In Search of the Linux Smartphone

the Neo 1973, the first smartphone using the O...

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As I monitor the blogosphere for feedback on the just released Palm Pre. The results certainly have not been overwhelming. In truth, if Palm is unable to execute this product launch in a successful fashion, it would likely be there last opportunity to reclaim relevance in the smartphone market. I have always enjoyed the PalmOS, as it seemed that they had captured the mindshare of many developers. In fact, Palm founder Jeff Hawkins once stated that Palm purposely wanted their devices to be hackable with the hope that more developers would write applications for their devices.

However, with the recent launch of the Pre, some people have indicated that acquiring the SDK has not been seemless. Regarding relevancy in the smartphone market, there really is much room for the growth in this space, as there are only a few serious players, ie (Nokia, Apple, and RIMM). I didn't mention M$ because AFAIK, they do not make hardware for smartphones. Obviously, they do have a small share of the software stack for smartphone market. Clearly, Hawkins understands the urgency, so he hired two ex-Cupertino executives. Jon Rubenstein is credited with product creation effort for the iPod. In fact, he recently replaced long standing Palm CEO, Ed Colligan.

In truth, the majority of people who use cell phones are still tethered to the flip-flop style phones. Smartphones are still relative new comer and have a much higher cost of ownership. I purchased my unlocked Treo 650 on e-Bay roughly 4yrs ago for $225.00.
Since I have been using GSM/GPRS based phone, I have sworn never to go back to CDMA. I like the idea of a SIM card and the ability to have a functioning device in several countries.
Obviously, I do find the Pre's WebOS quite intriguing as it is running a Linux kernel.
According to other hackers, there is a bit of USB device driver slight of hand taking place, which permits functionality with iTunes. None of this matters to me, as I will never use iTunes, but I clearly understand that with Linux and open standards all things are possible.

There are other Linux based smartphones in production and on the horizon. Perhaps the most notable is the Neo FreeRunner, which is powered by the OpenMoko project. Unfortunately, there were several early manufacturing snafus and it appears that they have a glutton of inventory that they can not exhaust. IMHO the project still has a great deal of promise and contrary to popular belief, there is significant interest in a totally open smartphone platform. OpenMoko is essentially providing you the building materials to create your smartphone stack. The hardware is open, and of course the software is too. You can run any software image of your choosing. This is much more than the GOOG G1 is willing to offer. Although, Android is essentially a Java-based SDK it runs atop of Linux kernel. However, GOOG has attempted to appease T-Mobile by not allowing folks to gain root access. Nonetheless, if you probe deep enough, I would imagine that gaining root access is a trivial exercise. It is possible that Android will win out only because they have the tremendous GOOG capital warchest, and not due to any technical merit. This space does bear watching. Indeed it is a battle for the pocket and not the desktop. Linux can run everywhere and anywhere at any time.


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    This page contains a single entry by AG published on June 22, 2009 5:01 AM.

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