July 7, 2008 While Android, the open mobile platform developed by an alliance of some of the mobile phone and computing world’s biggest names, has attracted a lot of interest and support since it was announced late last year, it wasn’t actually the first open mobile computing platform. That title goes to Openmoko – a project founded by Taiwanese computer and components manufacturer First International Computer, Inc. (FIC), with the combined aims of developing an open source Linux based operating system designed for mobile phones and hardware devices on which the operating system, called Openmoko Linux, runs. The first smartphone released that supported the Openmoko Linux platform was the Neo 1973, which was released in July, 2007 but suffered from supplier shortages. Now Openmoko has announced their follow up – the Openmoko Neo FreeRunner – a mobile device that the company says will help to enable ubiquitous computing in the 21st century.
The Openmoko Neo FreeRunner is a black, oval-shaped device weighing 6.5 ounces, which utilizes GNU/Linux and comes with core software for dialing, SMS and recording contacts. Openmoko will supplement these features with periodic downloads beginning with a software suite that takes full advantage of the phone's hardware platform. The new software, debuting at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco in August, will provide new location-based applications thanks to the inclusion of AGPS and a GPS external connector. The phone also features a 2.8" 480 x 640 VGA touchscreen, Wi-Fi (802.1 1b/g), GPRS 2.5G, Bluetooth 2.0, two 3-axis motion sensors and comes with 128MB WSDRAM, 256MB NAND Flash and a microSD slot. There will be two versions of the phone available to match frequencies in different countries - 850MHz or 900 MHz Tri-band GSM.
Like the backers of Android, Openmoko is hoping freeing developers from constraints of closed mobile architectures will encourage the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community to create mobile applications for specialized markets and create unique versions of the FreeRunner phone, modifying the way the phone operates and even the way it looks. CAD files publicly available under a Creative Commons license make it easy for industrial designers to change the appearance of the Openmoko Neo FreeRunner and select alternate materials and finishes to tailor the phone's look and feel.
The Openmoko Neo FreeRunner has a suggested retail price of US$399 and is available now through Openmoko’s website and will also be available via distributors in the EU, India and North America. For further info visit Openmoko.