Photos: Greenphone taps Linux know-how
Greenphone in hand
Despite being created purely for developers, the Greenphone is a more attractive device than one might imagine. "We wanted developers to use it as their everyday phone," said Haavard Nord, co-CEO of Trolltech. ZDNet UK met with Nord in central London to see the device, which will go on sale to developers at the end of September.
"It's kind of mind-boggling for developers," he added. "Everybody usually wants to protect the software in their phone, but we want to let the developers experiment and innovate."
Nord told ZDNet UK that he thought the last five years had seen an unimpressive level of development in terms of mobile applications, but suggested this was changing. "Most of the phones sold today are so-called feature phones," he said, "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."
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, he said. "They use home-grown operating systems, and with lots of features the software has turned very messy. It gets harder to drive development."
Greenphone front and back
Nord told ZDNet UK he was confident that 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. "The idea is not to make money," he said, but rather to stimulate the development ecosystem.
"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 said. "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."
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 also has SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) stack capabilities, which Nord said 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.