, Apache, PHP, Drupal and other impressive software technologies. It is the concept which we may, in the trendy "web 2.0" jargon, rightfully call "Mobile 2.0"—reinventing the mobile communications industry. Smiling

This said, I would rather wait for OpenMoko to become available for purchase than shell out high bucks for iPhone. Just like with any Apple product, it is like an awesome looking golden cage. I always preferred freedom to control my own digital devices than to be mostly dependent on one vendor for everything.

I refer you to this presentation PDF for an attractive summary of the revolutionary OpenMoko concept. You can see a feature comparison here. In the true open fashion, you can talk about and ask questions about OpenMoko in an #openmoko IRC channel at irc.freenode.net.

Thank you
Danijel Orsolic


Digg!

UPDATE: Libervis Network has launched a new web site on open mobile devices: MobiLiberty.com.

Comments

This looks interesting, I'll

This looks interesting, I'll have to follow it with interest. The idea that my phone could be as hackable as my PC is very tempting.

You bet it's tempting. I

You bet it's tempting. I hope to buy one as soon as it's available here, depending on my financial status at that point. I am looking to buy something flexible that I can use to connect to internet for the same price I do now (I have an USB EDGE modem which I can plug into anything that supports USB and has a proper driver), and if it is available in time, OpenMoko "Neo" might just be it.

No 3G, No go

 

Come on....this is 2007....don't release any more phones without 3G support.
Every phone should have quad-band GSM, and tri-band UTMS. All high-end phones should also have GPS.
WiFi (b/g/n) and Bluetooth 2.x are other requirements.

Anything else, drop in the trash bin.

From a purely technical

From a purely technical perspective I think you're right, except when the goal is to provide a cheaper solution for those who can't afford the best and latest.

And I do believe that OpenMoko will eventually produce a fully capable 3G phone as well.

The whole point in this thread, however, is that the real revolution may not be in technological superiority but in openness, in allowing for things that are traditionally not possible.

In that sense, if you have such an open and extensible architecture in place, and OpenMoko is attempting to build one, then if OpenMoko (in partnership with FIC) doesn't do a "latest and greatest" 3G phone, someone else surely will, and because it is open as well, it will beat the hell out of Apple's iPhone. Eye

Should Mention

 

It should be mentioned that the objective of the OpenMoko devs (and FIC) is to get hackers and 3rd party software developers used to developing applications on the phone. They're not after the John Q. User ... yet. They're following the "If you build it they will come." approach.

I for one am interested in developing a couple of applications for the phone that helps me organize my life (personal as well as business dealings) in an intuitive manner and one that should work well with my desktop (and other computers, for that matter).

In time, the hardware will improve. For now, it's just not practical. The hardware will cost more, making the phone unreachable to hackers who've the talent and motivation but not the money to develop applications. FIC has chosen well in what it included in its development platform. I wouldn't be surprised if FIC will watch the development forums closely to get a feel for which hardware hackers are wanting to program for.

 

... there are a certain number of people who don't really care for the 3G phones - all they're after is a mobile phone that'll do the job of connecting them to other people.

It would make a lot of sense to use OpenMoko as a development platform to kick things off, then separate it into several product lines - one basic but extensible, for the people who just need a basic phone, a more advanced model for those who need something more, then a full 3G phone for those who want or need it.

And then use it as the stepping stone for the 4G phone.

In fact - customers don't use 3G facilities in phones

 

Network providers cheerfully load handsets with 3G features like video calling, when most of the customers don't want to use them. Such features juast push the cost of services and handsets up and up and this only benefits the producers.

Good 2G performance across various localities with cheap international (i.e. no roaming) charges are the holy grail for us the customer. I despise the inadquacies of 3G and look forward to a Wifi-2G phone. Oooh yes please!

Diz.

Worthless

 

No quad-band GSM, no VoIP via WiFi. It's worthless to me. Neither is the iPhone a revolution, it doesn't have VoIP via WiFi either.

Ironically enough

 

They are pitching it as an alternative to the iPhone, which doesn't do 3G either.

Hello Moko

 
Quote:

I would rather wait for OpenMoko to become available for purchase

So this phone isn't free? WTF, why should anybody get paid for any cool ideas? They can so easily be copied--cheaply--within the country they'll be manufactured?

Who should I contact when my OpenMoko device is besiged with "Phone-ware"; sending all my contacts to random recipients, exposing my most private thoughts/dreams/media, and transferring funds to l33t PayPal accounts?

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