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Photos: First look at Linux Greenphone

Catching developers' eyes...
By David Meyer, Contributor on
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1 of 4 David Meyer/ZDNET

Catching developers' eyes...

Trolltech is the company that brought developers the Linux-based mobile application platform Qtopia, based on its Qt platform. In mid-August it also used the LinuxWorld conference to announce the Greenphone, which is thought to be the first fully reprogrammable Linux phone.

Trolltech hopes the Greenphone could help grow the mobile Linux market, by encouraging developers to create applications for Linux-powered devices.

silicon.com sister site ZDNet UK met with co-chief executive Haavard Nord (pictured) in central London to see the device, which will go on sale to developers at the end of September.

Photo credit: David Meyer

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2 of 4 David Meyer/ZDNET

Despite being created purely for developers, the Greenphone is a more attractive device than one might imagine. Nord explained: "We wanted developers to use it as their everyday phone."

He added: "It's kind of mind-boggling for developers. Everybody usually wants to protect the software in their phone but we want to let the developers experiment and innovate."

Manufactured by Yuhua Teltech in Shanghai, the Greenphone runs on a 312MHz Intel XScale processor, has a mini-USB port and a 1.3 megapixel camera and takes standard mini-SD cards. It has a touchscreen and stylus, which Nord says will help developers create paint applications.

It also has session initiation protocol (SIP) stack capabilities, which according to Nord made it "easy" to produce VoIP capabilities and add multimedia functionality. "We'll see tons of applications but I'm also interested in seeing new ways that people can interact with their phones," he said.

Future iterations of the device are likely to include built-in wi-fi capabilities but there are no plans at present to include GPS.

Photo credit: David Meyer

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3 of 4 David Meyer/ZDNET

Trolltech's out-of-the-box user interface is fairly standard, with familiar contacts, calendar, messaging and other icons. However, Nord admitted it still had a "few flaws" and would not ship with a browser or media player. "We have partners doing this," he explained.

Nord said he thought the last five years had seen an unimpressive level of development in terms of mobile applications but suggested this was changing.

He said: "Most of the phones sold today are so-called feature phones but the makers are not inherently software companies. The focus has now shifted more into software, which is a difficult transition for the industry. We believe Linux can help resolve some of these problems - it's a very solid technology but more impressive is how the community works in a large ecosystem together, so development happens faster."

He said feature phones, rather than top-end smart phones (where Linux already has some presence), will prove to be the biggest growth market for open source as they present the greatest challenge to developers. "They use homegrown operating systems, and with lots of features the software has turned very messy. It gets harder to drive development," he said.

Photo credit: David Meyer

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4 of 4 David Meyer/ZDNET

The Greenphone will be available through Trolltech's website from the end of this month. The basic package - consisting of a phone, cables, and source code on CD - will cost around $700, although developers can pay extra for enhanced support.

Nord said he was confident Trolltech will have "no problem getting rid of" the first batch of about 1,000 devices, although the precise distribution channel is still to be worked out. He added that "the idea is not to make money" but rather to stimulate the development ecosystem.

He said: "One of the responses that came after we announced the phone was from a guy who is a professional sailor and also a software developer. He wants to use it to make a phone suitable for sailors. Simple things can be done for this group but it's been inaccessible for them so far.

"Our final goal is to see phones that work better for the end user."

Photo credit: David Meyer

David Meyer writes for ZDNet UK

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