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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

The Hackable Phone

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The South Asian Hardware Houses are a big a factor in the hardware business. Anybody doing something related to hardware has to answer the question: how do you stop BenQ or Flextronics to launch a clone of your product and take the market away from you. So much so that the mobile phone handset majors have been restricted to only a marketing organization leaving the development and manufacturing to the ODM's. The answer it seems lies in branding, as Apple has shown with the iPod. But for smaller companies the going is much tougher. Take Trolltech for example.

It's much touted GreenPhone has a new competitor: the OpenMoKo. Its an mobile phone running on Linux with a TI baseband, Samsung ARM9 host processor, 128 MB of memory and 64 MB of Flash. It also has a AGPS support, Matchbox Window Manager and an "apt-get" like update manager. Except for the baseband and the AGPS, all other parts are open: ie. the source code is available. It is not mentioned whether the phone can be reflashed, but if they are calling it the Hackable phone, the assumption is that it would be. The Inquirer has a detailed piece on it and looks at the business case as well.

The price tag is currently at $350 which is around half as cheap as Trolltech's Greenphone. The Open Mobile Phone business is a completely new market. There are no incumbents there. And it remains to be seen if open source can make any significant impact in this market. Its the branding power that the South Asian Manufacturer's lack. And, maybe, in this business brand might not matter.

A smart move I would say.

posted by Rajiv, 4:53 AM


Rajiv, do know why all such things happen only in the GSM world? OpenMoKo spec says that the Radio module is proprietary, so why can't they choose CDMA?
Said Anonymous ranjhith, 1:55 PM  

1) because they would restrict the circulation to around 20 % of the worlds population and 2) CDMA modules are even more proprietary. GSM at least is an Open Standard of which no open source implementations exist. CDMA is completely Qualcomm's play.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 12:05 AM  

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