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Second open Linux handset unveiled

Taiwanese manufacturer FIC is to bring out a PDA-style programmable 'OpenMoko' Linux handset at half the price of Trolltech's Greenphone
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

A second reprogrammable open Linux handset has been unveiled, just months after Trolltech introduced its Greenphone to the developer community.

At the Open Source in Mobile event in Amsterdam, Sean Moss-Pultz of Taiwanese hardware manufacturer FIC introduced delegates to the Neo1973 smartphone, running a Linux-based environment called OpenMoko.

"For the first time, the mobile ecosystem will be as open as the PC, and mobile applications equally as diverse and more easily accessible," said Moss-Pultz on Tuesday.

The idea — as with Trolltech's Greenphone, announced in August — is to provide developers with a fully programmable Linux-based handset for which they can develop applications, although in this case FIC seems to be hoping for a commercial launch sometime next year. The PDA-styled form factor is also markedly different from that of the candybar Greenphone, and the device will apparently cost $350 (£184) — half the price of the Greenphone.

The Neo1973 is compatible with GSM networks at 850, 900,1,800 and 1,900MHZ, so it should work in Europe, the US and much of Asia.

Mobile open source software company Funambol has announced it is to provide push email and mobile applications for the device, with chief executive officer Fabrizio Capobianco saying on Tuesday: "The largest mobile open source project in the world has just joined with the largest open design manufacturer in the world to deliver on the promise of a fully open mobile phone for the mass market. We're looking forward to working with OpenMoko and the folks from FIC on this trailblazing project."

Speaking from the event, Trolltech's product director Adam Lawson told ZDNet UK that FIC's project was "another reinforcement of the view that Linux will be successful in mobiles".

"We don't have a monopoly on great ideas, so we're pleased to see other attempts to engage with the community," Lawson continued, while suggesting that Moss-Pultz's presentation had "raised more questions than it answered".

Lawson pointed out certain difficulties with the concept of taking a fully programmable Linux phone into the mass market, warning that "if you are serious about marketing it as an end-user device, you have to be a lot more careful with certification".

"The openness of this OpenMoko device, if it is intended for broad consumer use, does raise a lot of questions about security," Lawson added, while pointing out that the Greenphone "exists already and there is a very significant community of developers that support Trolltech".

However, Lawson said he hoped FIC's initiative would "also be successful" and joked that it was "great for once for Trolltech not to have to be explaining to everyone about Linux and mobile". 

The Neo1973 smartphone

The Neo1973 smartphone, which could help Linux to gain market share in the mobile space
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