Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 5/9/2006 The Greenphone is here. And I want one.

Tuesday 5/9/2006

The Greenphone is here. And I want one. The Greenphone is many things: a surprisingly attractive little cameraphone that ships without a media player or operator support, a Linux device, and a Trojan horse for open source. Makers Trolltech want developers to buy it, use it and write stuff for it: the key difference between it and most development kit is that it looks really nice and is eminently practicable. Most dev kit is huge, clunky and centred on the mechanics of software creation: that's fine up to a point, but there's only one way to work out whether a mobile application is really useful out and about, and that's to use it out and about. You can do that with the Greenphone: you can't with most other systems.

That one simple change is enough to get the imagination churning. For example — being a journalist these days is quite complex: as well as finding stuff to write about and writing it, I have to take pictures, perhaps even video clips and sound bites, massage them into the right shape for our content management system, get them and the text into that system, set up the links to the rest of the content, and trigger the content flow stuff that moves it into production.

Now, I can do all this with a laptop and a digital camera, but I'd rather have all that in a mobile phone that I'm not going to leave at home. I can see how to automate a lot of it, but only with something that's highly programmable. Could I roll something that did this in Linux? Well yes, perhaps I could. With the Greenphone, I have a chance to find out — and, potentially, start to evolve what could be something useful to others as well.

What the Greenphone could be and should be is the equivalent of the first cheap personal computer: not just an information appliance but a programmable, flexible, ideas amplifier that spreads by word of mouth. A lot depends on the Trolltech tools, which I don't know, and perhaps the most effective first steps would be to write something that's the equivalent of BASIC to encourage playfulness and experimentation. Unadorned Linux and C++ is a scary place.

I do hope this works. The mobile industry needs to be infected with a lot more individuality, a lot more experimentation.



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