OpenMoko offers open-source smart phone

We don't normally cover smart phones here at TR, but OpenMoko is showing an interesting device at CES that could really open up the platform. OpenMoko was started as a mobile communications group within FIC, and it has developed an open, Linux-based software stack for mobile phones. The stack was developed in part to give smart phones a non-threatening alternative to operating systems from Microsoft and Symbian, which pack steep hardware requirements and expensive licensing fees. OpenMoko also hopes its approach will resonate with open-source developers eager to take on a new platform and those who have been unimpressed with the inflexibility of current smart phones.

With the exception of a user space library associated with the device's GPS chip, the entire OpenMoko software stack will be released under the GPL. In fact, most of the stack has been culled from existing open-source software, with OpenMoko filling in the holes where needed to complete the package. OpenMoko has also written a set of core applications, including a calendar and contact list, and an app manager designed to make downloading and installing new applications easy.

A couple of OpenMoko interface shots. Source: OpenMoko
Since supporting software development is a basic tenet of OpenMoko's approach, they'll be hosting community-developed applications for users to download. The apps will be unsupported, of course, but OpenMoko is planning to offer a paid service that will offer support for a smaller subset of applications that have been thoroughly tested and validated.

On the hardware front, OpenMoko's first Neo1973 smart phone measures 120.7mm x 62mm x 18.5mm and features a 2.8" VGA touch screen. A Samsung S3C2410 at 266MHz runs the show under the hood, accompanied by 128MB of SDRAM, 64MB of flash memory, a Texas Instruments GPRS chip, and a GPS module from Global Locate. The Neo also supports Bluetooth and USB 1.1, and features a 2.5mm audio jack and Micro SD slot. Everything is powered by a 1200 mAh battery that can be charged over USB.

The Neo1973 will start shipping in February, and it's expected to sell for $350 without carrier subsidies. Additional features, such as 3G support and a sliding keyboard, are also in the works. However, OpenMoko is looking to get its open platform into the market at a relatively affordable price tag as soon as possible.

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