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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

The Greenphone

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Since the announcement of the Trolltech's Greenphone more information about it has started to trickle in. Reuters says that it would be priced at $ 680 and is targeted to enterprises involved in mobile phone software development. An interesting business model is also proposed: if any enterprise wants to build custom handsets for its employees with specific cabapilities, it could use the GreenPhone to develop it and finally get it bulk manufactured by OEM's. Interesting concept! Expect the company branded phone along with the standard package now.

Does this mean that that quest for the truly open phone is at an end? Hardly! There are still a lot of unanswered questions. For starters not all parts of the software is open. The baseband is still closed. The argument most probably is that its anyways standardised and no one would want to change it. But that would hardly satisfy an open source enthusiast who wants the freedom to look at it. Dont expect an FSF endorsement of it unless all parts of it are fully open.

There are again licensing issues. How much GLP'ed code does it actually use? GNU/Linux does allow commerical non-free applications over the OS. But any kernel modules are governed by the copyleft. The kernel sources have to be provided. And baseband has to be a kernel module. Of course there are ways around it! A glue code can be used to bind the propreitary kernel module with the GPL'ed kernel.

The critical part is where is the community? Would the existing QT community include the Greenphone as well? Or will Trolltech leave it up to anyone to build the community around it? Forming a Fedora style non profit organiztion is also another option! Given the pricing of the phone and depending upon its availability, it will not be beyond an average open source enthusiast. A community forming on its own around it is not too difficult to see. Considering the latent demand for such a device it might just be the kind of push QT needs.

Further, what about the Hardware? Is it an Open Hardware project? Are the scehmatics and PCB layout included in the package? If that is provided then it would be a much more attractive solution. Hardware is where you can really cut down the cost of the phone. Or add your own specific components suiting your requirement. Offshoots of this can lead to a very different device which actually ends up being much more than a phone! The possibilities are endless there.

The interesting part would be how the operators and regulators react to this. Ultimately its upto them to allow a particular phone on their own network or not. They have this paranoid fear that any un-approved phone can bring down their whole network leading to downtime (read revenue loss). Although its still unproven, a truly open phone can be a good tool in the hands of spammers looking to extend their reach! Most of the operators would see that as a distinct threat.

But at least its a start. At least OMAP Open Source has a competitor now. A lot is at stake on Greenphone's success.

Via: MoCoNews.

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posted by Rajiv, 7:43 AM


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