The OpenMoko project is aiming to give us a fully open-source, Linux platform for phones and mobile devices. “Free your phone” it says on their main page, that sounds good to me. Apparently it will implement a full Linux Kernel on your phone (provided the hardware is capable of course) and allow developers full access to the platform, the idea is to promote innovation and development in mobile phone software thought the hacker community. Personally I love it and I think it could have a big impact on the somewhat stagnant world of mobile device development.
The project is backed by the manufacturer FIC and they deserve great credit for this. They’ve made a new handset for OpenMoko called the Neo1973 (pictured), I’m not sure about the name but the phone looks pretty cool. It lacks a camera though and this may put some punters off. The ability to bring up a bash shell and install things with apt-get on the device will have Linux geeks like me frothing at the mouth already.
Imagine it, if I want a decent media player on my phone I could install Amarok, Rhythmbox or any other Linux media player right onto my phone. How cool is that? Not happy with your phones web browser then just install Firefox, Opera or whatever else takes your fancy. You could even write one if you wanted.
The Neo1973 is due for release to the consumer market in September this year, it should retail for $350. I think the hardware has some way to go, there’s no camera or wireless Internet support yet but hopefully future revisions of the handset will implement these. I admire the decision to exclude wireless because only closed-source solutions were available from a developers point of view, I just don’t think most end-users will be so understanding. Full specs can be found in the OpenMoko wiki.
The software will also be made available for other devices in the future so you won’t have to use the Neo1973 but no date has yet been announced. This little baby is basically a full Linux box with a touchscreen and a cell phone interface, it’s a hackers dream and the possibilities are endless for it in the future. It’s certainly one to keep your eye on. It’s true that Linux phones isn’t exactly a new thing with other handsets already running on it but they generally have some closed-source software on top, OpenMoko is full VIP backstage access. It could be something special.